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F-19

From Academic Kids

Missing image
TESTORS_F-19_REAR.jpg
Testors' scale model interpretation of the F-19
"F-19" is a designation for a United States fighter aircraft that has never been officially used, and has engendered much speculation that it might refer to a type of aircraft whose existence is still classified.

Since the unification of the numbering system in 1962, US fighters have been designated by consecutive numbers, beginning with the F-1 Fury. F-13 was never assigned (presumably due to triskaidekaphobia among pilots, who are notoriously superstitious), but after the F/A-18 Hornet, the next announced aircraft was the F-20 Tigershark.

There have been several theories put forth to explain the omission.

The most prevalent theory in the 1980s was that it was the designation of the stealth fighter whose development was an open secret in the aerospace community. In 1986, the Testor Corporation released a model aircraft kit, calling it the F-19 Stealth Fighter. The release sold spectacularly well and soon became the best-selling model kit ever, quickly taking this record from AMT's Star Trek USS Enterprise kit which had almost 20 years' head start. The success of the kit prompted Testors to quickly release a kit of an equally-mythical Soviet counterpart, the Mikoyan MiG-37. The Testor's model design was later adapted for the GI Joe toyline.

In the same year, the Tom Clancy novel Red Storm Rising mentioned an F-19 Ghostrider. In 1988, Microprose released a computer game entitled F-19 Stealth Fighter, which to this day remains the definitive computer simulation of stealth air combat.
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MONOGRAM_F-19_UPPER_RIGHT_REAR.jpg
Monogram's scale model interpretation of the F-19
.

When the actual aircraft was publicly revealed in 1988, it was called the F-117 Nighthawk (an odd designation, although Joe Baugher asserts that the first manuals had the meaningless number "F-117" on the cover, and the designation stuck, despite the apparent connection to the old series of fighter numbers). If the USAF aircraft were renumbered under the Air Force's pre-Unified System, the F-117 comes at the same point in the sequence that F-19 should under the Unified System. This may have been to seem like the aerospace community did not know about the nominally classified aircraft after all, maintaining an aura of mystery to US military aircraft development. There seems not to be any evidence that "F-19" was ever used to designate the Nighthawk, although the National Museum of the United States Air Force website (as of 2003) does include the cryptic entry "Lockheed F-19 CSIRS (see F-117)".

At one point, a USAF spokesman claimed that it was to avoid confusion with the MiG-19, but this seems never to have interfered with the use of 17, 21, and 23 for instance.

Another theory is that Northrop requested "F-20" for their new design, (similar to the World War II-era skip over "P-74" to allow General Motors to use "P-75" for a new fighter), but this is most likely an urban legend.

It is possible that the "F-19" exists, but is still classified - a number of projects have been kept secret for many years - or simply that the designation was left open to confuse foreign intelligence agencies.

One account says that an early designation for the F-111 Aardvark in the 1960's was F-19.

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