Who Would Win If An F-23 Stealth Jet And F-22 Raptor Fought To The Death?

Who Would Win If An F-23 Stealth Jet And F-22 Raptor Fought To The Death?

TNI Staff


A close fight.

Key point: Ultimately, the Air Force ended up with an excellent plane with the Raptor—but both the YF-22 and YF-23 were outstanding designs.

In 1991, Lockheed won the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition and went on to develop the stealthy world beating F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter.

While in many ways, Northrop’s losing YF-23 was a much better design, but the U.S. Air Force chose the Lockheed aircraft because it believed that company would better manage the development program—and because the service thought the Raptor would cost less.

At the time, Northrop was in the doghouse with the Pentagon and the U.S. Congress because of massive cost overruns on the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and several other projects. Meanwhile, partner McDonnell Douglas wasn’t faring much better. “I don’t know how the Air Force decided which contractors would build the ATF, but I can only assume that there was some long-overdue consideration of Northrop’s dismal track record of test fraud, contract suspension and fines,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) told the LA Times years ago.

But what would an operational F-23 have looked like? And what if General Electric’s revolutionary variable-cycle YF120 had carried the day?

Even in 1991, in terms of raw performance, the General Electric-powered YF-23 was acknowledged to have been the best performer even compared to its Pratt & Whitney YF119-powered twin. The YF-23 had much better supersonic cruise performance, stealth and was only slightly less maneuverable at extremely low airspeeds.

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