Amid growing tensions between the US and China, Beijing moved one of its satellites to analyze the hypersonic fighter jet featured in ‘Top Gun: Maverick’, the film’s producer claims.
The much-anticipated ‘Top Gun’ sequel will hit theaters later this month. While most of the movie depicts real US Navy aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet, there is one sensational platform unfamiliar to the aviation enthusiasts, known as the hypersonic ‘Darkstar’.
While ‘Darkstar’ is not a real aircraft, apparently, it looked real enough for China to turn its satellite for having a look at this full-size mock-up built for filming, according to legendary filmmaker and Top Gun’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, who claimed to have been informed of this by the US Navy.
“The Navy told us that a Chinese satellite turned and headed on a different route to photograph that plane. They thought it was real. That’s how real it looks,” Bruckheimer told Sandboxx News.
As EurAsian Times had reported earlier, the Darkstar mock-up plane featured in the movie shares a huge resemblance with the Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 hypersonic demonstrator aircraft, which is a follow-up to the retired SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance fighter, the fastest operational aircraft in the history. As it turns out, that may not have been a coincidence.
Lockheed’s Skunk Work Helped Design ‘Darkstar’
According to Bruckheimer and Joseph Kosinski, the film’s director, they worked with engineers out of Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works facility, which was behind the development of the SR-71 Blackbird in the 1960s that set numerous records during its twenty-four years of service, and is currently working on Blackbird’s successor, the SR-72, also known as the ‘Son of the Blackbird’.
“Joe worked with Skunk Works and Lockheed [Martin] to design the plane that’s in there. So they had a lot of fun doing Darkstar,” Bruckheimer said.
Kosinski collaborated with the aviation firm to design the Darkstar aircraft and build a full-scale mockup.
“The reason we approached Skunk Works is that I wanted to make the most realistic hypersonic aircraft we possibly could. As you saw, we built it full-scale in cooperation with them,” Kosinski told Sandboxx News.
“But the reason it looks so real is that it was the engineers from Skunk Works who helped us design it. So those are the same people who are working on real aircraft who helped us design Darkstar for this film.”
Top Gun’s director believes it was essential that they deliver that degree of realism to the fictional aircraft because it had to be in line with the actual F/A-18 and the P-51 platforms showcased in the movie.
“It had to look just as real as the F-18s, the P-51, and everything else in the movie for you to buy it, so that’s why we worked closely with them.”
The Unstoppable SR-72
Lockheed proposed the development of SR-72 in 2013 with plans for a maiden flight by 2023.
The SR-72 will reportedly be powered by a propulsion system centered on a turbine-based combined cycle, which merges a modified production fighter turbine engine with a dual-mode ramjet – also called a scramjet. This is supposed to allow the aircraft to accelerate from a standing start to Mach 6.
This means the SR-72 would be able to reach any destination in an incredibly short amount of time. Furthermore, the platform will be capable of firing hypersonic missiles.
The aircraft can be used for high-speed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and strike operations. Its high speed combined with hypersonic missiles means no enemy missile defense systems will be able to stop the SR-72 in combat. The reconnaissance fighter is being developed to make it so fast that an adversary will have no time to react to or hide from it.
In June 2017, Lockheed Martin announced the SR-72 would be in development by the early 2020s, with a prototype of the SR-72 scheduled to fly before 2025.
The company has not discussed the cost of the airplane, although the defense contractor has mentioned a precursor drone that could have a price tag of $1 billion.
Lockheed believes the SR-72 will change the “definition of air power by giving the U.S. significant tactical and strategic advantages” and forever change the ability of the US to deter and respond to conflict.