"...there were no losers in the USAF Lightweight Fighter Program. Both fighter aircraft advanced technology designs deserved to be and were winners."

This impressive book records the competition of two companies, General Dynamics and Northrop, who, during the 1970s, designed and tested two fighter planes for accuracy, maneuverability, and fighting power. General Dynamics'™ YF-16 became more widely known as the USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon. 4,600 of those F-16s were built for the operational inventory of twenty-five nations. The Northrop YF-17 design was refined to become the USN F/A-18 Hornet aircraft (over 2,600 were built) with the capability to operate from aircraft carriers in the operational fleet inventory of the US Navy and five other nations.

The story behind the story is how companies advise the government of a need (such as a replacement plane for a Vietnam era fighter), compete or independently work on contracts to devise solutions, perform in-depth failure analysis on un-commanded flight issues, employ the best pilots to test and retest, share results between teams, and persist until the desired criteria match with the safest solutions. For example, human factors regarding high G-forces played a part in this process. The requirement was for the fighter aircraft to pull nine Gs. During the flight, one test pilot's error and death were likely due to G-forces. Pilot seats were redesigned, raising legs and reclining seat angles to meet this requirement safely.

Hutchinson worked as the Chief System Engineer for the U.S. Air Force sponsoring the development of the General Dynamics YF-16 and Northrop YF-17. He has fully documented the design, flight test, and development process used inside the contract activity covered in this book for military aviation historical purposes. A second goal was to teach upcoming engineering students how to conduct investigative testing methods employed in this particular research and development. The book points out the value of this process and the successes that result regardless of winning a competition. The author effectively teaches with charts, graphs, and diagrams. He cajoles interest with historical and technically accurate photos, often in full-color. His personal knowledge of members from both development teams and the fighter test pilots brings human interest into a technical topic. The reader is well served in this intriguing slice of history.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home