Here’s Everything You Should Know About The Northrop YF-23

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Let’s see what makes this fighter jet one of the best in its class. We provide a detailed explanation of this stunning aircraft.

The YF-23 is a single-seat, twin-engine stealth military aircraft designed for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Northrop/McDonnell Douglas. The design competed against the Lockheed YF-22 for a manufacturing contract in the US Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition. The “Black Widow II” and “Gray Ghost” prototypes of the YF-23 were produced.

The United States Air Force began seeking a successor for its fighter aircraft in the 1980s, particularly to match the Soviet Union’s sophisticated Sukhoi Su-27 and Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters.

The USAF chose Northrop and Lockheed’s design concepts out of several that were submitted. The YF-23 was developed by Northrop Grumman in collaboration with McDonnell Douglas, whereas the YF-22 was developed by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics.

So, let’s now take a closer look at the Northrop YF-23 and what exactly made it special.

History And Details Of The Northrop YF-23

The YF-23 was quicker and stealthier than its rival. In 1991, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor went into production. The US Navy contemplated adopting the ATF’s production version as the foundation for a successor to the F-14, but those plans were scrapped. As of 2010, both YF-23 prototypes remained on display at museums.

Survivability, super-cruise, stealth, and simplicity of maintenance were all priorities for the YF-23. Longer supersonic flight without the use of afterburners was required for super-cruise missions. To decrease the model’s sensitivity to radar and infrared detection, Northrop employed lessons learned from the B-2 Spirit and F/A-18 Hornet.

The aircraft had to land and halt within 2,000 feet (610 meters) of the ground, which necessitated the deployment of thrust reversers on the engines. Thrust reversers, however, were no longer required after the United States Air Force altered the runway length requirement in 1987 to 3,000 feet (910 meters). The aircraft’s engine nacelle housings might be smaller as a result.

Northrop YF-23 Specs

General Characteristics:

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 67 ft 5 in (20.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 43 ft 7 in (13.28 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 11 in (4.24 m)
  • Wing area: 900 sq ft (84 sq m)
  • Empty weight: 29,000 lbs (13,154 kg)
  • Gross weight: 51,320 lbs (23,278 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 62,000 lb (28,123 kg)


  • Maximum speed: 1,260 kn (1,450 mph, 2,330 km/h) at high altitude
  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.2
  • Cruise speed: 921 kn (1,060 mph, 1,706 km/h) / Supercruise: Mach 1.6
  • Range: 2,424 nmi (2,789 mi, 4,489 km)
  • Combat range: 651–695 nmi (749–800 mi, 1,206–1,287 km)
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
  • Wing loading: 57 lb/sq ft (280 kg/m2)


None as tested but provisions were made for:

  • 1 × 20 mm (0.79 in) M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 4 × AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air-to-air missiles
  • 2 × AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles

A more versatile, agile, and faster fighter jet, the YF-23 was the preferred plane over its competitor, the F-22.

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