Lockheed Martin lifts lid on Top Gun’s Darkstar hypersonic jet concept

Lauded for its compelling action sequences and exhilarating portrayal of next-gen aerial dogfighting, Top Gun: Maverick has quickly become a monumental success at the box office. But the producers couldn’t have done it without leveraging the expertise of some of the world’s foremost experts in all things aerospace, and that includes tapping into the minds of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works engineers to craft their physics-bending Darkstar hypersonic jet.

Without wanting to give away any of the plot’s specifics, the Darkstar aircraft features early in the film as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (played by Tom Cruise) carries out his duties as a test pilot for the US Navy. The futuristic fighter jet is a jaw-dropping introduction to the hyperreal aesthetics of the film, but may also strike a familiar chord with aviation enthusiasts due to a likeness to one of history’s most revered aerial vehicles, the SR-71 Blackbird.

The Darkstar hypersonic jet featured in Top Gun: Maverick is the result of a collaboration with Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works division
The Darkstar hypersonic jet featured in Top Gun: Maverick is the result of a collaboration with Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division

Lockheed Martin

When looking for some expert assistance in creating the Darkstar aircraft, the film’s producers were pointed in the direction of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division, responsible for the SR-71, its forthcoming successor the SR-72 and the U-2 spy plane. This collaboration created a new outlet for expression for Skunk Works clandestine conceptual designers, in the sense that this particular aircraft design was one they could share with the world – as conceptual designer “Jim” explains in this video.

Meet the Creators of Top Gun: Maverick’s Darkstar – Jim

The division’s engineers then turned these designs into a full-sized prototype aircraft with a structurally sound body and functional cockpit. The producer of the film says they lowered the aircraft a little to make it look sleeker and faster, but praised the “mind-blowing” design of the cockpit and compelling visuals it helps create in the film’s opening sequences.

You can hear more on the collaboration from the film’s producers in the video below.

Behind the Scenes of Top Gun: Maverick

Source: Lockheed Martin

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