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  • 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.

     Updated: 2/3/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    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".

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    Northrop Grumman YF-23 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1990
    Type: Technology Demonstrator / 5th Generation Fighter Prototype
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Northrop Grumman - USA
    Production Total: 2

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 67.59 feet (20.6 meters)
    Width: 43.64 feet (13.30 meters)
    Height: 14.11 feet (4.30 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 28,881 lb (13,100 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 51,434 lb (23,330 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): PAV-1: 2 x General Electric YF120 jet engines; PAV-2: 2 x Pratt & Whitney YF119 jet engines.

    Maximum Speed: 1,451 mph (2,335 kph; 1,261 knots)
    Maximum Range: 2,796 miles (4,500 km)
    Service Ceiling: 64,961 feet (19,800 meters; 12.30 miles)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    None fitted. Production version would have carried an internal cannon for close-in work and internal bays would have provided housing for various Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) with the airframe eventually cleared to carry conventional drop bombs, guided missiles and precision-guided ordnance.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United States (cancelled)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    YF-23A - Official Prototype Variant of which two were constructed as "PAV-1" and "PAV-2".

    PAV-1 - Fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney YF119 powerplant.

    PAV-2 - Fitted with 2 x General Electric YF120 powerplant.