Northrop negotiating to lease fighter plane to NASA

June 25, 1991|By Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Northrop Corp. is negotiating to lease one of its two Advanced Tactical Fighter prototypes to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for flight research, officials said.

A loser in the competition with Lockheed Corp. for a fighter program that is expected to be worth up to $70 billion, Northrop would lease the plane to NASA for the life of the testing program.

Details on the length of the program and leasing arrangements are being negotiated, Jim Hart, a Northrop spokesman, said yesterday.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., Northrop's team member on the ATF, is not involved in the discussions, officials said.

Northrop, McDonnell Douglas and other team members invested $1.2 billion in building two prototype YF-23 aircraft, while the Air Force spent $817 million.

Don Haley, a NASA spokesman, said that the agency is interested in the plane for its new technology, including a feature called "supercruise," or the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds.

NASA would use the prototype equipped with a General Electric engine. General Electric lost in a separate competition with United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney division for the engine contract.

Mr. Hart said that the second Northrop prototype, which was equipped with a Pratt & Whitney engine, is not in flying condition. The Pratt & Whitney engine was removed by the Air Force along with material inside the airframe and cockpit, Mr. Hart said.

Both planes remain in storage at Edwards Air Force Base, where tests were held before Lockheed won the contract April 23.

Mr. Hart said that jobs were found for 450 of the 600 workers after the ATF program was disbanded. About 50 workers have been laid off, and 100 more will be sent notices in the coming weeks, he added.

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