The design for the YF-23 emerged from a competition in the late 1980s set forth by the USAF (United States Air Force) who, at the time, was seeking to replace current fighter aircraft.  The replacement was necessitated in response to the Su-27 and MiG-29, both Soviet Union aircraft designs, which reduced the current advantage US fighters had held because of their maneuvering abilities.  In October of 1986, both Northrop and Lockheed were chosen as finalist and given a little over three years to both build and test-fly their proposed aircrafts.  The two prototypes built by Northrop were designated YF-23.  The first took its initial flight in August of 1990 and dubbed the Black Widow II.  This nickname resulted from the red, hour-glass marking (resembling that of a black willow) the aircraft first sported.  The second prototype had been painted two different shades of gray and thus dubbed the Gray Ghost.

The YF-23 aircraft itself had an unusual, diamond-shaped wing design.  And even though Northrop took into account several of the Air Forces prerequisites when designing this aircraft, four years after the initial plans were submitted, Northrop lost the contract to the Lockheed Company’s YF-22.

Information for the YF-23 Aircraft


  • Crew:  One – pilot only
  • Length of the aircraft:  67’ 5”
  • Height:  13’ 11”
  • Wingspan:  43’ 7”

Performance Statistics:

  • Maximum Speed for the YF-23:  Mach 2.2+
  • Cruise Speed:  Mach 1.6
  • Range:  Over 2,790 miles

The YF-23 Black Widow was an important aircraft in the evolution of military aircraft.