This is pure speculation on my part, but i wanted to share it.
I don't claim to put an end to the whole question but, rather, i think this thread can contribute to a discussion eventually useful for future
research in the chase of the YF-24.
All of this research started for me with a simple question: how could a Colonel of the US Air Force let slip in his biography the name of something
so important as that of a classified aircraft?
The conclusion i've come at is the following: the YF-24 was a designation he was so much used to, that he didn't even consider it as classified, and
went on to include in his flight information references without paying to much attention to it.
So in this regard, I thought that we could assume the YF-24 was not a “black program”, and as such covered in utter secrecy, but rather a “grey
program”. Something we've already seen flying around, probably.
My personal take on it, is that the YF-24 is none other than the designation used for the F-22 EMD aircrafts, and the following are some of the
reasons of why i think this is the case.
In Colonel Lanni's office there are two interesting patches of programs he has taken part into. While the first one is still undisclosed, the second
one is the following:
As you can see this patch sports the typical combination from classified programs of 5+1 stars above the eagle's head and 3 other stars under its
claws which represents AF Flight Test Center Detachment 3; in other words the location of the program was, most probably Area 51, Groom Lake.
For my reasearch i've taken into consideration only this interesting timeframe from Col. Lanni's assignments:
- July 2001 – December 2002, Vice Commander, Detachment 3, Air Force Flight Test Center, Las Vegas, Nev.
- December 2002 - May 2004, Director, F/A-22 Combined Test Force, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
- May 2004 – present, Commander, 412th Test Wing, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
On a parallel track we know, from here
, that the Raptor's EMD production run was the
- FY 1997: 1
- FY 1998: 1
- FY 1999: 2
- FY 2000: 3
- FY 2001: 2
- FY 2002: 0
we also know that the F-22's program milestones comprise:
- In the year 2000: On 15 March Raptor 03, piloted by Lt. Col. Bill Craig, is flown nonstop from Marietta to Edwards AFB.
- In the year 2001: On 30 January Raptor 04, the first avionics aircraft, is ferried to Edwards AFB by Col. Gary Plumb.
On 11 March Raptor 05 is ferried to Edwards AFB by Maj. Brian Ernisse.
On 18 May Raptor 06 is flown from Marietta to Edwards AFB. Full afterburners are used for the first time on takeoff from Marietta.
- n the year 2002: On 5 January Raptor 07 is ferried to Edwards AFB.
So in the period running from March 2000 to January 2002 there were at least 5 Raptors conducting test flights out at Edwards AFB. What area is a
remote detachment of Edwards AFB?
Hint: it's an Area whose designation starts with a 5 and ends with a 1.
And who was Vice Commander of Detachment 3 around the July 2001 to December 2002 period? Yep. Colonel Lanni.
Back to Colonel Lanni's patch in his office, it sports a bald eagle carrying a sword in its claws, and if we have good memory we can remember that
we've already seen a combination of these two symbols in another patch:
This patch comes from MDD-Boeing's Bird of Prey program, whose first flight was back in 1996 (the first F-22 EMD was built in 1997). Take note of the
And i'd like to remember you that the eagle is part of the accipitridae family of the birds of prey, incidentally known, also, as raptors. Which to
my ears ring a bell.
As we can see from this comparision the YF-22 and final F-22 differs greatly from each other. The F-22 has many improvements over its predecessor, and
while the general arrengement of the design has been kept the same, we can clearly say that they're two completely different aircrafts.
So if the YF-22 and F-22 are so much different from each other, why did the latter maintain the same numeral?
Most probably for political/marketing/PR reasons. The plane that came out of the ATF competition was the YF-22, and no matter how many differences
there could be between it and the final platform, the production aircraft had to be named F-22, because in a period of crunching budgets no
one, of the general public and/or devoid of technical background, would have accepted that the competition between two aircrafts, named YF-22 and
YF-23, would have spawned a third different platform: the YF-24.
Moreover, once again on a parallel track, if we are to consider the experience Boeing had accumulated with its Model-24 (note how this is an internal
designation) studies and taking a look at the F-22's final design, we can see that the latter one incorporates many features present on the Model-24,
the wings shape being only the most evident one, and all of these changes would have finally contributed to the evolution from the YF-22 to the
A historic parallel comes to mind in this regard, the evolution of the F/A-18 Hornet from the YF-17 Cobra design.
But then, times were different and this is probably why nowadays we don't have F/A-17 Cobras on aircraft carriers.