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The bestest most awesomest Flightline Friday EVER!!! October 30, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Flightline Friday, fun, non squitur, silliness, Society, technology.

I’ve done two posts on the F-14 Tomcat in the past year (roughly) and I generally like to mix it up a bit more, but I stumbled on a video presentation that is simply too awesome not to include.  It features former Grumman VP Mike Ciminera discussing the whole of the F-14’s development, from early technological antecedents like the XF10F Jaguar to the failed F-111B program and then onto the VFX program that spawned the F-14.  Something to keep in mind – while Grumman certainly had been examining potential F-111B replacements from mid-1967 on (and perhaps a bit before that), the VFX program didn’t get started until early 1968 and Grumman was selected by the end of the year.  Two years later, in December 1970, the Tomcat made its first flight, and entered squadron service a mere two years after that.  Two more years, and she was in combat service flying off the deck of USS Enterprise off the coast of Vietnam.  For a totally new aircraft type of the 4th generation, 6 years from conception to combat is very, very impressive.

As is this video.  Ciminera discusses the VFX competitors briefly, then really delves into the F-14 design features that made it such a very unique and capable aircraft, especially given its size.  I had forgotten a bit that the F-14 could do many of the same high-alpha maneuvers that have so wowed airshow crowds when the Su-35 has done them.  Not quite to the same degree, but close, and 30 years before.

Some really neat info below. Tomcat enthusiasts will love the video, its an hour well spent.  One incredible thing I learned – the Tomcat, due to its unique aerodynamic control surface configuration, could pull 7.5 Gs at Mach 2.  There are very, very few aircraft that have ever been able to do that.

Switching subjects to one of MY all time favorite aircraft (I seem to have a soft spot for losers and also rans – explains a lot!), several excellent videos on the Northrop YF-23.  Competitor to the Lockheed-General Dynamics F-22, the YF-23 was essentially an all-Northrop product, even though they were ostensibly “teamed” with McDonnell Douglas in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition (in contrast, General Dynamics made several key contributions to the F-22 design, and those contributions probably resulted in the F-22 getting the win, or at least being competitive.  Boeing was also on the Lockheed-General Dynamics team, but it’s unclear what they contributed).

The first video is probably the best single video providing an overview of the YF-23 design and development.  She was a fine looking aircraft, and would have looked even better in production.  There were some problems not mentioned in the video, however.  While the YF-23 was generally viewed as being more stealthy than the YF-22, and Northrop claims their RCS was lower in most aspects, there was one glaring counter to that claim – the engine fan blades were radar-visible from certain angles, contra the YF-22, where the engines were buried so deeply they could never be seen by radar. This is most significant, because not only are those whirling chunks of metal huge radar reflectors, they can even be used to positively ID an aircraft (radar signal processing having become so advanced it is possible to discriminate engine fan blade returns, and by noting characteristics of their geometry, RPM, etc, discern engine and thus, aircraft type – this is called “non-cooperative target recognition”).

Where you can see the light coming through the engine nacelle, that's where the engine would be visible to radar. You can see how a ground radar could see up in there at certain angles. On the F-22, no such view exists.

Where you can see the light coming through the engine nacelle, that’s where the engine would be visible to radar. You can see how a ground radar could see up in there at certain angles. On the F-22, no such view exists.

Also, the YF-23 used Space Shuttle like tiles – but even more complex and advanced – to line the engine troughs at the back end of the aircraft.  This provided good rear-aspect stealth (something the F-22 does not do as well), but given that these tiles are air-cooled with millions of tiny perforations and that each one has to be laboriously hand-placed, USAF probably was right to be concerned over maintainability.

PolymerStew 623A

Another factor against the YF-23 was that it would “only” be able to carry  7 AAMs internally vice the F-22’s 8.  In fact, even that 7 was a stretch, in “normal” configuration the number was 5.  That was seen as a potentially serious handicap.

In other areas, the YF-23 was much faster and much more maneuverable at supersonic speeds.  We don’t know what the limits of that performance were, but the YF-23 with the GE YF-120 engines was reputed to be much faster, longer ranged, and capable of sustained maneuvering (i.e., fighting) at supersonic speeds.  Most aircraft can only maneuver gently at such high speeds, so that was a significant advantage. The YF-22 was better at the slow speed flight and severe angles of attack, thanks to its thrust vectoring engine nozzles.

There’s a lot more, but I’m running out of time.  To the videos.  First, the very good overview video:

This second video features discussions by YF-23 test pilots Paul Metz and Jim Sandberg.  This is also a truly excellent video, giving all kinds of details regarding why the Advanced Tactical Fighter was developed, and then about the aircraft itself:

Two more videos on the YF-23, both walk arounds by the same two test pilots Metz and Sandberg.

Thanks to Western Museum of Flight and Peninsula Seniors Videos for uploading these.




1. Brian E. Breslin - October 30, 2015

There, Tantum, you have done it! Nothing else the rest of the week will be worth reading after this post. Long live the Tomcat, the bestest of the best in this Squid’s mind. Fly Navy and get it right. Thanks, Tantum.

2. MFG - October 31, 2015

The F-14 was certainly iconic. As a child of the 80s, we were introduced to it as the main aircraft for GI Joe toys (they even sold a 7′ air craft carrier to fit all the F-14s) and of course in Top Gun.

But Hasbro didn’t stop there, right around the Gulf War, GI Joe/Hasbro started selling the YF-23.


Until you just mentioned it, I never realized the YF-23 was canned. I thought the F-22 was the same thing. Too bad it wasn’t. Seemed better from a stealth perspective.

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