Lockheed submitted 2 different concepts for the 1982 AF RFI: 1 fighter and 1 strike aircraft, shown as Concepts 12 and 19 on the chart respectively. Lockheed used the same configuration for both concepts which was a behemoth at 115 ft long and 113,350 lbs for Concept 12, and 116,398 lbs for Concept 19, the largest and heaviest of any of the proposals by any company. Since this was just a theoretical study and no money was at risk, Lockheed probably figured it would have some fun with this RFI. It extrapolated its SR-71 and YF-12 designs into a superfighter capable of very high cruise speeds at high altitude. It employed thrust vectoring; and had little moustache like fold-out canards that were deployed for takeoff and landing, seemingly added as an afterthought. There was no view to the rear and it employed a single vertical fin, compromising stealth characteristics. This was not a dogfighter, but a long range, high speed interceptor designed to engage at maximum range similar to the F-14 Tomcat, Mig-25, and MiG-31. It is believed that it was referred to in-house as the Model CL-2016, not the CL-1980 as reported by Bill Sweetman in his book 'F-22 Raptor' by Motorbooks.


Concept 12 artist's impression. Unlike alot of concept art released to the public, this was an accurate depiction of the actual submission.

As the ATF programme began to gain momentum, aircraft manufacturers began to release artist's impressions of what the aircraft could possibly look like to the press. These paintings were deliberately dumbed down to throw off attention from the real configurations the manufacturer was considering. Lockheed's were probably the most famous. They released impressions of 2 basic fighter concepts. The early release had canards placed in an impossible position high up behind the canopy, while the later was more practical with canards placed forward at the same level as the wing, with a sharp crease all round: overtones of the YF-12. This later concept hinted at the idea of planform alignment and was probably the most elegant of all the ficticious impressions released.


Early concept. This was probably the most famous image of a theoretical ATF.

Lockheed submitted several configurations for the actual ATF programme in 1986. Shown is the one that actually got chosen by the AF SPO to move to the Dem/Val Phase along with Northrop's proposal. Lockheed was able to draw on considerable experience with stealth technology from the A-12, SR-71, YF-12, Have Blue, F-117 Nighthawk and B-2 programmes, so it knew what it was doing. It's easy to see why this configuration was chosen: it is highly angular with a minimum of planform alignments. The air intakes are the stealthiest of any of the proposals and the pilot sits high with excellent all-round visibility. This configuration reportedly featured a single rotary weapons bay. The planform of the wing and tailplane conforms very closely to the optimum for Mach 2 flight established by the F-111 and Mig-23, but the relatively narrow chord of the wing, resulting in relatively reduced area, would have detracted from its high alpha manoevure ability. What is curious is that amongst the proposals that Lockheed submitted was a configuration very close to the final shape of the F-22A Raptor, which was rejected in favour of the configuration shown here. When GD teamed up with Lockheed for the YF-22 effort, the attributes of GD's 1986 proposal confirmed that Lockheed had been on the right track all along, and those characteristics were re-instated.



In 1986 it was announced that the US Navy would buy an ATF derived fighter in exchange for the Air Force buying the A-12 Avenger II to replace the F-111. The ATF Programme became a winner-takes-all type competition with the possibility at the time of a production run in the region of 1,000 aircraft. There are persistent rumors that Lockheed's NATF proposal was more robust than Northrop's and was an important factor in Donald Rice's decision. The concept of the NATF at the time was to use as much of the ATF technology and components as possible to reduce the cost of development. Lockheed chose a swing wing configuration resembling a cross between an F-14 Tomcat and F-22 Raptor. When the A-12 programme collapsed, the Navy dropped the NATF as well and pursued other options for replacing the Tomcat. One of those options was the A/FX programme which called for a dual role fighter/bomber. The same team that had won the ATF contract (Lockheed, Boeing, and General Dynamics) proposed an aircraft that closely resembled their NATF but used lower powered derivatives of the P&W F119 engine, called the P&W 7000. The aircraft was to have 2 seats instead of 1 like the NATF. The number of planform alignments was reduced compared to the NATF. Like NATF, A/FX was abandoned.


An artist's impression of Lockheed's NATF proposal.

Recently the wheels for a new fighter development have begun to turn again, with the announcement of the Next Generation Air Dominance Fighter Programme to replace the F-22A Raptor. Lockheed has begun releasing concept artist's impressions of a 6th generation fighter in an act of clear plagiarism, showing a design strongly reminiscent of Northrop's YF-23. How ironic.


Lockheeds initial concept art of a 6th Generation Fighter. Note its similarity to the YF-23.

Last updated August 2015.

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