Northrop YF-23 Black Widow II
The YF-23 Black Widow is perhaps the GREATEST fighter plane that never was. She was a single seat stealth fighter originally designed by Northrop which was one of several companies that submitted design proposals to the United States Air Force (USAF). The USAF selected proposals from Northrop and Lockheed with Lockheed, Boeing and General Dynamics teaming up to develop the YF-22 Raptor while Northrop teamed up with McDonnell Douglas to develop the YF-23 Black Widow II.
There were two Northrop YF-23 prototypes built nicknamed the “Black Widow II” and “Gray Ghost”. The YF-23A Gray Ghost was the production variant of the YF-23 and the YF-23 Black Widow II was the first prototype. Northrop’s YF-23 was competing in the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition, battling the Lockheed YF-22 for a production contract. The next four years would see the YF-23 and YF-22 compete in a hotly contested evaluation and development process.
YF-23 Black Widow II – Full Documentary – This Is A Must Watch Video!
The YF-23 Black Widow looks like something you would see in a Buck Rogers or Star Wars movie. She was definitely ahead of her time and one of the most beautiful fighter planes ever built. As you take a look at this AMAZING airplane, it’s hard to believe that she was designed and built in the late 1980’s. The YF-23 Black Widow II was stealthier and faster, but less agile than the YF-22 Raptor. It was a long and grueling development and evaluation process.
Both airplanes exceeded expectations but there could only be one winner. In 1991, the USAF finally announced the winner of the competition. Although the YF-23 Black Widow performed flawlessly throughout the development and evaluation process. The USAF chose the YF-22 which entered into production as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. It’s too bad that the USAF did not decide to build both aircraft. She would have been a great addition to the Air Force!
YF-23 Black Widow 2 Declassified
The YF-23 Black Widow 2 Declassified, here’s what we know! There are two YF-23 prototypes in existence and were built by Northrop/McDonnell Douglas in 1989-1990. The first YF-23 (serial number 87-0800), Prototype Air Vehicle 1 (PAV-1), rolled out on June 22, 1990 and made its maiden flight on August 27, 1990 piloted by Alfred “Paul” Metz. The second YF-23 (serial number 87-0801, PAV-2) made its maiden flight on October 26, 1990 with Jim Sandberg at the controls.
The first YF-23 was nicknamed the “Black Widow II”, after the LEGENDARY Northrop P-61 Black Widow of World War II. She was painted charcoal gray while the second YF-23 Spider or Gray Ghost was painted in two shades of gray. The YF-23 had diamond shaped wings which made it an unconventional-looking aircraft. The YF-23 also featured an all-moving V-tail while the diamond wing configuration reduced aerodynamic drag at transonic speeds.
It was a revolutionary and bold design. The engineers really thought outside the box with their YF-23 design. There was nothing like the YF-23 then and NOW! Both YF-23’s flew 50 times for a total of 65.2 hours. These test flights demonstrated and confirmed Northrop’s predicted performance values for their YF-23. The YF-23 Black Widow II was much more faster and stealthier but the YF-22 was more agile.
On September 18, 1990, the first YF-23 super-cruised at Mach 1.43 while the second YF-23 reached Mach 1.6 on November 29, 1990. The YF-23 achieved a maximum angle-of-attack of 25° and a top speed of Mach 1.8 with afterburners. Although the maximum speed is classified, inside sources state a super-cruise speed greater than Mach 1.6 and a maximum speed greater than Mach 2 at altitude.
The YF-23 Cockpit was state-of-the-art back in the its day and was every fighter pilot’s dream! The cockpit was placed high near the nose of the aircraft for the best visibility a fighter pilot could ask for. The pilot had a full 360° view which is unprecedented in a fighter aircraft. The cockpit features the control stick between the pilots legs with the throttle on the side with two head-down displays (HDD) right in front of the pilot.
The YF-23’s flight control surfaces are controlled by the central management computer system. Pilots could raise the wing flaps and ailerons on one side and lower them on the other providing roll. The YF-23’s V-tail fins are angled at 50° from vertical. Pitch is mainly provided by rotating the YF-23’s V-tail fins in opposite directions so their front edges move together or apart and yaw is supplied by rotating the tail fins in the same direction.
The YF-23 Engine in the image above is the Pratt & Whitney YF119 which had 35,000 lbf (156 kN) each while the second YF-23’s engine was a General Electric YF120 after-burning turbofan. Both the Pratt & Whitney YF119 and the General Electric YF120 after-burning turbofan were great power plants for the YF-23 and performed similarly in test flights.
Had the YF-23 Gray Ghost went into production, they would have probably fitted her with the Pratt & Whitney YF119. This is the same power plant the USAF chose for the F-22 Raptor production version. The Pratt & Whitney YF119 had a maximum speed at altitude Mach 2.2+ (1,450+ mph, 2,335+ km/h) and at super-cruise Mach 1.6+ (1,060+ mph, 1,706+ km/h).
Here are some YF-23 Images I found online that will give you a good look at the YF-23 Black Widow. She is a beautiful aircraft no matter what angle you look at her. All right, lets take a walk around the YF-23 and get close up view. All right, lets start with the front of the aircraft. Below, is the front view of the AMAZING YF-23 Black Widow and she looks like she’s ready for take-off!
You can clearly see why she was much more stealthier than the YF-22. Her sleek design with her 50 degree V-Tail make her almost completely invisible to radar and she is much more stealthier than the F-117 Nighthawk too! She was dubbed the World’s first invisible plane and with good reason. The enemy is fortunate this plane never went into production because they’d never see what hit them, LITERALLY!
Take a look at this incredible profile shot of the YF-23 and imagine what it would be like standing right next to her. As you can see she has a long sleek design so she can travel at transonic speeds and avoid enemy radar with ease. There are no other aircraft in service around the world today that can compare with the YF-23 with the exception of the F-22 Raptor.
Lets continue our walk around and take a look at the back of the YF-23 Black Widow. Now you can get a real good look at the 50 degree V-Tail and the unique engine exhaust design. Unlike conventional aircraft, the exhaust does not come straight out of the back of the engine but through troughs lined with heat-ablating tiles to dissipate heat and shield the engines from infrared homing (IR) missile detection from below. They were not thrust vectoring like the YF-22.
Why The YF-23 “Gray Ghost” Was Never Built – The Super Plane Forgotten
Now that you’ve got to see the AMAZING YF-23 Black Widow up close and personal. You may be asking the same question I’m asking. Why wasn’t the YF-23 chosen over the YF-22? Well, there may be several reason such as the one ones stated by the United States Air Force on April 23, 1991 when Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice announced that the YF-22 was the winner.
Perhaps one of the reasons the YF-23 was not chosen was because it was not as agile as the YF-22. Some aviation insiders speculated in the aviation press that the YF-22 was also seen as more adaptable to the Navy’s NATF, but by 1992 the U.S. Navy had abandoned its Navalized Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF) program which the YF-23 was not suited for. Perhaps the YF-23 would have been chosen instead had the Navy made their decision earlier.
There was a possible revival of the YF-23 in 2004 to meet the USAF’s need for an interim bomber. Northrop modified the YF-23A Gray Ghost which was the second prototype built as the production variant. However as fate would have it, the YF-23 would never enter into service as an interim bomber. In 2006, the Quadrennial Defense Review concluded that they needed a long-range bomber with much greater range.
The YF-23’s are now retired and resting comfortably in museums. YF-23A PAV-2, AF serial number 87-0801, registration number N232YF, is on display at Zamperini Field, Torrance, California and YF-23A PAV-1, Air Force serial number 87-0800, registration number N231YF, is on display in the Research and Development hangar of the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.
Fly The YF-23 Black Widow NOW!
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I’ll see you in the air pilot!