‘Top Gun: Maverick’s’ Hypersonic “Darkstar” Mystery Plane Has A Real-World Relative

SPOILER WARNING - This story contains Top Gun: Maverick plot points: In the opening moments of Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise's Captain Pete Mitchell takes an experimental hypersonic aircraft dubbed "The Darkstar" on an unauthorized test flight. Those who've seen the trailer - or, for that matter, the film - will recall a low-flying triangular plane gliding past a lone sentry post on the desert floor. In half a second, the flyby literally blows the roof off the hut.
A flash of a scene in an early behind-the-scenes trailer rocked the aviation blogosphere — and not just because of the stunning visuals. The plane's unusual shape raised eyebrows. Some have posited that it could be the legendary SR-71 Blackbird, once dubbed "the fastest plane ever". At Mach 3, the high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft could literally outrun missiles fired at it by Russian MiGs.
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Others suspected it might be something even more exotic: the near-mythical hypersonic SR-72, the rumored descendant of the blackbird said to fly at six times the speed of sound.
Lockheed Martin unusually announced plans for the plane in 2013. Not much was heard of the so-called “Son of Blackbird” until 2017 when Lockheed confirmed engine testing with flight demonstrations no later than 2023.” Lockheed claimed in its original announcement that the game-changer could be operational by 2030. Oh, and it put the development cost at $1 billion.
Artist's impression of the SR-72 - Photo credit: Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin
Much more was never officially revealed about the SR-72. That, along with its groundbreaking speed, only added to the plane's mystique.
It was odd, then, that Lockheed CEO James Taiclet posted publicly on LinkedIn this month that the company's top-secret Skunk Works, which handles many of its most cross-border projects, including the SR-72, "is partnering with the producers." by Top Gun to bring them "state-of-the-art, next-generation technology to the big screen," including technology centered around "hypersonic flight." He also shared a photo of himself at the film's premiere.
John Neilson, Lockheed Martin's communications director for Europe, Middle East and Africa was even more explicit in a recent tweet: "Rumours that Top Gun: Maverick on 27-72, successor to the super-impressive SR-71 Blackbird. This still from promotional materials seems to support that line of thinking.”
So is it the fabled "Son of Blackbird" that appears in Top Gun: Maverick? The answer is: "somehow".
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