Re: YF-24?

Message posted by Steve Douglass on September 26, 2005 at 12:55:31 PST:

It may be he is refering to the recent revelations that Northrop Grumman has ressurected a variant of the YF-23 Balck Widow (speculated to be) the FB-23 ( a bomber version) that was involved in a secret competiotion to build a medium-sized stealthy bomber to bridge teh gap between the ahvy B-2 and light F-117.

Here's what I wrote about it in my April Popular Communications Utility Digest column:


Some of you may remember that a few months ago in this column we did a short piece on how the USAF wanted to build a fighter/bomber version of the F-22 called the FB-22.

During the course of Air Force military aircraft development it seems to be standard operating procedure to take a good design and try and turn it into the equivalent of a flying Swiss Army Knife and into the ultimate do-all and be-all aircraft capable of shooting down enemy aircraft and attacking ground targets on the same mission.

This tradition has been met with various degrees of success, with some bomber variants becoming hangar queens and gas hogs. But the Air Force canít leave well enough alone and insists on taking fast and stealthy aircraft and hanging all kinds of launchers and bomb pylons off the wings which may turn the aircraft into a great ground pounder but at the same time sacrificing speed, agility, stealth and lethality in air-to-air combat regimes.

Still, the Air Force hasnít had a good medium bomber since the F-111 was retired, and although they claim the F-15E fits that role nicely, it isnít stealthy and can be tracked on radar easily.

So since the advent of stealth and the success if the F-117 and the F-22, Air Force planners wish they had at their command a stealth aircraft that wasnít a billion dollar bomber (like the B-2) or had the limited two-bomb capacity (like the F-117) and was a stealth version of the F-111, a medium sized high speed fighter/bomber that filled the gap between heavy bombers like the B-1B, B-2 and B-52 and the bomb-load-challenged (and limited in number) F-117A.

Knowing this, Lockheed began working on a fighter/attack version of the F-22 Raptor and it was this semi-secret program we detailed in this column a few months ago.

Lockheedís design looks like a real winner, sacrificing nothing for increased bomb-load, range and speed and yet still maintaining a stealthy profile.

But since the Pentagon never liked to put all itís eggs in one basket and has on it considerable pressure from pork-barrel politicians to spread-out itís military wealth, it appears there was (or is) another secret competitor fighting to win a lucrative stealthy fighter/attack aircraft contract, Northrop Grumman with an (until now) secret concept known as the F/B-23 Rapid Theatre Attack Aircraft.

Aircraft aficionados may remember that it was a McDonnell Douglas/Northrop Grumman design (the F-23 Black Window) that competed with Lockheed to build the next generation fighter and barely lost out to the Lockheed F-22 design. In many respects the F-23 was a better aircraft, even stealthier and just as capable as the F-22, but some military insiders said it was too radical a design and USAF head honchos wanted something that looked more like the F-15. In any event, the design team at Northrop Grumman and many in the aviation press were stymied by the Pentagonís decision to go with the F-22 over the F-23.

Because of this momentous decision the F-23 was relegated to be only a footnote in the museum of good ideas never realized but it was many a military pilotís opinion the F-23 was the greatest fighter never built.

Although speculative it does appear there may have been a secret competition to build a stealthy medium-payload and range fighter/bomber and it looks like Northrop Grummanís entry may be a Mach 2+ medium-bomber version of the F-23 known as the RTA (Rapid Theatre Attack) aircraft with the missing prototype possibly being used as a test bed.

How do we know this? Because it was accidentally revealed on (of all places) EBay!

Yes, someone, quite possibly a Northrop Grumman employee posted for sale a professionally built desk model on what accounts to being the worlds biggest virtual garage sale visited by millions of eager buyers daily.

It was spotted by eagle-eyed military aircraft collectible hunters and soon the word spread across the Internet through stealth chaser newsgroups and aviation websites that a model of a secret aircraft was for sale on EBay.

Suddenly, and without explanation the auction was yanked but not before the photos had been snatched up by those who recognized them for what they were.

Since the photos are the property of the owner and something I canít publish without the permission of the original photographer (and most likely could never get permission to do) I have decided to use the photos as the source in creating an artistís rendering of what the aircraft looks like. So with the cat out of the bag, published here, for the first time in print, the FB-23 ATA!

-Steve Douglass

In Reply to: YF-24? posted by Chris McDowell on September 26, 2005 at 8:45:52 PST:


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