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Northrop YF-17 (Cobra)

Technology Demonstrator Aircraft

Originally a product intended for the USAF, the YF-17 Cobra earned her wings with the USN as the FA-18 Hornet.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/25/2019
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1972
Status: Cancelled
Manufacturer(s): Nothrop Aviation - USA
Production: 2
Capabilities: X-Plane;
Crew: 1
Length: 55.77 ft (17 m)
Width: 114.83 ft (35 m)
Height: 16.40 ft (5 m)
Weight (Empty): 17,196 lb (7,800 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 34,348 lb (15,580 kg)
Power: 2 x General Electric YJ101-100 afterburning turbojet engines developing 14,400lb thrust each.
Speed: 1,496 mph (2,407 kph; 1,300 kts)
Ceiling: 49,213 feet (15,000 m; 9.32 miles)
Range: 2,989 miles (4,811 km; 2,598 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 50,000 ft/min (15,240 m/min)
Operators: United States (cancelled)
The YF-17 Cobra was a Northrop Aviation creation through NASA to support further testing and research of aircraft at transonic speeds (meaning just underneath the speed of sound, or 700-780mph / 1,127-1,255kph). The YF-17 Cobra was, itself, born from the United States Air Force's Lightweight Fighter Program.

The Lightweight Fighter Program called for a prototype that was small and low cost / maintenance, with the capabilities of an air superiority day fighter. Though losing out to the General Dynamics YF-16 (later to become the F-16 Fighting Falcon), the YF-17 would see bluer skies in the form of the later F/A-18 Hornet aboard the carrier of the United States Navy.

After the failed LWF fly-off competition for the YF-17 Cobra, tests began with NASA over a seven week period that included in-flight pressure data recorded through sensors from all over the aircraft airframe, studies in transonic maneuverability, and stability and control factors in controlled forty-five minute long flights.

In the end, the YF-17 Cobra would set the stage for the first prototypes and production models of the highly successful F/A-18 series of aircraft, leading up to the "Super Hornet" design and the eventual successor to the much regarded F-14 Tomcat series of carrier-based interceptors.


1 x 20mm Vulcan internal cannon
2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder Air-to-Air (AA) missiles on wingtips

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile

Variants / Models

• YF-17 "Cobra" - Technology demonstrator
• F/A-18 "Hornet" - Larger / heavier variant based on the YF-17.
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