Friday, July 23, 2004

The Black Widow Returns

No, this has nothing to do with deranged Georgia congressthing Cynthia McKinney. The only link I have for this is at Flight International and it is subscriber-only, but it seems Northrop Grumman has busted its YF-23 Black Widow II out of mothballs as a potential contender for the Air Force's regional bomber requirement.

The company recently retrieved the second of the two YF-23A "Black Widow II" prototypes (PAV-2) from the Western Museum of Flight in Hathorne, California, ostensibly for repainting for display at a forthcoming Northrop Grumman-backed air fair in August. However, the restoration is also thought to include several changes, including new cockpit displays and other possible cosmetic modifications.
Northrop Grumman confirms restoration of the General Electric YF120-powered PAV-2 is taking place, but declines to comment on whether the revived YF-23A is linked to any USAF proposal. But sources close to the studies, which were kicked off by the USAF's recently issued request for information, say Northrop Grumman now includes a YF-23-based "regional" bomber concept among its raft of proposals and that the USAF "is interested".

The genesis of the regional bomber requirement was for the USAF to find a post-Cold War mission for the F/A-22, in which considerable investment has already been sunk. OIF and OEF have shown that our current enemy is not well-equipped for air-to-air combat, and the primary value of aircraft is to 1.) find the enemy and 2.)render death from above. New build B-1's would fulfill this requirement adequately, but they are hard to base, and most of the production equipment has been dismantled. A bomber variant of the F/A-22 still has pole position if this requirement comes to fruition (Doubtful in the current spending environment, not-gonna-happen if Ace and Gary are elected) since its production facilities and air base support facilities are already in place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The YF-23 was always the better plane, even during the fighter competition. It was faster, more stealthy, and could suppress its infra-red signature. It could do all this and carry more weapons much farther than the F-22 without refueling.

It was unthinkable that the F-22 was chosen over the 23, but this was a competition full of the unthinkable. I remember when the General in charge of the then ATF program mandated that no canard equipped aircraft would be allowed to compete. He didn't have any reason for his edict other than he didn't like the look of canards.

Instantly Grumman was excluded from the ATF competition, because a forward swept wing doesn't work without the canard, just look at the X-29. Your tax dollars at work.

Now we are stuck with an aerodynamic barn door as our next generation fighter. The F-15 mafia won and the US citizen lost. They got their dogfighter, at $200M+ a copy. What sense does it make to have a stealth dogfighter that needs to shoot down enemy planes at a rate of at least 10 to 1?

Here's a hint for the USAF, if the plane is in a dogfight, it's not stealthy. Everyone knows where it is ever since this invention called radio was added to airplanes. And if it is in a dogfight, it is as vulnerable as an F-15 to the most deadly air-to-air missile, the heat seeker.

If I were flying in combat outnumbered 10 to 1, I'd want to have the highest stealth possible and would want to be able to hit and run other fighters, not jump into a fur ball with them. A hit and run requires speed, and you can't be sucking on a highly observable tanker all the time too.

There is a lot we'll never know about the YF-23, like why its top speed in supercruise is still classified, or what the canard equipped version looked like. It's a good design though. Much more aerodynamically advanced than the 22. Maybe it will finally get it's chance.