"Web of Secrecy - YF-23 Black Widow II - Declassified" tells the story of the YF-23 fighter jet that was conceived, designed and built during the Cold War when the two superpowers were embroiled in an invisible conflict of arms escalation and air superiority.
Q: Did the USAF accept 2nd best (F-22) just to spread the contracts out?
Yes it's an opinion, but I think there is truth in it. I believe that in order to save money, the USAF took the 2nd place design in the Advanced Tactical Fighter competion. When matched in the Air Superiority Mission, the F-23 design was not only all around MORE Capable than the F-22, but had better upgrade and growth potential, which means that it would have lasted longer as a front line aircraft before a replacement will be needed in the future. So what do I base it on?
* Stealth - The YF-23 had better all aspect stealth qualities which makes it More survivable!
* Speed- The YF-23 could attack the enemy faster
* Computer Technology- The Air Force stated that the F-22 had more thoroughly tested computer technology, which suggest the F-22's computers may be based on older technology (Useing older, but more proven technology is a trademark of the Skunk Works)
Ans: Unfortunately, the nature of government contracting is that as long as all proposals meet the minimum requirements the lowest bidder will win regardless of overall capability. I also felt that the USAF chose the less capable aircraft, and it actually (somewhat) influenced my decision to choose USMA over USAFA (wrongly thinking that I would fly the Comanche instead). Hopefully a derivative will live to fly some day (if it isn't already...)