RogerBW's Blog

Northrop YF-23 24 May 2014

The YF-23 was a prototype that competed against the Lockheed YF-22 to become the USAF's Advanced Tactical Fighter in the 1990s; the Lockheed plane won.

Much like the YF-22, the YF-23 was a single-seat, twin-engine aircraft, in the tradition of the F-15 which it was meant to replace. The two were quite similar overall, being designed for air-to-air combat at the expense of other capabilities, but the YF-23 went for stealth and speed while the YF-22 went for agility.

Northrop had been working on the B-2, and used a similar design of tiled trough to mix and cool the engines' hot exhaust gases; this also helped reduce the plane's IR signature from below. To reduce sideways radar signature, the twin tailplane was canted steeply outwards. The most distinctive visual aspect, though, was the diamond-shaped wing, in contrast with the deltas or sweeps of most other aircraft of the day. Also, the fuselage is area-ruled to reduce trans-sonic drag, blending into the wing from above as the engine mounts rise from it.

The YF-22 was chosen for production. Some of this was certainly conservatism: it looked much more conventional than the YF-23, which made it appear a lower-risk project. There's some speculation that the YF-22 was considered more suitable for adaptation to the US Navy's Naval ATF programme (to replace the F-14), but that was cancelled in 1992 before any serious work could be done on it.

Late in 2004, Northrop modified one of the prototypes to bid for an interim bomber contract, but this was cancelled before an aircraft was chosen. Since an F-22 derivative was also in the works, maintenance commonalities would probably have pointed to that one anyway.

I'm writing up this aircraft largely because it was one that made a great visual impression on me; it looks good to my sense of aesthetics in a way that for example the DH.88 Comet, the SR-71 and Concorde also do. Many aircraft look effective but brutal (the F-15, the B-58); this one looks as if someone got something fundamentally right at an early stage. It doesn't so much beat the air out of the way as whisper sweet nothings into its ear.

  1. Posted by John Dallman at 12:55pm on 25 May 2014

    It's certainly futuristic-looking, although it doesn't quite make the same impression on me. The USAF taking the less stealthy option of two does see like a potential error to me: whichever aircraft they picked was going to be in service for a long time, and there's plenty of time for opponents to improve their sensors. However, we don't get to see the numbers.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 04:12pm on 25 May 2014

    I heard rumours at the time about problems with the tractor that ejected missiles from the weapons bay, though I suspect they'd have been within the tolerances for a prototype aircraft.

    Given how late the choice was made, and how the Cold War was clearly changing if not obviously ending at the time, I'd have thought the more flexible design would be the one to pick; that might well end up being the -22.

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2022 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1