The Darkstar aircraft featured in the latest Top Gun movie looks amazing and watching the next-generation aerial dogfighting in the movie can be inspiring. But did you know that the film creators worked with engineers at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works to help create this one-of-a-kind, physic-bending aircraft? Not only is it cool to watch on screen, but the fact that engineers were instrumental in the design also makes this Hollywood movie even more realistic.

The amazing attention to detail the filmmakers went through to create Top Gun: Maverick helped drive aviation enthusiasts to the film. The making of the movie was all about key partnerships with the U.S. Navy and with engineers. Pulling together the right people from national security gave many enthusiasts the ability to see the direct connection to the SR-71.

One of the designers was “Jim” who, in a video released by Lockheed Martin, says that while he can’t talk about most of what he does in his role as an engineer in Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, he helped design the Darkstar. He describes himself as an artist with technical boundaries applied. And discussed how he often starts with a drawing and may have to redesign and make changes to get to the final product. While the work at Skunk Works is classified, it’s interesting to get a small window into their world with the movie.

Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division is responsible for the SR-71 Blackbird and the U-2 spy plane. They are also working on the SR-71 successor the SR-72. The SR-71 was grounded in 1998, and Lockheed is working on creating its successor. They are using a new hypersonic engine design that combines turbines and ramjets. It is also set to be an unmanned aircraft that will be twice as fast as its predecessor with a cruising speed of Mach 6.

In another video released by Lockheed Martin the director, Joseph Kosinski, of Top Gun: Maverick discusses how critical the work by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division was in creating the Darkstar. He says, “In our story, we find Maverick pushing the envelope of human performance in aviation…working in partnership with Lockheed Martin and Skunk Works we were able to create Darkstar. Our full-scale prototype for our film.” He says they based the design on the SR-71 Blackbird discussing how they wanted to go beyond the design.

Production designer, Jeremy Hindle said, “We lowered it a little bit. It also made it look a bit sleeker and faster. The cockpit was mind-blowing—the intel of where everything would be for a pilot. You really wanted to believe it was real. Through their design team, we learned how to make the plane look angry, mean, insanely fast.”

Kosinski went on to say, “The partnership with Lockheed Martin was invaluable. There is no way we could have done Darkstar the way we did without their help.”

The engineers at Lockheed Martin know how to keep secrets so as they worked on the design of this new aircraft, they quietly worked with the film production team designing and building until the unveiling was revealed to the world in the film.

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Amanda is a military spouse and veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer including a deployment to Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career. She published her first book in 2019 titled Women of the Military, sharing the stories of 28 military women. In 2019 she also launched her podcast also titled Women of the Military. In 2020, she was published as a collaborative author in Brave Women Strong Faith. And in 2021, she launched a YouTube channel to help young women answer their questions about military life, Girl’s Guide to the Military. You can learn more about Amanda at her blog Airman to Mom.