The industry of military technology and development is one with many innovative and futuristic projects that have ended being shelved for one or another reason.
Just such a fate befell the american yf-23 Stealth fighter, which was rejected by the Us air Force.
Japan took on further development of the air force’s project and is now working to revive the yf-23.
In the 1980s, the Us Air Force began actively searching for a replacement for its fleet of fighters.
Of particular concern were the Soviet su-27 and mig-29 spotted by american reconnaissance satellites in 1978.
Both these models were expected to outmaneuver the american fighters of that time.
ADVANCED TACTICAL FIGHTER
Thus, developments for the new generation fighter started with a request from the Us air force as part of what was called advanced tactical fighter, Atf.
Such features as advanced avionics, modern alloys and composite materials, as well as advanced fly-by-wire flight control systems, more powerful propulsion systems and other innovative solutions were expected to be introduced into the new aircraft’s design.
But the bulk of the efforts made by air force engineers were put into stealth technology in order to ensure the aircraft could efficiently evade enemy radar detection.
YF-22 AND YF-23
Project proposals were taken for consideration up until 1986, when two american aviation giants, northrup and Lockheed, were instructed to develop their own prototype versions of the aircraft, which were the yf-22 and yf-23 they were allocating 50 months in total to accomplish this.
As a result, northrup produced the Pav 1.
PAV-1 BLACK WIDOW II
NORTHROP P-61 BLACK WIDOW
Black widow 2 prototype, named after the northrup p-61 black widow aircraft from World War Ii.
A mark in the form of a black widow was painted onto the fuselage, corresponding to its name and bearing the signature red hourglass.
However, management later decided to erase the widow’s mark from the plane.
Pav2 also stayed in the Arachnid family, receiving the nickname spider.
It was , also referred to as the Grey ghost.
The appearance of the na-23 at that time differed greatly from things before.
The design was made according to the latest stealth developments, which included such features as an integrated aerodynamics game bearing a diamond-shaped mid-wing with cut tips and a v-shaped fin.
The aircraft’s designers put much emphasis as possible on improving the new fighter’s supersonic characteristics and also reducing its radar, infrared and visual signatures.
When creating the shell, low reflective external designs and radio absorbing materials were utilized.
Additionally, the cockpit was positioned as high as possible closer to the bow of the fighter, in order to improve visibility.
During the design process of both fighters under the Atf, some of the more promising materials set to be used included polymer composites, aluminum, lithium alloys and composites with a metallic array.
UP ABOUT 25%
The ones most widely used throughout ended up being the polymer composites, since they made up about 25 percent by weight of the yf-23 prototype.
The wing had deflected single-section tubes, ailerons and flaps, which also served as air brakes.
Thus, during breaking, the outer surfaces shifted upward while the inner one simultaneously moved downward.
Along the sides of the Yf23 were narrow signed cells with a sharp outer edge.
These served to generate vortexes during aerial maneuvers at high angles of attack and also prevented uncontrolled deviation of the aircraft.
The fighter was equipped with two turbofan engines, each of which was located in a separate nacelle with s-shaped channels to protect the axial compressors of the engine from radar waves.
In regards to the Pav1, it was equipped with Pratt and Whitney yup 119 engines, while the Pav2 Prototype got general electric Yf-120 engines.
Unlike the yf-22, which had a variable thrust vector, engineers managed to sync the engines into the whole of the yf-23 by lengthening the fuselage so that they did not protrude beyond the outline of the aircraft.
This has come to be another huge benefit in terms of reducing the overall Infrared signature.
The yf-23 managed to outperform the yf-22 in speed, demonstrating a cruising performance of mach 1.8 versus the yf-22’s Mach 1.58 despite all the efforts put into developing the yf-23, its competitor, the yf-22, was viewed as more maneuverable and inconspicuous.
However, when visually comparing the two fighters today, the yf-23 still appears to be the perfect aircraft for close aerial combat.
The air force generals at that time had decided, though, that the fifth generation fighter would not engage in close combat and had more emphasis on maneuverability.
This was considered the most important factor regarding the air battles of the 21st century.
The very appearance of the yf-22 seemed to them more calm and conservative when compared to the revolutionary yf-23, and even though the American Air Force is not known for its conservatism, unlike its british colleagues, no one really wants to take responsibility for possible risks and colossal monetary losses associated with choosing between a new and unknown option and a simpler and, most importantly, understandable option.
The company responsible for the Y of 23’s creation also had a role in determining its fate.
On one side of things, we had northrup, with its experience in developing futuristic stealth aircraft like the B2 spirit strategic bomber.
The latter had become the very symbol of invisibility, and on the other side was Lockheed, the creator of the equally well-known F-117- nighthawk.
Unfortunately, it was the b-2 that pulled a fast one on northrup.
Having received most of the attention during the development of both the yf-22 and yf-23 prototypes, the Us Air Force decided that it would be trite to over-task the company’s engineers and trusting them with the creation of several such promising aircraft at the same time.
As a result of these concerns, they landed on the yf-22, now known to us as the f-22 raptor at the same time, the military unreasonably turned a blind eye to the advantages of the yf-23 model, which offered supersonic speed without afterburner, unlike the yf-22, although initially this was actually one of the main features expected for new generation fighters.
Overall, however, it became apparent that the yf-22 was not very suitable for service in the Us air force.
The aircraft had excellent characteristics and stealth features, with the ability to eliminate air and ground-based enemy vehicles with lightning speed, but it also cost more than an arm and a leg, much, much more.
One model f-22 raptor cost us taxpayers 379.5 million dollars, including R? D. additionally, the cost of a single flight hour also left much to be desired, as the plane ate up approximately 58 000 per hour of operation and the supersonic capability of the fifth generation fighter was lower than expected, at only 180 kilometers, or six minutes, without the afterburner.
As time went on, more and more potential competitors appeared before the F-22, to include the russian su-57, as well as the Chinese j-20 and J-31.
And then japan- not the United States- became suddenly interested in reviving the yf-23.
Watching the growing power of its two hot-tempered neighbors, China and Russia, the land of the rising sun decided that it should also have a trick up its sleeve, and this was to come in the form of fifth generation fighters.
Back in 1997, however, the Us Congress turned down a request to export the F-22, and Japan realized that if it was to be saved, then they would do so themselves.
It was therefore decided that this problem would be answered by a sixth generation stealth fighter of their very own design, Mitsubishi Fx, also known as the F3, which is said to replace the Mitsubishi F-2 Multi-role fighters by the mid-2030s.
However, this is still far from operation, since Japan’s option of creating fifth generation fighters on its own is simply unaffordable for the country in terms of the budget.
42 AMERICAN F-35S
Even the 42 american f-35s they purchased may turn out to be insufficient in case of aggression from neighboring states.
Therefore, Japan soberly assessed the situation and asked the Us for advice.
By attracting foreign partners.
100 NEW FIGHTERS
Japan can significantly reduce the development costs of 100 new fighters down to 40 billion dollars and simultaneously gain access to technologies that would have otherwise needed to develop from scratch.
Northrop Grumman was the first to respond to the allies call for help, and it was at this very moment that new life was breathed into the once forgotten yf-23.
Northrop’s yf-23 technology data hadn’t gone away, of course, since the loss to Lockheed.
More than 10 years later, they again tried to present an updated version of this Us air Force fighter.
However, much more attention was being paid to the legendary northrop V2’s air, the strategic bomber B-21.
This apparently seemed more promising at the time, and although today the company can still accurately make the yf-23 for Japan, it will most likely want to revisit the design of this creation, coming up with unique ideas for the layout of the airframe and fighter engines.
These can then be combined with the technological achievements of their japanese counterparts.
Most of the design features of the yf-23 originated from the 80s and would thus require complete modernization.
For example, the old-fashioned radio absorbing surface coating remains an extremely expensive solution used in F-22s, and then there’s also the more practical modular panels, like the new f-35.
Furthermore, the fighters avionics will also undergo improvement, since these were never able to be implemented in the yf-23 before.
As far as advantages go, the Ymp-23 of today seems to be a worthy competitor to the F-22.
The speed of mach 1.8 performed by the prototype is still impressive.
Granted, this is less than what can be done by modern su-57s.
However, let’s not forget that this is merely a test model.
After upgrading the systems, its speed can definitely increase significantly, especially when looking at the use of a modern technology stack.
In this process, the prototypes integrated aerodynamic scheme has lost neither its relevance nor its advantages when compared to the traditional one.
By reducing the drag, the fighter is able to significantly increase the internal volume, which is key since the missiles must be stored internally and not on an external sling.
This is done for stealth purposes.
Additionally, the aerodynamic layout improves the overall responsiveness of aircraft control at supercritical angles of attack, even up to 60 degrees.
Despite the amount of work laid out for it, Japan believes that starting with a tried and true design and then subsequently upgrading it via the latest technology can ultimately be many times more profitable than starting from scratch.
Perhaps, thanks to the beneficial cooperation received, the country will be able to not only revive the promising yf-23, but also occupy the middle ground that exists between the semi-maneuverable but highly stealthy f-35 and the super maneuverable but not as stealthy su-57.
One thing is clear for sure: after anxiously awaiting for three whole decades, the black widow and the raptor can finally face off in the air, albeit under the flag of a friendly nation.
What are your thoughts on all this?
Do you think northrop will succeed in reviving its brainchild in the vast homeland of the samurai?
Let us know in the comments below.
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