1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

For aircraft enthusiasts: The Northrop N-156, the best flying modding platform.

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Blazer, Aug 11, 2011.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    I don't think that the people of Northrop Aviation who had hired designer Edgar Schmeud (Who is also the man behind the P-51 Mustang) had any idea that this simple light weight jet fighter, powered by two helicopter turbines would not only be a classic but also a modding platform that keeps on being reinvented.

    Their design the N-156 was meant to be a cheap ulitity fighter for small airforces. Made (as was the the Mustang) to be easy to produce, easy to fly and easy to maintain. The N-156 was a private venture, not being made by an official issue by the USAF.

    But when the USAF got to see the N-156, they liked what they saw but not quite in the role it was intended for. The USAF saw in the Northrop fighter THE perfect replacement for their aging Lockheed T-33 trainer fleet. So the design of the N-156 was modified to be an advanced trainer with supersonic capabilities. The result was the T-38 Talon, which still goes strong after 50 years.
    The Talon differs from the original N-156 by having (Obviously) a longer fuselage and more powerful engines but other than that, the Talon has retained much of the original design's features.

    A few years later Northrop again tried to sell the N-156 as a cheap fighter and this time around there were plenty of air forces around the world taking notice, ready to replace their aging fleets of F-86 Sabres, F-84 Thunderstreaks and Hawker Hunters. The Design was modified by having the longer fuselage and more powerful engines of the Talon but with twin cannon armament in the nose, stronger wings that could carry ornaments and revised air intakes, with that the F-5A Freedom fighter was born.
    The F-5A (and twin seat F-5B) was a seller but it would take foreign input and Northrop's unwilling nature to comply to the wishes of airforces who needed the F-5A to fullfill different roles, to take the design further.

    Canadair had already obtained the lisencing rights to produce the F-5A for what was then the Royal Canadian Airforce. In Canadian service the F-5A was meant to be a strike aircraft in the ground attack role and because of the country being so huge it also had to have a large range and inflight fueling capability. Now the F-5A's main role was that of interceptor so to use it as a close support aircraft would mean that it had to be modified again. Resulting in the Canadair CF-116 or as it became known, the CF-5.
    Now the CF-5 had a wider fuselage so it could carry more internal fuel, it also had a wider stronger wing so it could carry bombs and rockets and it was equipped with British designed avionics.

    Meanwhile the Royal Netherlands Air Force, having looked at and chosen the Chance Vought A-7 Corsair to replace their old F-84 Thunderstreaks, were denied to fly and test the then brand new and very secretive aircraft, forcing them to look elsewhere. The Dutch learned about the Canadair CF-5 and were impressed with what they saw. They requested further modifications for use in a small country like the Netherlands. Taking the CF-5 as their starting point, they wanted different avionics, a redesigned wing with larger flaps for improved handling, the deletion of the inflight capability, a more advanced doppler radar, a stronger undercarriage and an arrester hook, to snatch a brake cable at the short runways, the result was the Canadair NF-5.
    The Dutch have flown their NF-5 fleet for over 20 years before selling their aircraft to Turkye and Greece who are still flying them today.

    In the USA those devellopments of course were monitored, the USAF had issued an order for a light strike aircraft that could replace the aging North American F-100 super sabre (Another Edgar Schmeud designed plane) The requirement asked for stronger wings and inflight capability, the result was the F-5C "Skoshi tiger"
    However, the F-5C saw very limited use with the USAF and the remainder ended up with the South Vietnam airforce, who after the war sold a couple to the Sovyet Union.

    Taking what they've learned from the "Skoshi Tiger" and from the Canadair CF-5 and NF-5, Northrop's next move was to make a sort of "best of" package. It had the wider fuselage of the CF-5, the redesigned wings and arrester hook of the NF-5 and the American Avionics of the Skoshi Tiger, the resulting aircraft was to be the most potent offspring of the N-156 yet: the F-5E tiger.
    The F-5E was the hot item, being sold all around the world. In the USA however, they were bought for a very similar reason to why the N-156 had caught their eye in the first place: as a trainer. Almost all of the F-5E's that the USAF, Navy and Marines bought, were used as fake enemy planes with which junior pilots could practice air combat, after it became emberrasingly aware in the Vietnam war, that their regular training of "Just fire your radar guided or heat seeking missiles and that's all you need to do." weren't working when faced with enemy jet fighters. So with the F-5E they now had a plane which could be used to train rookie pilots what to do when being faced with a hostile plane. To this day NONE of the F-5E's that were bought by US forces were ever in combat missions.

    In the early seventies Northrop started work on what would eventually become the F-18 Hornet.
    Now you wouldn't be able to tell right away but the Hornet does share a couple of key features with the N-156 family, the nose and the design of the wings are the most obvious but it also shares the idea: of a light fighter powered by two light jet engines.

    In tandem with the Hornet, Northrop also designed a new version of the N-156. One that they hoped would bring the old warhorse back up to date for the new decade. It had the state of the art fly-by-wire avionics of the F-18 and the same engine. Yup only one, the result was the F-5G, later re-named the F-20 Tigershark.
    The Tigershark was meant as a fighter for air forces who couldn't afford to buy the F-18, making it possible to have a state-of-the-art plane for less than the cost of the F-18. Unfortunately, the F-16 Fighting Falcon prooved itself to be perfectly suited for just that role and the F-20 Tigershark never went in full scale production.

    But the F-20's development DID yield the genesis of one of the most bizarre aircraft that was made in the eighties...
    The Grumman X-31 was meant to try out new avionics, meant to keep a plane that otherwise would have been impossible to fly, in the air. It had the main fuselage of the F-20 but with forwards facing wings and "Carnard" nose flaps. The NASA used them for aerodinamics testing but as it stands, none of the results have been used in subsiquent designs. The Grumman X-31 also proved to be the very last modification of the N-156 to be made in the USA.

    In Iran however it was a different story. The locally developed HESA Saeqeh (Thunderbolt) modifies the N-156 once more. The Saeqeh, has twin tail fins (displaying the family resemblence between the F-5E and the F-18 Hornet more obviously) and as thought avionics based on Iran's MiG 29 fleet. Other than that, there isn't really that much known about this latest version of the original N-156.
    What IS known however is that Saeqeh is meant as a light jet fighter and strike aircraft, which was the original meaning behind the N-156 in the first place.

    Currently however, the N-156 has proven itself to be a Here-to-stay plane which is perfectly adaptable for any role that people make up for it, as long as it get's the needed mods to do so.

    And with that I end my post about the N-156, which turned out to be one of the best modding platforms in the air.
  2. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    cool thread, been doing some f18 and delta dart drawings recently
  3. bassrique


    Nov 27, 2007
    Thanks for posting. That was informative. What's the second best platform for modding?
  4. I imagine it's my imagination, but that first shot looks a bit short & stubby. Regardless, LOVE me just about ANY military aircraft. :cool:
  5. madmatt


    Apr 28, 2009
    I don't think there is any room in there for my bass and my amp dang it.
  6. Paul M

    Paul M

    Jul 21, 2005
    Which one is the best for heavy metal?
  7. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    I like the F5 a lot, but my all time fav would have to be the F104 - one of the most misunderstood, misused and maligned aircraft ever.
    If it had only been used for what it was designed for, it would have ranked up there as one of the best military aircraft ever!

  8. DerHoggz

    DerHoggz I like cats :| Banned

    Feb 13, 2009
    Western Pennsylvania
    What's up with all these ad spammers? Buy a purse, buy some clothes, buy a plane.
  9. Thank you very much for posting this, Blazer. :hyper:

    I'm an aircraft buff.

    Mike :)
  10. I agree, Relic.

    I think the F-104 was one of the finest point-of-defence interceptors ever made.

  11. I think you aircraft enthusiasts will like these videos.

    One of the most beautiful aircraft ever to fly. It's sad they were a commercial failure. Worth 7 minutes and 21 seconds to watch.
    History Channel: Starship Boneyard - YouTube

    Here's another, shorter Star Ship video of still photos.
    Beechcraft Starship 1 - YouTube

    And here's a thrilling 747 takeoff from St. Maarten's Princess Juliana airport.Crazy St. Maarten 747 Takeoff - YouTube

    Princess Juliana Airport. Princess Juliana International Airport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  12. I've always been a big fan of the F-5/T-38. I was one of those folks who thought it was sad that the F-20 Tigershark never went into production.

    Thanks for the history lesson -- great post!
  13. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ

    the story behind it (and I'm going from memory here so I may not have all the details 100%, someone feel free to correct me) is that the F104 was conceived based on what combat pilots were requesting back in the Korean War - something that was faster than anything else out there, could out-accelerate anything out there, something with a higher ceiling than anything we were currently flying and something that could slash through enemy formations and be gone in seconds whether the "enemy formations" be Migs over Korea, or Soviet bombers approaching mainland USA. The Vulcan cannon, now a staple in fighters was created for this airframe.
    In the respect of performance it was a huge success - some of the records that the F-104 were still standing at least of a few years ago. Had this thing gone up against Mig 15, 17's or Soviet Era bombers, it would have been downright evil...
    The problem is that the Korean war ended and the F-104 was relegated to the American "all-purpose" doctrine to which is was really ill-suited. It couldn't carry much in terms of bombs for ground attack, it could barely carry 4 air-to air sidewinders (remember - it was conceived in the "gunfighter" era where guided missiles were unreliable, hence barely any missiles, but a big ol' gun) and as a result, it was gradually phased out and Lockheed (and the USAF) pushed these onto to West Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Pakistan and a few other countries countries who had very mixed results..
  14. Thank you Blazer - interesting, and informative thread.

    While were on aircraft - I went to the Boeing Museum of Flight (S. Seattle) at Boeing Field a couple weeks ago for my birthday; what an awesome experience! A must see if you're ever in town.
  15. If you want to talk about Interceptors, the Avro Arrow was decades ahead of its time.
    Just a little fun fact, that CF-5 pictured in the OP is just 15 minutes away from my house, in that same hanger is 1 of the 2 only currently flying Avro Lancasters in the world, it flies over my house every Saturday morning. I am a huge aircraft fanatic, have been ever since I was 3, when a B-25 Mitchell buzzed my house one morning when my dad and I were about to leave on a fishing trip. Sorry for the long fun fact :p
  16. knarleybass

    knarleybass Commercial User

    Apr 6, 2005
    Tustin, CA
    Owner of Ulyate Instruments
    I so love this stuff,
  17. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    What a great breakdown. I never knew the history behind the F-20. I do remember however, that when I was a young kid, I was blown away by the F-20. I remember seeing it fly at the El Toro Air Show, and then getting to see it in person and actually sit in the cockpit. They were also giving away F-20 Tigershark posters at the show, and that poster stayed on my wall all the way through high school. I spent countless hours trying to draw it. Man, thanks for the blast from my childhood.
  18. Good memory, SpitfireCWII.

    I'd almost forgotten about the Arrow. :)

    The Arrow would have been a great plane had they let it enter service.
    ADA-Avro Arrow Archives-AVRO CF-105 ARROW

    The Avro Arrow bears a slight resemblance to another of my favorite planes, the North American Vigilante.
    The North American A-5/RA-5 Vigilante

    Here's an article I found that deals with Mig 25s versus Sr-71s.
    Mig25 VS SR-71

    I love this stuff. :cool:

  19. ^ I am with Mike :D

    I have a fricken closet full of aircraft books, and if anyone is a gamer out there... Has anyone heard of IL2:Cliffs of Dover ? It is a world war 2 flight simulator that just came out last month. It is mindboggling how realistic it is.

Share This Page