Northrop YF-23

Northrop YF-23

The Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23 was a prototype stealth fighter aircraft developed during the 1980s and first part of the 1990s. It was designed for a USAF brief which called for an advanced tactical fighter. All the major US aircraft manufacturers of the time submitted designs to the United States Air Force, including Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, Northrop, Grumman, Rockwell, General Dynamics and Boeing. The Northrop YF-23 and the Lockheed YF-22 were the finalists, with the production contract eventually being awarded to the YF-22.

The Northrop YF-23 was built in answer to the Soviet Union's most advanced fighter jets, namely the Sukhoi Su-27 and the Mikoyan MiG-29. The primary role of the YF-23 was to have been air-to-air combat, and it used the latest technologies, including composite materials and lightweight metal alloys, as well as the latest flight-control systems and stealth technology to make it faster, more agile, and more stealthy than almost every other fighter.

The YF-23, although originally designed by Northrop, was also developed with the help of McDonnell Douglas, who joined the project after the YF-23 was selected as a finalist in the competition.

Northrop YF-23

The YF-23 was capable of super cruise (flying faster than the speed of sound without requiring afterburners), and it also complied with the USAF requirement regarding damage survivability and stealth.

The first prototype, was completed on 22 June 1990, and first flew on 27 August of that year. The second aircraft took to the skies a few months later in late October. The two aircraft had different color schemes which earned them the nicknames "Black Widow II" and "Gray Ghost".

Due partially to the stealth requirement, the YF-23 had a relativley unconventional appearance. It had diamond shaped wings, a V-tail and the engine exhausts were deeply recessed into the rear of the fuselage.

The two YF-23 prototypes had different powerplants. The first aircraft, Black Widow II, was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney YF119 engines. While the second prototype, Gray Ghost, was fitted with General Electric YF-120 engines. The second aircraft was the faster of the two, achieving Mach 1.6 in supercruise, and Mach 1.8 with the afterburners lit.

The two prototypes logged 65.2 hours of flight over 50 seperate flights, and the YF-23 met or exceeded all expectations. In comparison with the YF-22 it was also judged to be stealthier and faster.

In the end however the USAF chose the Lockheed YF-22 as their new fighter, it later being officially named the F-22 Raptor.

Both YF-23 prototypes have been preserved, one being held at the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio, while the other is on display at the Western Museum of Flight at Torrance, California.

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Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23

Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23
Northrop YF-23
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