Here Are The First Images Of Lockheed Darkstar On Display At Edwards AFB

The Darkstar on display in a hangar at Edwards AFB (Image credit: USAF)

The “Top Gun: Maverick” Darkstar movie prop is going to be the highlight of the Edwards AFB airshow.

As already extensively reported, the Darkstar hypersonic test aircraft featured in the opening scenes of blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick” movie will be on static display at Edwards Air Force Base during the upcoming Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Expo.

The first images of the movie prop have been released by the official 2022 Aerospace Valley Air Show social media account:

The Darkstar full-scale model design saw the involvement of the Skunk Works and its team of conceptual designers, engineers and aircraft model developers, who brought together their expertise to quickly have a realistic aircraft forebody model with a working cockpit, while also keeping it structurally sound throughout filming.

The Darkstar made famous by the movie has sleek aerodynamic shapes, with small wings and canted vertical twin tails. It is built around a turbine-based combined cycle propulsion system, with two turbojet/low-bypass turbofan afterburning engines and two scramjets. The cockpit, in fact, has no forward visibility and Maverick relies on a synthetic vision system to see what’s in front of the aircraft. While it is said to have been inspired by the the SR-71 Blackbird, as explained by Top Gun: Maverick’s director Joseph Kosinski, a close resemblance of the Darkstar with the concept images of the SR-72 hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft is quite clear.

So much so, the model built for the filming was so accurate that China was reportedly fooled in believing that it was a real experimental aircraft and even reoriented a spy satellite to take photos of it.

In the page Lockheed Martin added to their official website, the company added a quite enigmatic final sentence, that fueled speculations the Darkstar could be more than just a movie prop:

When the Top Gun: Maverick team was looking to push the envelope and stand true to Maverick’s Need for Speed, Skunk Works was their first call. With the Skunk Works expertise in developing the fastest known aircraft combined with a passion and energy for defining the future of aerospace, Darkstar’s capabilities could be more than mere fiction. They could be reality…

Just fictional or not, Edwards AFB airshow will mark the first public appearance of the Darkstar and a good opportunity for many people (including The Aviationist‘s correspondents already there) to have a closer look at the mysterious test article…

Stay tuned for more reporting from the Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Expo!

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.