Last month, we hinted that Lockheed Martin’s super-secret experimental spy plane sequel to the legendary SR-71 Blackbird, referred to as the SR-72, could have made an appearance in “Top Gun: Maverick”.
Now that the movie is out (check out our “Top Gun: Maverick” review for more), we can confirm that a modified variant of the mysterious concept SR-72 does indeed appear in the opening set in a manned form sporting a few of Hollywood’s fictional touches and it definitely makes a bold impression!
These clips from the pre-release teasers showed Maverick dressed in an astronaut pressure suit as he was strapped into a futuristic plane that looked suspiciously like Lockheed Martin’s clandestine successor to their iconic wartime high-altitude reconnaissance plane. cold.
Related: The SR-72 Darkstar: is America’s spy plane back – and hypersonic?
The setup is that Tom Cruise’s Maverick is employed as an Air Force test pilot who’s dying to take a high-speed jump in the latest and greatest hypersonic aircraft called Darkstar. But the powers that be are skeptical of his abilities, have cut the program’s budget and are on the verge of unplugging him. As the renegade that he is, Maverick disobeys orders to stand down and storms in without permission before the high-flying party is over.
He roars down the runway and passes Rear Admiral Chester Cain (Ed Harris) who has come to turn off the lights of the Darkstar program. We won’t spoil what happens after that, but suffice it to say that Maverick pushes the limits of Sam Shepard’s Chuck Yeager in “The Right Stuff” and hits stratospheric speed records just north of Mach 10 or 7,672 mph .
In real life, the SR-72 has not yet officially made its first flight, which should take place next year. But who knows about these behind-the-scenes aerospace projects and the general public rarely gets the full scoop on test flights until years later. Through the magic of Tinseltown, we see a stealth plane zoom through the sky at unthinkable speeds, scramjet engines blazing.
To help director Joseph Kosinski and Paramount Pictures, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has partnered with the “Top Gun: Maverick” production team to design what could be an adaptation of their SR-72 hypersonic aircraft with some modifications for the make it even cooler on the big screen both as a full-scale physical model and as an airborne CGI version. The Lockheed Martin logo even appears on the pilot’s stick.
As reported by The reader (opens in a new tab)James Taiclet, chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation, confirmed that his company’s famed Skunk Works advanced projects division helped the producers of “Maverick” conjure up the fictional spy plane.
Taiclet revealed in a LinkedIn post that engineers from the legendary Skunk Works have “partnered with the producers of ‘Top Gun’ to bring cutting-edge, future-proof technology to the big screen.”
Artists’ concept renders released in recent years appear suspiciously similar to “Maverick’s” Darkstar and speculation and rumors have swirled around it since the $170 million film entered pre-production in 2017.
There are some differences between the concept art of the SR-72 and the Darkstar, one being the movie model having two inward tilting tail fins instead of one. Another is the fictional Darkstar’s blind cockpit configuration having no forward visibility. The actual Skunk Works SR-72 would be configured as an unmanned aircraft, but there could be a demonstration aircraft with room for a single pilot. Also, the actual jet being developed is designed to max out at Mach 6, not Mach 10.
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Likewise, is the hypersonic Darkstar aircraft in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ really a veiled glimpse of what the real Lockheed Martin SR-72 will look like once the public is offered an official tour, or is it simply an expensive prop whose inspirations make it one of the most memorable concept jets to ever come out of Hollywood?
While Lockheed’s Skunk Works division helped “Top Gun: Maverick” bring the Mach 10 Darkstar plane to life in the film, a company spokesperson reminded Space.com that it wasn’t about than a movie.
“It’s important to note that Darkstar is a hyper-realistic concept aircraft designed specifically for the film and is otherwise fictional,” Lockheed’s Ananda Costa said.
But, there’s an Easter egg for eagle-eyed Lockheed fans: the Skunk Works mascot.
“Hope you spotted the Skunk on the vehicle’s vertical tail as well!” Costa said.
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