Early US ATF Projects- references

overscan (PaulMM)

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27 December 2005
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Here's some references for early US ATF project information. Its culled from a TsAGI technical bulletin, an open-source roundup of ATF information circa 1984.

  • Aerospace Daily, 1982, V.117, 3/IX, N3, p17
  • Aerospace Daily, 1982, V.117, 27/IX, N18, p139
  • AIAA Student Journal, 1982, V.20, N3, p2
  • "Future Fighters for the US Airforce" International Defence Review, 1983, V.16, N2, p165-174
  • AWST, 1983, V.119, 28/XI, N22, p44
  • Aerospace Daily, 1983, V.120, 17/III, N13, p97
  • AWST, 1983, V.119, 7/XI, N19, p44
  • Interavia Aerospace Review, 1981, v.36, 1, N1, p19
  • Flug-Revue Flugwelt, 1981, N4, p4
  • AWST, 1981, V114, 30/III, N13, p15
  • Flight International, 1982, v121, 6/II, N3796, p.291
  • AWST, 1981, V114, 15/VI, N24, p87
  • Flight International, 1982, v122, 17/VII, N3819, p.123
  • Koku-fan, 1984, I, N1, p67-69
  • Interavia Aerospace Review, 1983, v.38, VI, N6, p583
  • Paris Air Daily, 1983, 30/V, p.27
  • AWST, 1978, V108, 10/IV, N15, p46
  • Flight International, 1983, v123, 11/VI, N3866, p.1732
  • Aerospace Daily, 1983, V.122, 28/VII, N19, p252
  • AWST, 1983, V119, 12/IX, N11, p52
  • Interavia Air Letter, 1983, 14/XII, N10404, p5
  • Interavia Air Letter, 1983, 21/XII, N10408, p4
  • Flight International, 1983, v124, 15/X, N3884, p.992-993
  • Flight International, 1983, v123, 15/I, N3845, p.141
  • Jane's Defence Weekly, 1984, V1, 11/II, N7 p192
  • Interavia Air Letter, 1983, 19/IX, N10342, p1-2
  • AWST, 1983, V119, 10/X, N15, p30
  • Flight International, 1983, v124, 10/XII, N3892, p.1516
  • Interavia Air Letter, 1983, 22/VI, N10281, p4
  • Interavia Air Letter, 1983, 21/XI, N10387, p4
  • Aerospace Daily, 1983, V.123, 3/X, N22, p172
  • AWST, 1983, V119, 10/X, N15, p28
  • Aerospace Daily, 1982, V.114, 29/III, N21, p164
  • AWST, 1984, V120, 13/II, N7, p160
  • Kinnucan, P. Superfighters, High Technology, 1984, V4, IV, N4, p36-48
I've been reading the book Advanced Tactical Fighter to F-22 Raptor: Origins of the 21st Century Air Dominance Fighter that is published by the AIAA and it has really opened up my eyes to understanding alot of the early ATF concepts. When we look at the early design concepts, some of them are very large cruisers. I used to wonder how such a plane could really be considered a fighter in the Air Dominance sense. Well, it turns out, they weren't.

The ATF program actually began in the early 70's and as originally envisioned was to be an advanced strike aircraft, somewhat similar to the Long Range Strike Aircraft being pursued now. In fact, it would probably be best to think of it as an F-111 replacement in its' early days. It was supposed to complement the F-15 and A-10. However, as the LWF came into play and the capability of the F-15 and F-16 became understood, they realized they could use one of those platforms to perform that roll, hence the fly-off between the F-15E and F-16XL.

As that occured, though, the ATF program continued on, adding stealth into it's requirements and morphing into what eventually became the YF-23 and YF-22. The book actually delves into all of the program names that it went through during the 70's and how the requirements changed. But I thought I would just post this information as it explains many of the design concepts we saw during the late 70's early 80's that didn't seem to fit the role that the F-22 performs now. The info in the book on the YF-23's performance is erroneous, considering what's been reported in Aviation Week and other sources. However, once I've finished the book I'll post a bigger review in the books section.

Here are the links to many of the ATF threads on this forum for reference;

McD-D ATF studies

Northrop ATF studies

Grumman ATF studies

Boeing ATF studies

Rockwell ATF studies

Generic ATF studies
So I was reading a rather forgettable book titled "Warplanes of the Future", by MBI; and there was this passage:


Nine airframe companies and three engine manufacturers responded to the challenge when the USAF Aeronautical Systems Division (ASD) re-entered the game and issued its request for information (RFI) for an ATF in 1981.

At this early stage of the program, the USAF had not decided whether the new aircraft would emphasize air-to-air or air-to-ground missions and invited industry to share ideas for the new fighter.

The companies submitted a wide range of configurations in their responses. Lockheed favored a derivitive of the YF-12A, the forerunner of the two-seat SR-71 Blackbird. The YF-12A, designed for air-to-ground missions, carried several kinetic-energy penetrator weapons in a central weapon bay which would be released at supersonic speeds at high altitudes and guided to the target by a laser. The approach, which was worked through in early 1982, built up technical data gathered from a series of air-to-air missile launches from the YF-12A conducted in the mid-to-late 1960s. The YF-12A had fired seven Hughes AIM-47 missiles at altitudes of up to 80,000 feet (24,250m) at speeds of over Mach 3. The shots, at aerial targets at ranges of over 30 miles (48km), were highly successful. This high-altitude, high-speed approach was also one of Lockheed's candidates for the F-X program which became the F-15.

. . . .

Including stealth set an unusual security precedent. The security level of the original RFPs at this stage of the program precluded any details on stealth, a topic that was highly classified in the early 1980s. Companies that could claim low-observable (LO) technologies would be considered in a design but they could not reference any actual experience or techniques in their proposals. Stealth technologies were considered "black" and as such did not exist to anyone not cleared on them. The last minute change in the RFPs placed the program in both the "black" and "white" worlds.

The next phase in the program was the demonstration/validation (dem/val) phase in which companies would have to prove their technologies and refine their designs. Lockheed, however, took a radical departure from its high-speed, high-altitude design. "Clearly, ATF was going to be superstealth and not a cousin of the YF-12 or SR-71," explained Bart Osborne, Lockheed's chief engineer during this phase of the ATF program. "I stopped the YF-12 derivative effort and we started working on an F-117 derivative for ATF...."


I'm really interested in the YF-12 derivatives they were looking at now...
Supersonic Cruise Fighter was a USAF research program of the 70s.
The studies between NASA LaRC and GD leading to the F-16XL, can be described by three phases
First phase: the Pre-SCAMP (SCAMP: Supersonic Cruise And Maneuvering Prototype) cranked arrow wing (77°/67°)
Second phase: the GD-SCAMP,cranked arrow wing (70°/50°)
Third the GD F-16XL, cranked arow wing (70°/50°).
Sundog said:
Actually, that design, the Tomcat II, is a Grumman design, and my guess is it was a new build version designed to use as much of the existing jigs, etc and the knowledge base of the Tomcat structurally. But it was sort of a cheap attempt to get into the stealth game in much the same way that the B-1B was an attempt to get a "Stealth Bomber" out of the original B-1A design.

The F-23 airframe concept was based on a non-stealth design, is not that hard to turn a conventional airframe into an semi-stealth one.

The B1 was not a LO aircraft at all, just an airframe with some RAM
Spring said:
The F-23 airframe concept was based on a non-stealth design, is not that hard to turn a conventional airframe into an semi-stealth one.

The B1 was not a LO aircraft at all, just an airframe with some RAM


The early concepts (on the early ATF proposals) dont show any faceted or planar edge feature and all were high agility/supercruiser cooncepts, later the engines were re-located, the airframe edge was given etc..

There were studies pre-final-ATF projects, where the diferent designs were changed due the actualization of the USAF requirements, Northrop opted to keep the original design, and later adapt it to the new specifications

Other teams changed the designs for the last ATF contest, for example the Mcdonnel douglas and lockheed concepts
When we will learn to separate publicity drawings from the real things? Compare what Lockheed did release, calling it *ATF*, at the same timeframe, to real project iterations, and now approximate it to Northrop's artist's renderings. Real predecessors of (Y)F-23 design chain are still in black.


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The ATF program started in the late 70s, and were some pre-studies before the final thing ,these models were real, and many companies presented their early proposals, stealth technology was not mature for these early proposals

Later, after some changes, the only ones on the contest were 4-5 models designed for the new requirements

Off topic, maybe, but i think the early Rockwell proposal was the best of them
Rockwell's design got the supercruise part correct, but they didn't put enough effort in during the later stages, persisting with refinements of their earlier design. With the revised stealth requirements it wasn't good enough.

Rockwell had some fairly strong stealth capabilities (better than Grumman, certainly) but they were too busy on B-1 programme, I think.
flateric said:
When we will learn to separate publicity drawings from the real things? Compare what Lockheed did release, calling it *ATF*, at the same timeframe, to real project iterations, and now approximate it to Northrop's artist's renderings. Real predecessors of (Y)F-23 design chain are still in black.

Flateric, i think the design progress that you posted there was after the 2 main teams were selected, i think that General Dynamics and Boeing had their ideas for the new aircraft, and yes in general terms were confidential. but what you see there is the lockheed proposal (that won, becase anyways, they were the leaders), i dont know about that picture (the one that is below), but there you can see a more stealthy layout, not so far from the test airframes, it could be an outdated concept or come from GD or Boeing

The f-23 layout was selected on 1981-1982 , at the same period when they were testing the Tacit Blue, later they adapted the basic airframe to the new USAF requirements
This is absolutely not a "fake" picture or rendering. This image surfaced circa 1984 in either Pop Sci or Pop Mech and is "official" artwork from the USAF pertaining to its ATF program and was intended to highlight the technologies intended to be used on the ATF: thrust vectoring, advanced aerodynamics for supercruise, advanced inlet design, and internal weapons.

I believe this painting came out of Wright Patterson itself from Piccirilo's (spelling?) office.

hesham said:

I don't remember where we displayed this ATF aircraft project?!.
Yes, this is was official USAF artwork. And - Albert C. *Piccirillo*
Here is the Fairchild ATF concept.


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An ATF related study from the early '80's:

Lateral Flying Qualities of Highly Augmented Fighter Aircraft. [Volume I & Volume II]


This in-flight simulation experiment, using the USAF NT-33
variable stability aircraft operated by Calspan, was undertaken to generate
lateral-directional flying qualities data applicable to highly augmented
fighter aircraft. In particular, the effects of time delay and prefilter
lag in the lateral flight control system were studied for representative
Flight Phase Category A and C tasks. The combined effects of these elements
as well as the effects of nonlinear command gain and high Dutch roll damping were also evaluated.
Tasks included were actual target tracking, air refueling and precision landing as well as special Head-Up Display (IIUD)
tracking tasks. Results indicated that a properly designed HUD bank angle
tracking task is a valid flying qualities evaluation task. Data show that
lateral flying qualities are very sensitive to control system time delay
and very short values of roll mode time constant typically result in poor
lateral flying qualities. Excellent separation of the data into flying
qualities levels is achieved for the Category A task data using time domain
equivalent systems parameters. An optimum equivalent time constant value
of 0.5 sec is indicated by the data; sensitivity to equivalent time delay
is a minimum at this value. Volume I contains the body of the report,
while Volume II consists of the Appendices.

unknown wind tunnel Models for ATF aircraft,can anyone ID them ?.


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They're the General Dynamics design studies that led up to their ATF submission. I think it was Code One that had an image of the development tree and most of the images you show I think are from Jay Miller's Aerofax on the F-22 program.



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That second design looks like a modified version of the P.530 Cobra
Sundog said:
That second design looks like a modified version of the P.530 Cobra

Maybe that's right my dear Sundog.

here is a Fairchild-Republic next generation superiority fighter.

Aircraft 2000, Bill Sweetman


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what's that VTOL transport in the same picture, next to the ATAMS fighter?
My dear Pometablava,

I think it was a Boeing design,the article said that; the Boeing and Rockwell studied of
V/STOL aircraft to USAF,so I think the first one was a Rockwell tactical strike V/STOL,
and the second (transport) was from Boeing.
From Program Manager 1985.


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Does anyone have a reference for Pre-ATF NG and MCD stealth concepts? Specifically MCD in the late 70s early 80s?
From Hearing 1986,

for second picture,I can't ID the upper aircraft and the below right ?,for which
companies ?!.


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Last edited:
From Hearing 1986,

for second picture,I can't ID the upper aircraft and the below right ?,for which
companies ?!.

The lower right aircraft is a McDonnell Douglas design. It's on this board somewhere. I don't recognize the upper one, but it looks vaguely like something from General Dynamics to me.

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