The 5 best fighter jets the United States has decided not to buy.

  • The history of American aviation is replete with highly capable fighter jets that the military has not purchased.
  • The personnel have to balance the cost of the fighters with the number they need in their minds for the mission.
  • Here are five key pointers in moving forward.

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Every F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or F-22 Raptor that enters service has a long list of competing fighters who, for one reason or another, have not had much success.

Sometimes, these fighters are not chosen because the jet that Uncle Sam ultimately chose was just a better competitor; but it is not always the case how these decisions are made.

Like all military powers, the US military has to balance its capabilities. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you have 300 state-of-the-art fighters on the planet if you need 500 fighters to accomplish your mission, then Must be balanced against capacity (or number). Fighters need to make them missions.

Northrop Grumman YF-23 Black Video II US Air Force

Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23.

US Air Force


In this example, this could mean purchasing just 100 of these modern fighters, as well as 400 cheap, less capable platforms that can meet the needs of the mission at hand.

In fact, this particular example (with various top line figures) reflects the legitimacy provided by the Air Force to purchase new F-15EXs, despite its recent lack of stealth capabilities. In a better world, the Air Force would only fly stealth fighters, but when it comes to balancing capability against stealth, stealth jets would be too much for the United States to buy and operate for stealth alone. Are expensive.

Second, combat programs do not survive because the Department of Defense does not trust the contractor to deliver on its promise, or because the capabilities offered by the aircraft are not what the nation needs. Time is of the essence.

For whatever reason, these fighters didn’t make it into production; but if they had, they would each have offered some incredible, and often unique, abilities.

5. F-16XL: The Better F-16

For more than 40 years, the F-16 Fighting Falcon has been the backbone of the US Air Force’s combat fleet, but a year before the first F-16 entered service, the team behind its development Already one Better In F-16, F-16XL.

The fighter was so capable, in fact, that it was nothing more than a demonstration of technology, serving as a legitimate competitor to the venerable F-15E in the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program.

Ultimately, it will lose out to the F-15E based on production costs and systems redundancy, but many still claim that the F-16XL was actually a better platform.

While this claim is debatable, there is little debate about whether the F-16XL could be one of the most capable fourth-generation fighters on Earth. You can read our full feature on the development of the F-16XL here.

4. A-12 Avenger II: America’s first Real Stealth fighter

A-12 Avenger II

An artist’s impression of the McDonnell Douglas / General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II aircraft.

US Navy


On January 13, 1988, a joint team of McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics was awarded a development contract to become the A-12 Avenger II, so as not to be confused with the proposed A-12 of the 1960s Lockheed. Tried to make a weapon. An SR-71 sibling jet with air-to-air weapons system.

Once completed, the Navy A-12 would have a flying wing design reminiscent of Northrop Grumman’s B-2 Spirit or the upcoming B-21 Raider, albeit much smaller.

Although the A-12 Avenger II used the design of a flying wing, its overall shape was different from the triangular B-2 Spirit that is being developed for the Air Force.

The sharp triangular shape of the A-12 eventually earned it the nickname.Flying Dorito.

For a while it seemed that the A-12 Avenger II program was coming to an end without interruption, but then, apparently without any warning, it was canceled in January by Secretary of Defense (and future US Vice President) Dick Cheney. done. 1991. You can read our full feature on the development of A-12 Avenger II here.

3. YF-12: The greatest, fastest fighter in history

The SR-71 Blackbird may have been one of the most popular Cold War airframes, but its incredibly fast design wasn’t just intended to be an eye-opener.

In fact, the SR-71’s predecessor, a type of high-speed, high-flying A-12, was actually a fighter-interceptor brother in the form of the YF-12, and ultimately (at least in theory) the F-12B. .

The biggest change the YF-12 saw compared to its A-12 siblings was in the front of the aircraft, where a second cockpit for the fire control officer was added to the interceptor’s air-to-air weapons. The task of managing was assigned.

The nose was also adapted to accommodate the Hughes AN / ASG-18 fire control radar designed for use in the disabled XF-108 program.

But the most significant change between the A-12 and the YF-12 occurred in the four bays, which were originally designed to house powerful cameras, film and other surveillance equipment. One of the four bays was converted into a domestic firefighting device, while the other was converted into an internal payload of three Hughes AIM-47 Falcon air-to-air missiles.

You can read our full feature on the development of YF-12 here.

2. ASF-14 Super TomTom for the 21st Century

F 14D Tomcat

An F-14D Tomcat in the Persian Gulf region.

US Air Force / Technology Sergeant Rob Tabor



While the F-14D earned the nickname “Super Tomcat”, efforts to modernize the F-14 began under the “ST21”, which, aptly, stands for “Super Tomcat for the 21st Century.” And made no mistake. – This is exactly what could have happened to the whole board with better Ionics, more power, more range, and more capacity.

But while both the ST21 and AST21 were billed as part of a program to redesign existing aircraft with existing Tomcats, a completely new construction, eventually called the ASF-14, eventually took place on Grumman’s naval pitch. Included Tomcat included.

It will be ASF-14. Seen Similar to its F-14 predecessor, but the similarities were deeper than most.

The ASF-14 weighs approximately 60,000 pounds better than the Thrust and F-14D, with incredible conditions provided by thrust vector control, large indoor fuel outlets, heavy payload capabilities, and powerful onboard radar. Related Awareness A mob of sensor pods could be a fourth-generation fighter with some – or maybe not – comrades to date.

You can read our full feature on the ASF-14 proposal here.

1. YF-23: Raptor completes its match.

In the decade and a half since it first entered service, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has been an unparalleled aerial superiority fighter, but that hasn’t always been the case. For a short time in the 1990s, the YF-22, which would lead to operational F-22, might be able to complete its match in the form of Northrop’s YF-23.

Two YF-23 prototypes were eventually built. The first, dubbed the Black Video II by programmers, was all black and was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney engines that supercharged the jet on Mach 1.43 during their first test in 1990. Allowed

The second YF-23, painted gray and dubbed the “Gray Ghost”, was transformed into the General Electric YF120 engine, which offered better super cruise capabilities, reaching Mach 1.6 in testing, the YF-22. Mach 1.58 was completely reversed.

Ultimately, while the YF-23 was almost identical to the F-22’s acrobatics, Lockheed won the battle of imagination by demonstrating its combat capabilities in a more dynamic way. The pilots of the Lockhead Test demonstrated the use of high-impact aircraft attack, missile launches, and tactics that exert more than 9Gs of power over the airframe.

While the YF-23 could do just that, Northrop Did not In the demonstration. Many say it was salesmanship rather than the platform’s tough capabilities that helped make the YF-22 stand out in the minds of defense officials. You can read our full feature on the development of YF-23 here.

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