We Got A Spectacular Close Look At The Darkstar Movie Prop That Broke Cover at Edwards AFB

The fictional Lockheed Skunk Works Darkstar movie prop from "Top Gun: Maverick" is towed into its display location at Edwards AFB for this weekend's 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show & Stem Expo. (All images: Tom Demerly / The Aviationist)

Convincingly Real Darkstar Movie Prop from “Top Gun: Maverick” Will Display with SR-71.

It’s a movie prop, but it’s a very convincing movie prop. The hypothetical U.S. Navy, Lockheed Skunk Works Darkstar hypersonic test aircraft prop used in the production of “Top Gun: Maverick” broke cover on Oct. 13, 2022, at Edwards AFB in preparation for this weekend’s upcoming 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show and STEM Expo. The Darkstar looks so real that seeing the aircraft prop in person is even more impressive than seeing it in the movie.

The fictional crewed hypersonic plane was towed from a hangar at Edwards AFB to a static display location parked next to a historic (and very real) Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. Based on what we saw at Edwards AFB, it’s likely the aircraft movie prop will be displayed next to the SR-71 throughout the show this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16.

The size and scale of the Darkstar movie prop is apparent in this photo with an aircraft tug towing it on wheels that actually roll.

The first thing that strikes you when seeing the Darkstar is how convincingly real the aircraft prop looks along with the close resemblance with the concept images of the SR-72 hypersonic reconnaissance aircraft (so much so, some call it the SR-72 Darkstar): “It looks so real because it was built by Lockheed Skunk Works and not by Hollywood”, one source close to the airshow organization told TheAviationist.

As the aircraft prop was towed into position for static display this morning, it rolled on its own wheels and was towed by a normal aircraft tug. Ground crew walked along the wings to maintain clearance from other static displays.

The Darkstar movie prop is actually more realistic in person than from its movie appearance.

When you get close to the movie prop, you immediately notice subtle details that make it look so convincing. There is technical stenciling, including warning messages and other nomenclature commonly seen on operational aircraft. Even the tail number, bureau number 101795, was used on a cancelled Grumman F8f-1 Bearcat aircraft destined for the Navy decades ago.

The markings on the Darkstar, including the Lockheed Skunk Works logo, registration number and warning stenciling, are incredibly realistic.

But the authenticity of the prop became even more apparent, and at the same time, its design less plausible, when it was parked next to a real SR-71 Blackbird.

Photographers only had seconds to get photos of the Darkstar as she was towed past them.

“It just looks like the next evolution of high speed flight”, a journalist at Edwards AFB remarked when he saw the Darkstar prop. “Sitting next to the SR-71, it looks even more real”.

The Darkstar is much smaller than the actual SR-71. When TheAviationist asked noted author and aviation expert Erik Simonsen about the plausibility of the Darkstar, he made a number of observations: “Darkstar appeared rather small to have intercontinental range; it would need tanker support after takeoff and at various ingress/egress points of the mission.”

But while the Darkstar is conspicuously implausible to those initiated in aircraft design and engineering, its ability to thrill and inspire the general public is evidenced by the massive box office results posted by “Top Gun: Maverick”.

You can see the Darkstar movie prop from “Top Gun: Maverick” in person this weekend at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show and STEM Expo at Edwards AFB in California. Admission and parking are free, but based on the interest in the show, and the fact that this is the first time in over 13 years that Edwards had hosted an open house, the show is expected to be busy.

The movie prop was parked next to an actual Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird at the STEM display at Edwards in preparation for this weekend’s open house.

Gates open from 8:30 AM until 11:30 AM with the STEM Expo running between 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM and the air show, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and, “Several other surprises” lasting until 3:00 PM. The show closes at 4:00 PM. The show’s theme for 2022 is, “Breaking Tomorrow’s Barriers Today” and celebrates 75 years since the birth of the U.S. Air Force.

A unique feature during the show will be aircraft actually creating sonic booms by exceeding the speed of sound. This is prohibited at other airshows due to flight restrictions. The sonic boom demonstration at the opening of the show celebrates 75 years since the October 14, 1947, supersonic flight by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1, popularly acknowledged as the first documented supersonic flight.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.