Legendary planes, concepts in Skunk Works video

Date:20 September 2017 Tags:, , , ,

The world famous Skunk Works development team has released a new video celebrating 75 years of cranking out some of the most amazing military aircraft the world has ever seen.

By Kyle Mizokami

The quick clip shows off aircraft from the early days of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs division, AKA the Skunk Works. It offers glimpses of new warplanes we may see in the next 10 to 20 years. Here’s an in-depth look at what you can see in the video:

Skunk Works RQ-170 Sentinel drone

Skunk Works’ stealth craft

The Advanced Development Programs division of Lockheed was headed by legendary designer and aersospace manager Clarence “Kelly” Johnson. Over the decades, Johnson and his team in Burbank, CA cranked out the F-80 Shooting Star (America’s first jet fighter), the U-2 spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117A stealth fighter. The Skunk Works even built the world’s first stealth ship, the Sea Shadow. The ship makes an appearance at the :25 mark. The video even coyly fesses up to the Skunk Works’ role in designing the once-secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone. The video teases the unmanned drone’s stealthy air intake at the :38 mark.

Skunk Works F-22A Raptor

In addition to showing some of the more famous Skunk Works designs, the video also teases several new ones. At the :44 mark, the video reveals concept art for what might be Lockheed Martin’s Penetrating Counter Air aircraft, the planned replacement for the F-22A Raptor. The aircraft lack vertical stabilisers, of which the F-22 and F-35 have two each. The two-engined aircraft are also flying fast, each trailing a pair of “shock diamonds” from the engines.

Unmanned aircraft

Skunk Works unmanned aircraft

At the :46 mark, the video shows a twin-engined unmanned vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The plane is shown descending into a straight-wall canyon. The plane looks to be designed to take off and land in rough country, far from established air bases. The aircraft looks like it uses two ducted fans built into the wings for vertical lift. It probably has one or two conventional engines in the rear. The ducted fans have retractable coverings to preserve the airplane’s stealthiness, and the aircraft has a centreline internal weapons bay to house sensors, fuel, or weapons.

Skunk Works SPIDER autonomous drone

A totally different concept appears at the :47 mark. A SPIDER autonomous drone can be seen crawling on the skin of the Lockheed Martin Hybrid Airship. SPIDER is designed to locate and patch holes and other damage on the airship’s exterior. The Hybrid Airship itself appears at :53.

Hybrid wing aircraft

Skunk Works X-48C scale technology demonstrator

The :56 mark shows off a hybrid wing body design similar to the X-48C scale technology demonstrator. As opposed to the traditional tube-on-top-of-a-wing airplane design, a hybrid wing design gradually blends the wing into the body. The result is a manta ray look that creates greater internal volume for carrying cargo. Greater wing-body surface area also allows for more fuel efficient flight, boosting the aircraft’s range.

This design appears to be a short takeoff and landing military transport designed to fly from non-traditional runways—in this case, what looks like a dry lakebed in the Nevada desert. It would also make a great aerial refuelling tanker. Although the aircraft has the sleek look of a stealth aircraft it also has two huge engines in the back that would send back large radar returns.

Lockheed Martin’s Compact Fusion Reactor

Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor

Ready for something completely different? At the 1:00 mark, the video shows off the Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor. It is almost certainly the latest version of the Compact Fusion Reactor. More than any other LockMart project, the Compact Fusion Reactor—if it is successful—has the potential to change human society. The reactor would allow countries to switch from other forms of energy generation, including coal and nuclear, to clean, pollution-free fusion power, an act that would slow or even halt global warming while keeping up with the world’s insatiable demand for energy.

Skunk Works advanced fighter design

Back to aviation, the clip at 1:04 shows another advanced fighter design. While this one lacks the arrow-like shape of the plane and still lacks horizontal stabilisers, it seems to have hybrid horizontal/vertical stabilisers built in the rear. The aircraft canopy also appears large enough to accommodate a crew of two, making it possible this is some sort of strike aircraft. Alternately, the second crewman could control and coordinate friendly drones or even drone swarms.

Lockheed Marin SR-72

Finally, the video ends with the Lockheed Marin SR-72 dashing off into the distance. It’s well known L-M is working on the SR-72. Like its predecessor, the SR-72 thought to be a high speed, high-altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft. The idea isn’t exactly secret; Lockheed Martin has a web page for the SR-72. The company even describes in detail the advanced turbine-based advanced combined cycle propulsion system that can sustain the SR-72 from conventional takeoff all the way up to hypersonic speeds. According to the company, the SR-72 is taking research cues from the HTV-2 hypersonic test vehicle. The HTV-2 briefly attained a top speed of Mach 20.

From: PM USA