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Northrop N-102 Fang

Lightweight Fighter Design Study

The Northrop N-102 Fang existed as nothing more than a design study for a jet-powered lightweight fighter - the requirement was fulfilled by the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter series.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 3/30/2016
The rise of the turbojet engine after World War 2 (1939-1945) led to a new Golden Age for military aircraft development. Aircraft could now be made more aerodynamically efficient and exceed previously dreamt about speeds (supersonic) while presenting warplanners with an all-new approach to waging conventional wars. Beyond the jet engine, swept-back wings were another consistent quality of these aircraft and many designs were drawn up to fulfill an plethora of requirements being put forth by various powers of the world.

In the United States, various fighter designs emerged during the early Cold War period - some were successful while many languished as paper drawings or mockups before seeing cancellation or total abandonment. Northrop revealed its N-102 "Fang" light-class fighter in the early 1950s in response to a USAF need and the compact fighter exhibited the calling cards for fighters of the day - sweptback wings and a streamlined fuselage.

Engineers elected for a relatively basic configuration which sat the pilot at front behind a short nosecone assembly and under a largely unobstructed canopy. There was to be good over-the-nose viewing from the pilot's position due to the downward angle of the nose section. A single split air intake was seated along the fuselage's ventral line under the cockpit which gave the fighter a somewhat deep-body appearance when viewed in its side profile. While engineers favored a twin-engine approach for power and reliability, a single-engine design was presented for simplicity of construction, ease of maintenance and lower procurement cost. Power would come from a General Electric J79 series turbojet buried within the fuselage (the Wright TJ31B3 - a license-built Armstrong Siddeley "Sapphire" - was the original thought). The empennage consisted of a single vertical tail fin with horizontal planes set along the sides of the aircraft's rear - though the original thinking settled on a Vee-style tail arrangement ("butterfly") but this feature was dropped in 1954. A tricycle undercarriage rounded out the design's presentation.

One of the more notable qualities of the Fang was its sharply-pointed wing mainplanes (delta-wing) which sat at shoulder-height along the fuselage sides. These assemblies ended at an extreme point to promote a triangular shape and these mainplanes were additionally given slight anhedral beyond their midway point. The main landing gear legs would recess into the wing mainplanes while the nose accepted the retracting nose leg.

Compared to its peers, the Fang was very compact. Thought was given to versatility and the airframe was designed to accept one of four available jet engines at any one time to suit mission requirements - a rather forward-thinking design quality. Proposed armament was to be 80 to 100 x 1.5" aerial rockets held in wingroot compartments but, like the various engine fits, this could be changed to suit the mission need. Kits of 2 x 20mm and 2 x 30mm cannons were proposed as were 2" rocket sets, bombs and a nuclear delivery capability.

While the N-102 was never furthered beyond some drawings and a mockup form (its entire life was in project form only), the design was said to have influenced the upcoming F-5 "Tiger" lightweight fighter program some. USAF authorities instead went the route of selecting a Lockheed submission for its high-altitude day-fighter requirement, this becoming the F-104 "Starfighter".


[ 0 Units ] :
Northrop - USA
National flag of United States United States (design study only)
- Fighter
- X-Plane / Developmental
41.01 ft (12.5 m)
22.97 ft (7 m)
13.78 ft (4.2 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Northrop N-102 Fang production model)
Empty Weight:
9,921 lb (4,500 kg)
16,314 lb (7,400 kg)
(Diff: +6,393lb)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Northrop N-102 Fang production model)
Various fits proposed including 1 x General Electric J79 turbojet engine.
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Northrop N-102 Fang production model)
Maximum Speed:
1,420 mph (2,285 kph; 1,234 kts)
Service Ceiling:
55,774 feet (17,000 m; 10.56 miles)
Maximum Range:
621 miles (1,000 km; 540 nm)
5,500 ft/min (1,676 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Northrop N-102 Fang production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
80 to 100 x 1.5" aerial rockets held in wingroot compartments.

Alternative Weapon Kits Proposed:
2 x 20mm cannons
2 x 30mm cannons
2" aerial rockets
Conventional drop bombs
Nuclear payloads

Provision for external fuel tanks also planned.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Northrop N-102 Fang production model)
N-102 "Fang" - Base Project Name; mockup completed.

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