The YF-23's Air Inlet Design Was Its Most Exotic Feature You Never Heard Of
Northrop engineers used an innovative solution for dealing with an old airflow problem that is especially troublesome for stealthy designs. the loser to Lockheed's YF-22 for the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition, Northrop's YF-23, has turned into a mythical beast of sorts within military aviation circles. Not only do throngs of aficionados and analysts alike (and maybe even the Lockheed!) think it should have won that competition, but unsubstantiated rumors of a design based on it living in the clandestine realm, at least for some time, have propagated over the years. The truth is a bit more complex than just the YF-23 being the 'perfect' jet in retrospect—it too had advantages and disadvantages. But one of the YF-23's most exotic design elements that has been largely overlooked was the way boundary layer air was separated from the YF-23's fuselage before entering its air inlet and feeding its very air-thirsty next-generation turbofan engines.
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