F-20 Tigershark

The F-20 Tigershark is a responsive, low-cost fighter that was designed by Northrop but was never sold or mass-produced. The Science Center's F-20 is the last remaining prototype.


An advertisement for the F-20 Tigershark
Image attribution

An advertisement for the F-20, courtesy of Northrop

In 1975, Northrop began development on the F-20 Tigershark, a fighter plane designed to be reliable, easy to fly and inexpensive to maintain. Northrop didn't accept any funds from the government to develop the plane, so the company didn't have to consult the Air Force or any other government agency to make design decisions. As a result, the development process went fairly quickly. Northrop built three planes to take around the world to fly in demonstrations for potential customers.

According to many pilots, the Tigershark was an excellent plane. It could be ready for combat just one minute after takeoff, and it could climb 53,800 feet per minute. Northrop planned to sell the plane to foreign countries for use in their militaries. However, as a result of many political changes as well as competition from other aircraft such as the F-16, the market for the plane never developed.

The Science Center's F-20

F-20 in front of California Science Center

The last F-20 in the world, on display at the Science Center.

The F-20 Tigershark prototype on display at the Science Center is the last one in existence. The other two F-20 prototypes crashed during world sales tours, but aircraft malfunction was not determined to be the cause of either crash. The Science Center's Tigershark was donated to the Science Center by the Northrop Corporation.