Real Story of Darkstar, the Mach-10 Hypersonic Jet in ‘Top Gun: Maverick

Hypersonic Jet: One of the stars of the new movie Top Gun: Maverick is the SR-72 Darkstar hypersonic aircraft. The SR-72 doesn’t exist, but Lockheed Martin’s engineers helped develop it.
The company’s famous Skunk Works division developed the SR-72 as well as the original SR-71.

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In the top gun: Maverick, Captain Pete “Maurek” Mitchell takes his speed requirement to a new realm: the hypersonic circle, ie. Thirty-six years after the debut of the first film, Mitchell is a test pilot flying the SR-72 “Dark Star” aircraft. Though imaginary, the SR-72 is a real-world race, with design help for aircraft and models coming from the same group that designed the real SR-72: the world-famous Skunk Works, Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs.

According to Lockheed Martin, the production team behind Top Gun: Maurek contacted the company’s Skin Works Division for help with the SR-72 concept. The Skunk Works, a name derived from the cartoon Li’l Abner, is a division of Lockheed Martin that works on aircraft classification programs. Founded by renowned aviation engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, SkunkWorks has established itself as one of the most important and influential aviation design bureaus of modern times. 117A is responsible for the Night Hawk Stealth Fighter. , F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Real Story of Darkstar, the Mach-10 Hypersonic Jet in ‘Top Gun: Maverick

The top gun team made a logical choice. After all, the imaginary SR-72 “Darkstar” hypersonic aircraft is meant to follow the SR-71, which was also developed by Skunk Works. Both are high-speed, man-powered strategic spy planes. The difference is that while the SR-71’s speed was Mach 3.3 (or 2,193 miles per hour), the film’s SR-72 is firmly in the hypersonic region, reaching Mach 10, or 7,672 miles per hour. (Hypersonic speed – faster than the speed of sound – more than 3,000 miles per hour, or Mach 5.)

Of course, the SR-72 Darkstar is also fake. The movie aircraft shares its name with the RQ-3 Darkstar, a high-end, long-range surveillance drone developed by Lockheed Martin in the 1990s. The real Dark Star was a slow-moving spy platform that flew at less than 5% of the speed of a movie plane.

But is the version of the film closer to reality than one might suspect? The SR-72 resembles Skunk Works’ conceptual art for the crew without a real-world SR-72, a hypersonic strategic spy plane, first announced in 2016. The aircraft features a long-winged arm and fuselage and small crank arrow wings. The Skunk Works logo is visible on the visible tail art. According to the Washington Post, Lock Mart’s then-CEO Marilyn Hewson described it as a Mach 6 capable jet.

The film’s SR-72 (pictured at the top of this story) is practically identical to the 2016 rendering that Lockheed Martin released on its website (pictured above), just below SkunkWorks. Under the logo. The only major difference is the addition of pilot cockpit windows to the left and right of the SR-72, while the real-world aircraft will be unmanned and will not need anyone.

Lockheed Martin, on his Top Gun: Maverick web page, explains that he worked with a lot of crew on the film project to find out what a Mach-10 could look like. There are three short video vignettes on the page, including “Jim”, a conceptual designer who makes airplanes for the company. Using a pencil, Jim sketched the movie SR-72 sitting outside in front of the CGI version of the plane.

LockMart’s next employee is “Becky”, who describes her work as designing and inventing a variety of full-scale pool models. Polar models are models of aircraft that are mounted on tall poles to test their radar cross-section. The smaller the cross-section of the radar, the more difficult it will be for the radar to detect the aircraft. Becky Lockhead appears at the Martin Highlander Radar Cross Section facility, which had a moment on social media last year when a new, unseen airplane shape was photographed at the facility.

The last two employees of the company for the top gun are Maureen “Jason” and “Lucio”. Jason and Lucio are model makers who cut the material to make a fantasy airplane, and the video shows them working on a model for the movie SR-72. (Or is it the real SR-72?) Interestingly, Becky, Jason, and Lucio are all shown with an invisible teardrop plane mounted on the Helandell facility pole. It remains to be seen whether the aircraft has a real design under testing or a cool object to be placed on top of the pole.

The movie SR-72 can be very close to a real plane as the common people realize. The Pentagon has not yet agreed to build a real-world SR-72. So far, this is an internal Lockheed Martin attempt, so it may never really be built. But it seems that what is on the silver screen is too much on the lines that at least one defense contractor thinks is an understandable aircraft. Unfortunately, there is no room for Tom Cruise.

 

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