Lockheed Martin unveils Darkstar, the experimental aircraft seen in Top Gun Maverick

Lockheed Darkstar Top Gun Maverick
Concept design of the Darkstar, the experimental aircraft that Lockheed Martin-Skunk Works team developed for Top Gun: Maverick movie.

The long-awaited sequel to the 80's cult movie Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick, begins with Captain Pete Mitchell making a test flight in an experimental hypersonic plane called "Darkstar".

The Darkstar aroused a lot of interest among viewers. Many of them have investigated the real existence of the aircraft, especially after director Joe Kosinski has repeatedly said that they have minimized the use of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery). Some have mistaken it for the legendary Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, which in 1976 broke the record for the highest speed ever achieved by a manned aircraft (3,530 km/h); others thought it was the Blackbird's successor, the SR-72, designed to exceed six times the speed of sound.

All doubts have recently been dispelled by Lockheed Martin through a special section of its website dedicated to the Darkstar. The company explained how "When the Top Gun: Maverick team was looking to push the envelope and stand true to Maverick's Need for Speed, Skunk Works [Lockheed's division specializing in experimental aircraft] was their first call. With the Skunk Works expertise in developing the fastest known aircraft combined with a passion and energy for defining the future of aerospace, Darkstar’s capabilities could be more than mere fiction. They could be reality…".

Lockheed Darkstar Top Gun Maverick

The Skunk Works team worked hard with the producers of Top Gun: Maverick to allow Captain Mitchell to fly the Darkstar.

"Just like most Skunk Works projects, the team supporting the film and the development of the Darkstar aircraft continued their work in secrecy. Our Skunks worked with the film production team to understand their needs, then quietly worked on the design and build until the concept was revealed to the world in the film," the company said.

Although Maverick's Darkstar is just a fiction, it is not excluded that it may be built in the future. Hypersonic solutions have been among the U.S. Department of Defense's top technical priorities for years as they provide advantages in terms of speed to target, maneuverability and survivability to reach hard and well-defended targets.

"Darkstar may not be real, but its capabilities are. Hypersonic technology, or the ability to travel at 60 miles per minute or faster, is a capability our team continues to advance today by leveraging more than 30 years of hypersonic investments and development and testing experience. The mission is to defend and protect our nation and allies with the discriminator of speed," Lockheed said.

Written by Darren Bondi
Images: Lockheed Martin

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