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YF-23 - What could have been the F-22

The YF-23A was a prototype fighter designed and developed by Northrop and McDonnell Douglas. It was a competitor to Lockheed's YF-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition of the USAF (meant to replace the F-15). Lockheed won and the YF-22 eventually became the renowned F-22 Raptor we now hear so much about.


The YF-23 was designed to meet the requirements of the ATF competition, which was stealth, the ability to supercruise (sustained supersonic flight without afterburner), survivability, and ease of maintenance. However, although the YF-23 was stealthier and faster, the F-22 won as it was more agile. The two YF-23's built, the "Black Widow AII" and the "Gray Ghost" and now put on display in museums. The "Black Widow" currently rests in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The "Gray Ghost", which used to be on exhibit at the Western Museum of Flight in Hawthorne, California, was loaned to Northrop Grumman in 2004 and put on display in the car park of the company's factory in El Segundo but will eventually return to the museum's new location at Torrance Airport, Torrance, CA.


The YF-23 is a very unconventional aircraft. It has trapezoidal wings, substantial area ruling, and a V-tail. The engine exhausts are also quite different from conventional aircraft. Northrop, drawing ideas from its experience with the B-2, decided to use the same engine exhaust configuration of the bomber on the YF-23. This configuration greatly reduces the YF-23’s heat signature as the exhaust from its engines is deflected upwards through troughs lined with heat-ablating tiles. This shields the plane from Infrared (IR) missile (heat seeking missile) detection from below. The YF-23's engines have fixed nozzles.

How this aircraft works...

To provide role, the wing flaps and ailerons deflect inversely on either side. Pitch is achieved by moving both V-tails and yaw is provided by opposite movement. For aerodynamic breaking, the wing flaps are deflected down and the ailerons up on both sides.

Black Widow II and Gray Ghost...

  • The Black Widow II was the first YF-23 made. It was named after Northrop's P-61 Black Widow of World War II and had a red hour glass marking in a midst of black which resembles the underbelly marking of a black widow spider but was removed on the insistence of Northrop management. Black Widow II was fitted with Pratt and Whitney YF119 engines. Black Widow II first flew on August 27, 1990. It supercruised at Mach 1.43 on September 18, 1990.

  • The Gray Ghost, named after its gray paint coating, was the second YF-23 made. The plane first flew on October 26, 1990. It was fitted with the General Electric YF-120 engines and reached Mach 1.6 on November 29, 1990.

Data from Sweetman, Bill. YF-22 and YF-23 Advanced Tactical Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbooks International Publishing, 1991, pp. 44-45


Note that some of the specifications are estimated

Data from Winchester, Jim, ed. Concept Aircraft (The Aviation Factfile) Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2005, Miller, Jay. Lockheed Martin F/A-22 Raptor, Stealth Fighter. Aerofax, 2005, Pace, Steve. F-22 Raptor: America's Next Lethal War Machine. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 (pilot)
  • Length: 67 ft 4 in (20.50 m)
  • Wingspan: 43 ft 7 in (13.20 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 10 in (4.20 m)
  • Wing area: 900 ft² (88 m²)
  • Empty weight: 29,000 lb (14,970 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 51,320 lb (23,327 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 62,000 lb (29,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× General Electric YF120 or Pratt & Whitney YF119 , 35,000 lbf (156 kN) each


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.2+ (1,650+ mph, 2,655+ km/h) at altitude
  • Cruise speed: Mach 1.6 (1,060 mph, 1,706 km/h) supercruise at altitude
  • Range: 700 miles (1 200 km)
  • Combat radius: 865-920 mi (750-800 nmi, 1,380-1480 km)
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (19,800 m)
  • Wing loading: 54 lb/ft² (265 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.36


None as tested but provisions made for

  • 1 × 20 mm (.79 in) M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 4-6 × AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles
  • 4 × AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles

Panavia Tornado

The Panavia Tornado was the result of the joint effort of the UK, Germany, and Italy. A multirole fighter, the Tornado has three primary versions, the Tornado IDS fighter bomber, the Tornado ECR electronic warfare fighter (suppresses enemy air defenses), and the Tornado ADV interceptor. In total, 992 Tornadoes were built for the RAF, the Luftwaffe, Italian Air Force, and the Royal Saudi Air Force.


The Tornado was intended as a low-level supersonic bomber that can operate in high and low speeds. However, planes that are maneuverable in high speeds tend to have poor low-speed performance and vice versa. To counter this dilemma, Panavia decided that a variable wing sweep design will be the ideal feature for the plane. The variable wing sweep design works like this: the wings of the plane go fully swept when the plane is flying at high speeds and return to its original position in slower speeds. This fulfills the requirement that the Tornado performs well in high and low speeds.
The Tornado is also designed to operate on short runways. Since it is a land-based aircraft that has to operate on large airfields that are vulnerable to air attack, the Tornado is required to be able to land and takeoff in short distances. This criteria is fulfilled with the Tornado's variable wing sweep design, which when extended fully forward, creates enough lift to lower the minimum landing and takeoff speeds, thus allowing the Panavia Tornado to operate on short runways.

  1. Tornado IDS
  • The Tornado IDS variants were the strike aircraft version of the Tornado. This variant was designed for ultra-low-level penetration strikes of Warsaw Pact targets and is equipped with a terrain following radar that allowed hands-off all weather low-level flight. Additionally, it is equipped with a Laser Range Finder and Marked Target Seeker (LRMTS) for improved bombing accuracy. The LRMTS can also receive reflected laser energy from a third party laser, which allows the bomber to lock on targets laser-marked by other friendly units.
  • The Tornado IDS has 4 different versions, the GR1, GR1B, GR4, and GR1A/GR4A.
  1. Tornado ECR
  • The Tornado ECR is what you would call a "Wild Weasel", which is an aircraft that takes out enemy surface-to-air defenses and their radars, basically all enemy electronics used to detect friendly planes. This version is equipped with the emitter-locator system (ELS) which locates enemy radar positions and armed with the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile) to take the radars out.
  • The performance is similar to the Tornado IDS.
  1. Tornado ADV

  • The Tornado ADV is the fighter version of the Tornado. It has a greater sweep angle on the inboard fixed winged sections for greater performance in different speeds. The ADV also has an extended radome to fit the Marconi Ferranti Al.24 Foxhunter airborne interception radar. The fuselage is stretched by 1.36m to accommodate the four Skyflash semi-active radar homing missiles and a plug has been added immediately aft of the fuselage with the added benefits of reducing drag and making space for an extra fuel tank. Finally, the port (left) cannon has been removed.
  • The ADV has two versions, the F2 and F3.

General characteristics (Panavia Tornado F3)

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 18.7 m (61.3 ft)
  • Wingspan: (Variable geometry wing)
    • At 25° wing position : 13.91 m (45.6 ft)
    • At 67° wing position: 8.60 m (28.2 ft)
  • Height: 5.95 m (19.5 ft)
  • Wing area: 26.6 m² (286 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 14,500 kg (32,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 21,546 kg (47,500 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 28,000 kg (61,700 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2× Turbo-Union RB199-34R Augmented Turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 40.5 kN (9,104 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 73 kN (16,410 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: 800 knots IAS (1,452 mph, Mach 2.27, 2,338 km/h)
  • Range: 755 nmi (869 mi, 1,390 km)
  • Ferry range: 2,300 nmi (2,650 mi, 4,265 km) with four external tanks
  • Service ceiling: 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.56


  • Guns: 1× internal Mauser BK-27 with 180 rounds (versus 2× BK-27 mounted on Panavia Tornado IDS)
  • Hardpoints: 10 total (4× semi-recessed under-fuselage, 2× under-fuselage, 4× swivelling under-wing) holding up to 9000 kg (19,800 lb) of payload, the two inner wing pylons have shoulder launch rails for 2× Short-Range AAM (SRAAM) each
  • Rockets: None
  • Missiles:
    • Air-to-air missiles:
      • 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder or AIM-132 ASRAAM
      • 4× British Aerospace Skyflash or AIM-120 AMRAAM (mounted on 4 semi-recessed under-fuselage hardpoints)
  • Bombs: None
  • Others:
    • Up to 2× drop tanks for extended range/loitering time. Up to 4 drop tanks for ferry role (at the expense of 4 Skyflash/AMRAAM).


  • Marconi/Ferranti AI.24 Foxhunter radar

Saab JAS 39 Gripen

Designed and the developed by the Swedish aerospace company, Saab, the Gripen is a lightweight multirole fighter currently in service in the Swedish, Hungarian, Czech, and South African Airforces. The Royal Thai Air Force will also be operating them by 2011. The Gripen has a canard and delta wing combination. The canard wings, if you don't know, are the little triangular wings on the front of the plane. This wings are used to increase maneuverability reduced by Gripen's delta-wing design.


The Gripen's wing design enables the aircraft to be faster, have a larger payload, and a longer range. This design is also seen in many other modern aircraft like the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale. The Gripen has a built-in eletronic warfare unit so it can load more ordance without losing its self defence capabilities.

The Gripen can operate on any runway longer than 800 m with low maintenance and operating costs. These features allow the Gripen to land on and take off on public roads, which means that the Gripen can operate even if the air force does not have air superiority. This was a requirement by the Swedish military, which, during the Cold War, feared that their defense forces will be overrunned by Soviet forces. As a result, they placed military supply centers all over the country so even if military installations were destroyed, the Swedish military could still maintain a least a shred of combat capabilities and fight back. The Gripen's expeditionary capabilities allow this plane to land, resupply, and takeoff on roads with these supply centers and continue the fight.

Nowadays, this unique feature is (effectively) put to a different use; peacekeeping missions worldwide.


General characteristics
  • Crew: 1 (2 for JAS 39B/D)
  • Length: 14.1 m (46 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
  • Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
  • Wing area: 30.0 m² (323 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 5,700 kg (14,600 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 8,500 kg (18,700 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb)
  • Powerplant:Volvo Aero RM12 afterburning turbofan
    • Dry thrust: 54 kN (12,100 lbf)
    • Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN (18,100 lbf)
  • Wheel track: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)
  • Length (two-seater): 14.8 m (48 ft 5 in)


  • Maximum speed:
    • At altitude: Mach 2 (2,470 km/h, 1,372 mph)
  • Combat radius: 800 km (500 mi, 432 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 3,200 km (2,000 mi) with drop tanks
  • Service ceiling: 15,240 m (50,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 336 kg/m² (68.8 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.97


  • 1 × 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon 120 rounds
  • 6 × Rb.74 (AIM-9) or Rb 98 (IRIS-T)
  • 4 × Rb.99 (AIM-120) or MICA
  • 4 x Rb.71 (Skyflash) or Meteor
  • 4 x Rb.75
  • 2 x KEPD.350
  • 4 x GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb
  • 4 x rocket pods 13.5 cm rockets
  • 2 x Rbs.15F anti-ship missile
  • 2 x Bk.90 cluster bomb
  • 8 x Mark 82 bombs
  • 1 x ALQ-TLS ECM pod

Dassault Rafale

The aircraft developed by the French company Dassault Aviation, after the Mirage 2000, the Rafale was introduced on December 4th, 2000 as a multi-role 4.5th generation jet fighter aircraft. The Rafale resembles a Eurofighter Typhoon with its canard and delta wing combination. This fighter is in use by the French Air Force and Navy.


The Rafale is agile even in low speed flying and can operate from 400 m runways. This is attributed to its canard wings which increase the plane's maneuverability while maintaing stability. During landing, the canard wings reduce landing speed to 115 knots. However, daring pilots have achieved lower.

This plane can be used for strategic missions - meaning nuclear warfare - and it carries an ASMP nuclear stand-off missile. Also, the Rafale is qualified for the MBDA Storm Shadow / Scalp EG stand-off cruise missile as well. One normal missions, the Rafale carries a variety of weapons, 9 -14 tons for the Air Force version and 13 tons for the Navy.

The Rafale also has radar signature reduction features, meaning it is harder to detect on radar than conventional planes, but it can hardly be categorized as a true stealth aircraft.


  • Rafale A- A technology demonstrator that first flew in 1986. It has now been retired.
  • Rafale D- Dassault used this designation (D for discret or stealthy) in the early 1990s for the production versions for the Armée de l'Air, to emphasise the new semi-stealthy features they had added to the design.
  • Rafale B- This is the two-seater version for the Armée de l'Air; delivered to EC 330 in 2004.
  • Rafale C- This is the single-seat version for the Armée de l'Air; delivered to EC 330 in June 2004.
  • Rafale M-
  1. This is the carrier-borne version for the Aéronavale, which entered service in 2002. The Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C. Very similar to the Rafale C in appearance, the M differs in the following respects:
  2. Strengthened to withstand the rigors of carrier-based aviation
  3. Stronger landing gear
  4. Longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude for catapult launches
  5. Deleted front centre pylon (to give space for the longer gear)
  6. Large stinger-type tailhook between the engines
  7. Built-in power operated boarding ladder
  8. Carrier microwave landing system
  9. "Telemir" inertial reference platform that can receive updates from the carrier systems.
  • Rafale N- The Rafale N, originally called the Rafale BM, was planned to be a two-seater version for the Aéronavale. Budget constraints and the cost of training extra crew members have been cited as the grounds for its cancellation.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1–2
  • Length: 15.27 m (50.1 ft)
  • Wingspan: 10.80 m (35.4 ft)
  • Height: 5.34 m (17.5 ft)
  • Wing area: 45.7 m² (492 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 9,500 kg (C), 9,770 kg (B), 10,196 kg (M) (22 478 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 24,500 kg (C/D), 22,200 kg (M) (54,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2× Snecma M88-2 turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 50.04 kN (11,250 lbf) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 75.62 kN with M88-Eco >90 kN after 2010 (17,000 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed:
    • High altitude: Mach 2 (2,390 km/h, 1,290 knots)
    • Low altitude: 1,390 km/h, 750 knots
  • Range: 3,700+ km (2,000+ nmi)
  • Combat radius: 1,852+ km (1,000+ nmi) on penetration mission
  • Service ceiling: 16,800 m (55,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 304.8+ m/s (1,000+ ft/s)
  • Wing loading: 326 kg/m² (83 1/3 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.13


  • Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B cannon with 125 rounds
  • Missiles:
    • Air-to-air:
      • MICA IR/EM or
      • Magic II and in the future
      • MBDA Meteor
    • Air-to-ground:
      • MBDA Apache or
      • SCALP EG or
      • AASM or
      • GBU-12 Paveway II or
      • AM 39 Exocet or
      • ASMP-A nuclear missile


  • Thales RBE2 radar
  • Thales SPECTRA electronic warfare system.
  • Thales/SAGEM OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) infrared search and track system.

Data from Dassault Rafale Characteristics, French Navy Page, and the book Superfighters

Eurofighter Typhoon Photo Gallery

Eurofighter Typhoon loaded with missiles
Formation of Eurofighter Typhoons
Eurofighter Typhoon in flight
Back of a Eurofighter Typhoon
Flying vertically

Eurofighter Typhoon

One of the top military aircraft of our time, the Eurofighter Typhoon was developed by three companies, Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, and EADS working through a holding company Eurofighter GmbH. A multirole fighter, this plane is now being used in many European countries such as Britain, Germany, France, and Spain.


Since the Eurofighter Typhoon's introduction, it has been constantly praised by its pilots. This is not surprising considering its many capabilities. One of the best qualities of the Eurofighter Typhoon is its maneuverability. Even in supersonic or low speeds, this plane is highly agile and this is attributed to what's called a "relaxed stability" design that, although reduces the aircrafts stability, increases its maneuverability greatly. The instability of this aircraft is compensated with a fly-by-wire control system that stabilizes the aircraft automatically since a pilot alone cannot stabilize the plane manually.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is literally a flying computer. This plane's cockpit is filled with the latest high-tech systems that provide the pilot with almost all the information s/he will possibly need on the battlefield. It even has a voice control system!

With so many perks, this plane does not come cheap. It had cost £20 billion to develop this plane and it is estimated that a single Eurofighter Typhoon will cost up to €63 million.


General characteristics

Crew: 1 (operational aircraft) or 2 (training aircraft)
Length: 15.96 m (52 ft 5 in)
Wingspan: 10.95 m (35 ft 11 in)
Height: 5.28 m (17 ft 4 in)
Wing area: 50 m² (538 ft²)
Empty weight: 11,000 kg (24,250 lb)
Loaded weight: 15,550 kg (34,280 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 23,500 kg (51,800 lb)
Powerplant: 2× Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofan
Dry thrust: 60 kN (13,500 lbf) each
Thrust with afterburner: 90 kN (20,250 lbf) each


Maximum speed:

  • At altitude: Mach 2+ (2,495 km/h, 1,550 mph)
  • At sea level: Mach 1.2 (1470 km/h / 913.2 mph)
  • Supercruise: Mach 1.1-1.5
Range: 2,900 km (1,840 mi)
Combat radius:
  • Ground attack, lo-lo-lo: 601 km (373 nmi)
  • Ground attack, hi-lo-hi: 1,389 km (863 nmi)
  • Air defence with 3-hr CAP: 185 km (115 nmi)
  • Air defence with 10-min loiter: 1,389 km (863 nmi)
Ferry range: 3,790 km (2,300 mi)
Service ceiling: 19,810 m (65,000 ft)
Rate of climb: >315 m/s (62,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 307 kg/m² (63 lb/ft²)
Guns: 1× 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon with 150 rounds
Hardpoints: Total of 13: 8× under-wing plus 5× under-fuselage pylon stations holding up to 16,500 lb (7,500 kg) of payload
  • Air-to-air missiles: AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, AIM-120 AMRAAM, IRIS-T and in the future MBDA Meteor
  • Air-to-surface missiles: AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-88 HARM, ALARM, Storm Shadow (AKA "Scalp EG"), Brimstone, Taurus KEPD 350, Penguin and in the future AGM Armiger

  • Paveway II/III/Enhanced Paveway series of Laser-guided bombs (LGBs), Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), HOPE/HOSBO
  • Flares/Infrared decoys dispenser pod and chaff pod and
  • Electronic countermeasures (ECM) pods
  • LITENING III laser targeting pod
  • up to 3× drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time.



January 29th this year, the PAK FA, developed by the Russian aircraft manufacturer, made its first flight. This plane is a fifth generation fighter that is said to be able to rival the much coveted F-22 and F-35. Like its Western counterparts, the PAK FA, or T-50, has stealth capabilities, the ability to supercruise (which is sustained supersonic flight), and even have an "artificial intelect".

The PAK FA will replace the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the current Russian inventory. It will be equipped with next generation of missiles, incorporate a fix-mounted AESA radar, and use a pair of Saturn 117S engines generate 142 kN (32 000 lb!!!!!) of thrust in afterburner and 86.3 kN (19 400 lb) dry.

The PAK FA has since had two more successful flights this year and, according to Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, will take 5 to 10 years for commercial production.

Specifications... (these are preliminary estimates as the PAK FA is still in development)

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 22 m (72 ft)
Wingspan: 14.2 m (46.5 ft)
Height: 6.05 m (19.8 ft)
Wing area: 78.8 m2 (848.1 ft)
Empty weight: 18,500 kg (40,785 lb)
Loaded weight: 26,000 kg (57,320 lb)
Useful load: 7,500 kg (combat load) (16,534 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 37,000 kg (81,570 lb)
Powerplant: 2× New unnamed engine by NPO Saturn and FNPTS MMPP Salyut of 175 kN each
Maximum Fuel weight: 10,300 kg (22,711 lb)


Maximum speed: 2,600 km/h (Mach 2.45) (at 17,000 m altitude) (1,615 mph (at 45,000 ft altitude))
Cruise speed: 1,300 - 1,800 km/h (808 - 1,118 mph)
Range: 4,000-5,500 km (2,500-3,100 miles)
Service ceiling: 20,000 m (65,616 ft)
Rate of climb: 350 m/sec (1184 ft/sec)
Wing loading: 330(normal) - 470(maximum) kg/m2 (67(normal) - 96(maximum) lb/ft2)
Thrust/weight: 1.4
Maximum g-load: +10.0/+11.0 g


Guns: 1×30mm GSh-30-1
Hardpoints: 10 internal, 6 external for R-74M Archer and R-77M Adder missiles
AvionicsN050(?)BRLS AFAR/AESA