Yesterday, we revealed that the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick” will feature what appears to be a Russian Su-57, but that’s not the only fictional-fighter shown in the movie’s trailers. Another scene seems to show Maverick flying a next-generation fighter dubbed “Darkstar,” according to the movie’s Matchbox toy line.
The Darkstar aircraft shown only briefly at the end of the movie’s trailer is very clearly not based on anything in operation today… but that doesn’t mean it’s without an analogous real-world platform. While we get a quick peek at the underbelly of the streamlined jet in the trailer, Matchbox’s toy line has actually offered us the best view of this aircraft to date.
Based on the shockwave visible as the jet passes overhead in the trailer, it seems likely that this exotic-looking aircraft will introduce hypersonic platforms to the Top Gun universe. Supersonic aircraft (Top Gun’s F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Super Hornet) are capable of flying faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1). Hypersonic aircraft travel much faster — in excess of Mach 5, or around 3800 miles per hour.
Russia and China both claim to have hypersonic missiles in operation, with the United States lagging slightly behind. Thus far, no public aviation program has announced plans to build a hypersonic fighter plane, but there are programs already in motion that could certainly produce one.
The SR-72 in “Top Gun?”
Lockheed Martin, for instance, has been working on developing a successor to the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest military aircraft in history, that they claim will be able to fly at speeds even higher than Mach 6. Engine testing has already taken place, and it’s feasible that technology demonstrators for the aircraft may already exist. Interestingly enough… the Darkstar toy bears a striking resemblance to Lockheed’s own artist’s depictions of what the forthcoming SR-72 may look like.
There are some differences between the two — most notably the use of two vertical stabilizer fins on the back of the “Darkstar,” with only one central stabilizer on the SR-72. However, because the Lockheed Martin image is nothing more than a conceptual drawing, the final platform (if it ever comes to fruition) could feasibly have either.
If the Darkstar is indeed a stand-in for the SR-72, it may not be intended as a fighter, but rather as a high speed, high altitude reconnaissance platform like its SR-71 predecessor. However, thanks to highly capable spy satellites, this semi-fictional aircraft may well be armed (in the movie, and in real life).
Michael Lum says
The director commented that the Darkstar flyover scene with Ed Harris on the ground destroyed the set and was a surprise one-take that appeared in the movie. If Darkstar wasn’t real, what was actually use to fly over the set?
It’s fun to suppose, but I highly doubt an SR-72 exist in real life. Worked on.. hundreds of millions invested… sure. Flight worthy or in the works at all, I’d say no. Platforms simply cost too much these days and a manned SR-72 makes zero sense.
My guess – the Air Force would opt for a modified, extended range NGAD that foregoes hypersonics if they want a quick response, long-range recon platform. Something powered by the AETP engines using near mach 2 supercruise to cover thousands of miles. Makes WAY more sense.
Especially if this aircraft is supposed to be able to perform strike missions. 100% NGAD. B-21 is also being designed to do surveillance, but its response time would be much less. F-22 has a range of 2,000 miles w/ drop tanks. New AETP engines should increase the range of a similar aircraft by 25%… so figure 2,500 miles. NGAD is also supposed to be larger than the F-22 and designed to operate in the Pacific. I figure a NGAD with a 3000-3500+ mile range w/ drop tanks is realistic.
If you can pair that with the ability to supercruise in the 1.5-2 range, I see no reason for anything else.
We are entering the age of UCAV EDI. Love that film so much I bought it and a movie poster for STEALTH.
The truth is; there is little doubt that there are definitely highly advanced black-budget projects that have been funded for decades. All modern superpowers that deem to govern the global populous, have been stuck in a perpetual arms race of threat-deterrence since the end of world war 2. A lot of these are seemingly far-reaching proof of concepts that don’t continue Research & Development and/or funding… but that still leaves room for those technologies that have been deemed worthy of extra R&D. Especially if it means a global power country gets one-up on the perceived enemy with menial conventional advancements. The real worry is the non-conventional secretive tech that is harboured. This causes defensive paranoia of the powerful, which will come to a head someday.
If there is talk and mild disclosure of it for more than 20 years, then chances are they are still in active development.
Well, Hollywood is very free with military protocol and realism. Maverick is still in the Navy when at the end he flys what appears to be the SR-72. Dramatic, but incorrect. The SR-71 and any subsequent reconnaissance aircraft are flown by the USAF with USAF test pilots. There are no active duty Navy pilots testing AF aircraft. Only ex-Navy now civilian test pilots can fly such USAF only aircraft.
I swear just bought that exact toy set today and I was like wtf is that “darkstar” plane, thanks alot!! 😉
John Silverlake says
Alex again with new info that I didn’t even knew existed, I swear every time I read something from you I learn something completely new.
Chris Agers says
Kinda looks a lot like Project Aurora.
Jack Archer says
Wow cool, I didn’t even think the Darkstar was even based of something from irl. I wonder, because, apparently the planes shown in maverick arnt cgi, only some of the actions they preform are. So if that’s the case, did they make a flying Darkstar mock up, for a couple scenes?