Re: YF-24 myth, the supposed classified aircraft that never was

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Message posted by Peter Merlin (Member since 11/13/2003) on September 04, 2022 at 6:34:20 PST:

It's difficult to assume anything. The original three-digit YF designations were introduced to cover exploitation of Soviet fighters (MiG-21 and MiG-17). Mission-Design-Series (MDS) designations like YF-110B and YF-113A were chosen with the expectation that the Department of Defense would never issue those numbers to any subsequent production aircraft (the use of three-digit MDS numbers had ended with the F-111).

The use of two-digit identifiers for classified aircraft is a more recent phenomenon, of which YF-24 is merely the first known example. There have reportedly been others. The use of three-digit MDS identifiers was not limited to Red Hats/Red Eagles assets, but also for classified demonstrators such as the Bird of Prey (YF-118G) and production aircraft like the Nighthawk (YF-117A/F-117A).

There are still questions surrounding the YF-113G, which was (according to the Air Force) taken "from design to first flight" in the early 1990s. Those word certainly sound like a description of a "clean-sheet" design rather than any acquired existing production foreign type. It was described as a "classified prototype" but, so were all of the Red Hats assets (because of the Y prefix in the designations).

The "first Air Force pilot to fly the YF-113G" was a Red Hat, but he was apparently selected to stand up a new squadron (or, perhaps more accurately, a combined test force) to test the YF-113G. Note that he was described as the first AF pilot, not the first pilot. New aircraft are typically flown by the prime contractor first. Of course, it's also possible that it was a foreign type and that it was first flown by a Navy pilot assigned to the Red Hats. I'm not suggesting this. It's merely food for thought. The only other Air Force pilot currently known to have flown the YF-113G was also a Red Hat.

Ken mentioned how the X-35 JSF technology demonstrator was the inspiration for the F-35 designation. This is an example of pure laziness on the part of the DoD. It's an abuse of the MDS system that was established in 1962, and not the first one. MDS designations should always be assigned in order but they are frequently not. My first exposure to this phenomenon was when the F-5G (which had been properly numbered) was re-designated the F-20 as part of a Northrop marketing ploy. No real harm done, but it did lead to endless speculation that there was a secret plane called the F-19 and that it might have been the rumored Lockheed "stealth fighter" that had been reported in the aviation press. As far as I know, the F-19 designation has never been assigned. Frankly, I think the X-32 and X-35 should have had YF designations (like the YF-22 and YF-23), and not X-plane designations.

Three-digit MDS designations at Groom Lake were not allocated in any sort of order. First came the YF-110B (MiG-21F-13), followed by the YF-113A (MiG-17F) and YF-114C (MiG-17F). Technically, those last two were Lim-5M airframes, Polish-built MiG-17 copies. Then came the YF-113C (J-5A, a Chinese copy of the MiG-17). Several decades later, the Red Hats re-used the YF-113C designation for something else (possibly having forgotten that it had been used previously).

In Reply to: Re: YF-24 myth, the supposed classified aircraft that never was posted by Ken on September 03, 2022 at 23:35:26 PST:


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