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For the F-20 program Northrop did not have the customary relationship with its subcontractors. The vendor for each subsystem was competitively selected, but the main criteria was vendors willing to invest their own funds in development of their subsystems, just as the aircraft was being developed by Northrop using its own funds. In exchange for co-investment in development and a fixed price for the first 500 aircraft in production, the vendor became part of the F-20 team - which would prove to be a decidedly mixed blessing, as the years went by without a production order.

The typical F-20 subcontractor was not the leader in its particular sector. It was usually a renegade, an upstart, a new boy on the block, seeking a market breakthrough. It was certainly not the same subcontractor for the same system type on the F-16. This would have produced intolerably mixed loyalties in the bloody fight for market share.

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