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In December 1986, the Northrop Corporation terminated its F-20 Tigershark fighter aircraft program without having sold a single F-20. The program had been in existence for over ten years and had cost over $1.2 billion. The F-20 program was unique because it was privately funded — i.e., Northrop and its subcontractors covered all of the costs. This paper examines the F-20 program from both a research-and-development (R&D) and a marketing perspective. It presents the reasons the F-20 was built and shows how the F-20 program drew on a Northrop philosophy of what an export fighter should be. It examines Northrop's reasons for regarding the F-20 effort as successful. Finally, it examines the Northrop F-20 R&D and acquisition story in light of several prescriptions developed by RAND research.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.