Northrop YF-23: Wikis


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Role Experimental fighter prototype
Manufacturer Northrop/McDonnell Douglas
First flight 27 August 1990
Status Canceled
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 2

The Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23 was an American prototype fighter aircraft designed for the United States Air Force. The YF-23 was entered in Advanced Tactical Fighter competition but lost out to the Lockheed YF-22, which entered production as the F-22 Raptor.


Design and development

The YF-22 and YF-23 were competing in the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, conceived in the early 1980s, to provide a replacement for the F-15 Eagle. Contracts for the two most promising designs were awarded in 1986.[1]

The YF-23 was designed to meet USAF requirements for survivability, supersonic cruise (supercruise), stealth, and ease of maintenance. Designed with all-aspect stealth as a high priority, Northrop drew on the company's experience with the B-2 Spirit and F/A-18 Hornet. The YF-23 was an unconventional-looking aircraft with trapezoidal wings, substantial area-ruling, and a V-tail.[1] Similar to the B-2, the exhaust from the YF-23's engines flows through troughs lined with heat ablating tiles, which shields the exhaust from infrared (IR) missile detection from below.[2] The vehicle management system coordinates movements of the control surfaces for maneuvers and for stable flight, along with other aircraft functions.[3] The wing flaps and ailerons deflect inversely on either side to provide roll. Pitch was provided by movement of both V-tails, and yaw was supplied by opposite movement. Deflecting the wing flaps down and ailerons up on both sides simultaneously provided for aerodynamic braking.[4]

Although possessing an advanced design, in order to reduce costs and development, a number of F-15 Eagle components were utilized including the standard F-15 nose wheel unit and the forward cockpit of the F-15E Strike Eagle.[1] Two aircraft were built. YF-23 #1 (PAV-1) was fitted with Pratt & Whitney YF119 engines, while YF-23 #2 (PAV-2) was fitted with General Electric YF120 engines. The YF-23 featured fixed nozzles.[1] The first YF-23 was rolled out on 22 June 1990,[5] and first flew on 27 August 1990.[6][7] YF-23 #2 first flew on 26 October 1990.[7]

The black YF-23 (PAV-1) was nicknamed "Black Widow II", after the Northrop P-61 Black Widow of World War II and had a red hourglass marking resembling the underbelly marking of the black widow spider. The black widow marking was briefly seen under PAV-1 before being removed at the insistence of Northrop management.[8] The gray colored YF-23 (PAV-2) was nicknamed "Gray Ghost".[9]

Operational history



Both YF-23s were furnished in the configuration specified before the requirement for thrust reversing was dropped. The weapons bay was configured for weapons launch but no missiles were fired, unlike Lockheed's demonstration aircraft.[10] The YF-23s flew 50 times for a total of 65.2 hours.[11] The first YF-23 with P&W engines supercruised at Mach 1.43 on 18 September 1990 and the second YF-23 with GE engines reached Mach 1.6 on 29 November 1990. For comparison, the YF-22 achieved Mach 1.58 in supercruise.[12] The flight testing demonstrated Northrop's predicted performance values for the YF-23.[10]

The YF-22 won the competition in April 1991. The YF-23 design was more stealthy and faster, but the YF-22 was more agile.[13] It has been speculated in the aviation press that the YF-22 was also seen as more adaptable to the Navy's Navalized Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF), though as it turned out the US Navy abandoned NATF a few months later.[14]

After losing the competition, both YF-23s were transferred to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards AFB, California without the engines.[1][15] NASA planned to use one of the aircraft to study strain gauge loads calibration techniques, but this did not occur.[15]

Possible revival

In late 2004, Northrop Grumman proposed a YF-23 based design for the USAF's interim bomber requirement, a role for which the FB-22 and B-1R are also competing.[16] Aircraft PAV-2 was modified by Northrop as a full size model of its proposed interim bomber.[10] The interim bomber requirement has since been canceled in favor of a more long-term, bomber replacement requirement. The same YF-23-derived design could possibly be adapted to fulfill this role as well.[17] However, it appears the possibility of a YF-23-based interim bomber was ended with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, in lieu of a long range bomber with a much greater range.[18][19]

Aircraft on display

Both airframes remained in storage until mid-1996, when the aircraft were transferred to museums.[15]

  • Aircraft PAV-2 (s/n 87-0801) was on exhibit at the Western Museum of Flight in Hawthorne, California.[15] In 2004, it was loaned to Northrop Grumman and used for display purposes.[10] Eventually, the aircraft will return to the museum's new location at Torrance Airport, Torrance, CA.[21]

Specifications (YF-23)

Note some specifications are estimated.

Data from Pace,[22] Miller,[10] Winchester[1]

General characteristics



None as tested but provisions made for[1]

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Winchester, Jim, ed. "Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23." Concept Aircraft (The Aviation Factfile). Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2005. ISBN 1-84013-809-2.
  2. ^ Sweetman 1991, p. 44.
  3. ^ Sweetman 1991, pp. 34–35.
  4. ^ Sweetman 1991, pp. 43–45.
  5. ^ "YF-23 roll out marks ATF debut". Flight International, 27 June–3 July 1990.
  6. ^ "YF-22 flies as ATFs head for deadline". Flight International, 10–16 October 1990.
  7. ^ a b Goodall 1992, p. 99.
  8. ^ Goodall 1992, p. 120.
  9. ^ Pace 1999, chapter 5.
  10. ^ a b c d e Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor, Stealth Fighter. Aerofax, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-158-X.
  11. ^ Norris, Guy. "NASA could rescue redundant YF-23s". Flight International, 5–11 June 1991.
  12. ^ Goodall 1992, pp. 102–103.
  13. ^ Goodall 1992, p. 110.
  14. ^ The Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor,, 1 February 2007.
  15. ^ a b c d YF-23 page. NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, 20 January 1996.
  16. ^ Hebert, Adam J. "Long-Range Strike in a Hurry". Air Force magazine, November 2004.
  17. ^ "New Long-Range Bomber On Horizon For 2018"., 26 July 2006.
  18. ^ "Quadrennial Defense Review Report". US Department of Defense, February 6, 2006.
  19. ^ Hebert, Adam J. "The 2018 Bomber and Its Friends". Air Force magazine, October 2006.
  20. ^ YF-23 fact sheet with restoration status, Museum's YF-23 images. National Museum of the United States Air Force.
  21. ^ Static Displays. main museum page, note location. Western Museum of Flight.
  22. ^ Pace 1999, pp. 14-15.
  23. ^ YF-23 Specifications.
  • Goodall, James C. "The Lockheed YF-22 and Northrop YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighters". America's Stealth Fighters and Bombers, B-2, F-117, YF-22, and YF-23. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 1992. ISBN 0-87938-609-6.
  • Pace, Steve. F-22 Raptor. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999. ISBN 0-07-134271-0.
  • Sweetman, Bill. YF-22 and YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International Publishing, 1991. ISBN 0-87938-505-7.

External links


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