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But what would all of that have meant for an operational aircraft? In either case, the U.S. Air Force would have received an outstanding air superiority fighter that has no equal. But while the Lockheed Martin F-22 is bar none the best air superiority fighter the United States has ever produced, an operational F-23 might have offered an even greater performance margin over potential adversaries than the Raptor currently does.

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In 1991, Lockheed won the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition and went on to develop the stealthy world beating F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter.

While in many ways, Northrop’s losing YF-23 was a much better design, but the U.S. Air Force chose the Lockheed aircraft because it believed that company would better manage the development program—and because the service thought the Raptor would cost less.

To read more on The National Interest:

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