Lockheed Martin hints at existence of aircraft faster than SR-71 Blackbird

What could be faster than the long-range, high-altitude, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird".
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Lockheed Martin's Darkstar
Lockheed Martin's Darkstar

Lockheed Martin/Twitter 

In a tweet, Lockheed Martin, an aerospace and defense company, congratulated Top Gun on its six Oscar nominations and winning the Best Sound award.

The SR-71 Blackbird strategic reconnaissance aircraft, famous for its top speed of Mach 3, was touted as the "fastest acknowledged crewed air-breathing jet aircraft" in a subsequent tweet by Lockheed Martin, with an emphasis on acknowledged. As you may recall from the movie, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell flies the Darkstar test jet at hypersonic speeds beyond Mach 10 before making a forced landing.

Compared to the initial tweet the business sent out, the word "acknowledged" in this context is even more puzzling.

The fictitious Darkstar is seen in the first of Lockheed's "Maverick-worthy photos of genuine aircraft" sent to Twitter.

Lockheed Martin hints at existence of aircraft faster than SR-71 Blackbird
Lockheed Martin's Darkstar

For starters, it has long been noted that the imagined Darkstar resembles existing illustrations of Lockheed's projected SR-72 uncrewed hypersonic aircraft. This indicates that the design of the Darkstar is at least somewhat influenced by the upcoming Lockheed hypersonic aircraft. Even before Maverick's debut, it was clear that the film would feature a mysterious new plane that resembled the SR-72; in fact, a former Lockheed official even said the movie would provide a "sneaky peek" at what may be the SR-71's replacement.

The unknown is how much Lockheed's SR-72 concept made it into the Darkstar design. Yet, it was plausible that Lockheed's top-secret SR-72 program was already further along in development than the firm had disclosed, as we hypothesized several years before Maverick's release. It's likely that aspects of Lockheed's SR-72 design, or more likely a predecessor demonstrator of its technology, have been lurking in plain sight on our cinema screens.

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We know that Lockheed openly discussed the potential of developing a demonstration aircraft as early as 2016 that would be about the size of an F-22 Raptor and would serve to demonstrate the technologies that would support the SR-72's hypersonic design. In just a few years, such a demonstration may take to the skies for less than $1 billion in production costs.

Even while this was strange, it was by no means proof positive. Meanwhile, Lockheed has also clarified that the fictitious Darkstar design is based on real-world capabilities, suggesting that a hypersonic aircraft that can outrun the SR-71 already exists or might do so in the not-too-distant future.

The Oscar-themed tweets from yesterday only fuel this rumor by raising the possibility that parts of Darkstar may already be under development. It's also feasible that the SR-71's records were long since broken by a clandestine crewed aircraft.

Undoubtedly, the tweets stoked even more interest in what turned out to be one of 2022's best films, regardless of the state of Lockheed's mysterious projects. Above all, though, they provide additional proof of Lockheed Martin's efforts to imply that the history of high-speed flying is different from what we currently believe it to be.

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