The YF-23 was basically a sixth-generation fighter in a fourth-generation world. It was so far ahead of its time that the United States didn’t know if they needed a ωεɑρσռ that powerful and so they locked it up and canceled its program. Russia and China had the most reason to celebrate though because if the YF-23 came to fruition, their battle for dominance wouldn’t be much of a battle.
However, with Japan looking to partner with a foreign company in developing their top-of-the-line fighter, the YF-23 might soon be reborn – reintroducing the world to possibly the most advanced fighter in the world.
The Northrop/McDonnell Douglas YF-23 is an American single-seat, twin-engine stealth fighter aircraft technology demonstrator designed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The design was a finalist in the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition, battling the Lockheed YF-22 for a production contract. Two YF-23 prototypes were built, nicknamed “Black Widow II” and “Gray Ghost”.
In the 1980s, the USAF began looking for a replacement for its fighter aircraft, especially to counter the USSR’s advanced Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan MiG-29. Several companies submitted design proposals; the USAF selected proposals from Northrop and Lockheed. Northrop teamed with McDonnell Douglas to develop the YF-23, while Lockheed, Boeing, and General Dynamics developed the YF-22.
The YF-23 was stealthier and faster, but less agile than its competitor. After a four-year development and evaluation process, the YF-22 was announced the winner in 1991 and entered production as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. The U.S. Navy considered using the production version of the ATF as the basis for a replacement to the F-14, but these plans were later canceled. The two YF-23 prototypes are currently museum exhibits.