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“Mach 10” From Top Gun Is All About Maverick. That Aircraft You Saw Was Authentic

If enough people are interested in the SR-72 Darkstar, the federal government may pay for it.

The new SR-72 Darkstar spy jet mockup from the blockbuster film Top Gun: Maverick was displayed to more than 100,000 people at an aviation show in California (it hit Mach 10 in the movie). In October, at the Aerospace Valley Open House and Air Show at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the Hollywood version of the Darkstar sat next to the SR-71 Blackbird. With the SR-72’s “Son of Blackbird” moniker, this was a huge P.R. win for Lockheed Martin’s secretive Darkstar programme.

The SR-71 was a high-flying, ultra-fast machine in its day, but the stealthy SR-72 could reach speeds of Mach 6.

The unmanned Darkstar will have the same functions as a traditional spy plane, such as gathering intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data. It may also be able to attack the ground.

You get a special U.S. Air Force plane when you add the ability to fly faster than sound.

Lockheed Martin has created a ramjet-capable mixed-cycle dual-mode engine. After liftoff, the turbine engine cycle continues to give thrust up to Mach 3, and then the ramjet takes over to reach Mach 6. Speed is essential to avoid being shot down by enemy fighters and anti-aircraft systems.

Skunk Works’ engineers created the film’s iteration of the Darkstar. Even though it was merely a prop for the film, word on the street shows that the Chinese were eager to see a facsimile of it well before the movie’s release.

Skunk Works began designing the SR-72 in 2013 and tested its engines in 2017. It may be operational by 2030, with full Air Force duty starting a few years later.

The unmanned bird may be a supersonic bomber before the B-21 Raider and F-35 Lightning II.

Darkstar has Hollywood-sized expectations and hopes.

Hypersonic weapon technology should be reliable when the Son of Blackbird can fly routinely. Because the Darkstar will be travelling at Mach 6, it will require hypersonic weaponry.

Yet there are other obstacles to overcome: making sharp curves and opening large bomb bay doors will be extremely challenging and require a lot of creativity from designers and engineers. Aesthetically, the plane is unique.

Artist renderings of the SR-72, as described by Military Factory, feature “underslung twin air intakes, slender low-mounted delta wing assemblies, and a single vertical tail fin.”

All of the avionics and controls for the SR-72 will be in the plane’s fuselage so that it won’t need a traditional cockpit. The Blackbird could theoretically reach near-space altitudes compared to the SR-71’s 85,000-foot ceiling.

But the Son of Blackbird still requires a lot of development and funding, despite the positive attention the SR-72 programme has received from Hollywood. Any given year is potentially problematic regarding delays and cost overruns for the hype.

The autonomous characteristics must be merged with manned aircraft, and the speed and altitude goals are daunting.

But if people are excited about the Darkstar, Congress and the Pentagon might pay for it. The success of a film could affect the actual world.

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