Northrop Grumman YF-23 (Black Widow II) Technology Demonstrator / 5th Generation Fighter Prototype
The Northrop Grumman YF-23 competed unsuccessfully with the Lockheed YF-22 Raptor for Next Generation rights in the United States Air Force.
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The YF-23 Black Widow II was Northrop Grumman's (teamed with McDonnell Douglas Corporation) answer to the American ATF (Advanced Tactical Fighter) challenge proposed by the United States Air Force (USAF). The YF-23 competed unsuccessfully with the Lockheed / Boeing / General Dynamics offering - the YF-22 "Lightning II" - later adopted into service as the F-22 "Raptor. The YF-23 ended its days as a museum showpiece and only two flyable prototypes were completed during the project run.
The curvy, low profile YF-23 was a stark contrast from the sharp edges of the YF-22 and featured a wide, almost pancake-like airframe structure with blended wing elements. The pilot sat within the forward section of the fuselage and given access to a completely digital, then-ultra-modern cockpit offering relatively excellent vision. Intakes, to aspirate the twin engine arrangement, were positioned along the underside of the fuselage. The twin tail fins were outward-canted and straddled the thrust-vectoring engine outlets. No horizontal tailplanes were featured.
One element of the development phase of the competition was to evaluate two experimental turbofan engines - the Pratt & Whitney YF119 and the General Electric YF120. As such, each YF-23 prototype was fitted with one set of the available engines. The first prototype was designated "PAV-1" and carried YF119 engines and the second prototype - "PAV-2" - fitted YF120 engines. The YF119 eventually won out over the YF120 and went on to power the F-22 Raptor fighter in service.
The name of "Black Widow II" - following the original Northrop P-61 "Black Widow" twin-engine night-fighter aircraft of World War 2 - was not an official designation used by the USAF nor by Northrop Grumman but is believed to have gained steam from an internal contest held by the YF-23 team. To further enhance this "unofficial" name, future test flights of the YF-23 were seen with a red hourglass insignia on the belly of the craft, this symbol synonymous with the North American spider the "Black Widow".