The YF-23, although being less representative of its production configuration than the YF-22 at the time of the flyoff, was faster and more stealthy by a substantial margin over the YF-22. The aircraft demonstrated blistering fast supercuise, and superior 360 degree stealth, although it was less maneuverable, lacked it’s proposed production weapons bay configuration and its thrust vectoring nozzles for the big contest. This and the fact that it did not look like an F-15 to the Eagle Driver saturated USAF brass sealed its fate.
Although I have not published my analysis yet of the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter, I see it and the F-23 having similar roles, having a bit more interceptor built into them as opposed to a strictly high performance super fighter. Today with modern helmet mounted cueing systems, AESA radars, net centric warfare, and reliable beyond visual range air to air missiles, I believe America bet on the wrong horse, opting for the fuel thirsty super maneuverable F-22 over the fast, higher endurance, and very stealthy F-23. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the F-22 program, in fact I would like to see it morphed into a regional interceptor bomber, with substantially more fuel, no thrust vectoring and a much larger weapons bay to give it the range and ammunition needed to exploit its cutting edge avionics system and stealth signature. This has been proposed in the form of the FB-22 program, but lets save that for another discussion.
Also it must be noted that the YF-23 was meant to be stretched and even thickened in certain areas to accommodate design growth and increased weapons storage. For years it was rumored that the program was diverted away from being developed into the new Advanced Tactical Fighter and was funneled into a deep black regional attack concept, although no proof of this clandestine endeavour has ever come to light. At any rate, it would seem that the “Black Widow’s” design philosophy does live on to a certain extent in the elongated, broad airframe of J-20, as well as Russia’s PAK-FA which shares a similar planform as well as engine and weapons bay configurations.