Key Point: There might one day be an F-52, but technology has advanced a long way since the days of the YF-22 and YF-23.
President Donald Trump last year told reporters that the United States had delivered the F-52 to Norway. The statement was obviously a mistake; there is no such thing as an F-52 yet. The aircraft only exists in the context of a video game called “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”—however, there was once a real-world concept that looks similar to the fiction jet.
“In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said. “We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule.”
The aircraft that appears in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is clearly based on early 1990s-era Lockheed Martin concepts for the Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter and the later A/F-X—both of which were based on the YF-22 demonstrator aircraft that eventually became the F-22 Raptor.
Congress had mandated that the Advanced Tactical Fighter program—which resulted in the F-22—be a joint effort between the Air Force and the Navy. Even though the service had dropped out of the ATF program, the U.S. Navy still had a vote on which aircraft would be selected for what became the Raptor program. The Navy’s choice was the naval variant of the YF-22 design, which looked like bizarre hybrid of a Raptor and F-14 Tomcat with variable geometry wings.
“The team, working hard on every detail of our NATF [Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter] design in late 1989 and early 1990, produced a very stealthy swing-wing fighter that could supercruise. It was very suitable for carrier operations,” according to Sherm Mullin, the Lockheed Skunk Works lead for the ATF program. “The Navy still got a vote in the ATF competition, and, as we found out later for certain, it cast it for our F-22 team.”