How good was the YF-23? more stealthier and beautiful than F-22 Raptor

In the 1980s, in order to develop super-powerful air fighters, many countries were willing to go all out for this purpose, hoping that through continuous efforts, this wish could be successfully achieved. In fact, at that time, for the research and development technology of the new fighter, several countries had mastered it, and one of them directly replaced the F-15 fighter that had been in service for many years, so that the United States once again mastered the absolute advantage of fighting in the air. At that time, the US Air Force proposed a bidding plan for fighters, and at this time, a number of suppliers responded to the call, trying to provide the strongest fighter for the US military through their own capabilities.

After several battles, in July 1985, when Lockheed Martin and Northrop entered the final stage of the competition. It was also at this time that the more famous YF-23 and YF-22 battles appeared. After the duel between these two military aircraft, the results that appeared must have been very clear to everyone, and the YF-22 finally won the confrontation, and then the F-22 fighter was born. Although the YF-23 fighter did not win the bid at that time, everyone did not seem to have completely forgotten about this fighter.

Northrop YF-23 prototype
Northrop YF-23 prototype

According to some American media  the YF-23 lost the contract in large part due to “politics,” rather than any sort of performance deficiency; the YF-23 could keep up.

Because the YF-23 showed its strong military performance to the outside world at that time, it also became an idol in the minds of many military fans at that time. At that time, many people believed that the main reason why it would be defeated was not that its own performance could not meet the standard, but because the performance of this fighter was too advanced, and at this time, F-22 won, it seemed to be invincible. For the YF-23, which was in a failure at the time, everyone may not known the details of itself very clearly. We all know that the F-22 should be the only fighter in the US military that can achieve supercruise.

Supercruise is sustained supersonic flight of a supersonic aircraft with a useful cargo, passenger, or weapons load without using afterburner, F-22 Raptor can supercruise above Mach 1.5 without external stores, which has a very important military significance in actual combat. At that time, when the two participated in the competition, because the F-22 fighter could achieve supercruise development, the YF-23 would not be selected in the later stage. By September 1990, the YF-23 had reached a speed of Mach 1.43, while the YF-22 would have reached Mach 1.58 after two months.  From the perspective of flight performance, the performance of the YF-23 was also quite good.

Whereas the YF-22 featured thrust vectoring technology, the YF-23 had conventional fixed engine nozzles. Resultantly, the YF-22 was the more maneuverable aircraft. Although, thrust vectoring nozzles increase a jet’s radar cross-section, meaning the YF-23 had better stealth performance than the YF-22. The YF-23 also outperformed the Lockheed fighter concerning operational range. Yet the Northrop team fell short where, perhaps, it counts most: marketing and reputation.

The YF-23 looked like a vehicle from science-fiction, maybe Independence Day or something. With a distinct trapezoidal wing, a dropping duckbill-shaped nose, a pushed-forward cockpit, and a V-shaped tail, the YF-23 cut a memorable image. Northrop only made two YF-23s. The first, named Black Widow II, relied on two Pratt & Whitney engines to reach a top speed of Mach 1.43. The second YF-23, nicknamed Grey Ghost, featured General Electric YF120 engines and could hit Mach 1.6.

When comparing stealth performance, the YF-23 is superior than the F-22 fighter because it used low radar launch areas in some regions of the fuselage whereas the F-23 at the time used B2 stealth design technology to achieve continuous navigation in stealth mode, which led to extremely successful outcomes. The YF-23 is in far better form than the F-22, even though no final data was made public. It was fairly advanced in terms of performance from the standpoint of design at the time since the YF-23’s design idea was too advanced. Of course, there’s still the possibility that the YF-23 will cost an absurd amount of money, and because the USAF did not agree to spend huge money, they finally give up this aircraft.


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