The YF-17 Cobra was a Northrop Aviation creation
through NASA to support further testing and research of aircraft
at transonic speeds. 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 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 carriers 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 From
May 27 to July 14, 1976, at the Dryden Flight Research Center,
Edwards, California. Testing included in-flight pressure data
recorded through sensors from all over the aircraft and afterbody
of the aircraft to improve wind-tunnel predictions for future
fighter aircraft. Studies included transonic maneuverability,
and stability and control factors in controlled flights.
Also studied were stability and control and buffeting
at high angles of attack as well as handling qualities at high
load factors. Another objective of this program was to familiarize
research center pilots with the operation of advanced high-performance
fighter aircraft. During the seven-week program, all seven of
the center's test pilots were able to fly the aircraft with Gary
Krier serving as project pilot
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.