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YF-23: This is the “brother” of the fearsome F-22 Raptor, which never saw the light of day

YF-23: This is the “brother” of the fearsome F-22 Raptor, which never saw the light of day

Today, Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor It is one of the most fearsome fighter aircraft. Equipped with stealth technology, it is the fifth generation flagship of the US Air Force. And although its development and production have been met with criticism due to the high cost of the program, it has extensively demonstrated its capabilities.

What many don’t know, however, is that this aircraft had a “brother” that never saw the light of day: the avant-garde YF-23 from Northrop and McDonnell Douglas. This prototype, which seemed straight out of a science fiction epic, evoked images of heroes like Michael Biehn and Sigourney Weaver. The YF-23 featured a radical design: trapezoidal wings, an advanced cockpit, a duckbill-shaped nose and a V-shaped tail. A jewel of aeronautical engineering that, due to its rarity, became an object of reverence.

About this aerial phenomenon Only two YF-23s were produced. The first, nicknamed “Black Widow II,” was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines that allowed a top speed of Mach 1.43. The second, the Gray Ghost, equipped with General Electric YF120 engines, even outperformed Lockheed’s F-22, reaching Mach 1.6 in supercruise.

However, herein lies the irony: Lockheed’s YF-22, with its thrust vectoring technology, was superior to the YF-23, which was based on conventional methods. Thrust vector control, which allows the pilot to change the thrust angle, was an ace in the YF-22’s sleeve. Northrop made a strategic decision to forego this technology on the YF-23 and prefers to maintain his stealth.

This choice proved prophetic. The YF-23 outperformed the YF-22 in stealth, a crucial advantage in modern times where air combat relies more on stealth than maneuverability. As air-to-air missile technology advances and airspace disputes increase, maneuverability becomes less important. In addition to stealth, the YF-23 also surpassed the YF-22 in global range, a crucial factor in potential conflicts with powers such as Russia or China.

But despite his impressive skills The YF-23 was rejected not because of its performance but because of the way it was presentedthus sealing the fate of what could have been a legend from heaven. Lockheed wowed the experts with spectacular demonstrations in ATF tests – missions at high angles of attack, rocket launches, maneuvers at 9G. However, Northrop decided to take a more conservative approach.

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