The long-awaited “Top Gun: Maverick” will fly into theaters later this month, and while most of the movie features very real U.S. Navy aircraft, there’s one exotic platform aviation buffs might not recognize: the hypersonic Darkstar.
Darkstar may not be a real airplane, but it certainly looks the part—so much so that the Navy apparently told Top Gun’s producer, legendary filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer, that China re-oriented spy satellites to get a glimpse of the full-size mock-up they built for filming.
“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 we’ve discussed before, Darkstar bears a striking resemblance to artist renderings of Lockheed Martin’s long-awaited follow-up to the SR-71 Blackbird, the hypersonic SR-72. As it turns out, that may not have been by happenstance. According to Bruckheimer and Joseph Kosinski, the film’s director, they actually worked with engineers out of Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works on the design.
Related: Darkstar: Is ‘Top Gun’s’ Maverick flying an SR-72?
“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, who previously helmed sci-if action flicks like “Tron: Legacy” and “Oblivion,” partnered with the aviation firm not only to design their Darkstar aircraft, but to actually build a full-scale mockup. The finished product looked awfully believable, which the director credits to support the film received from Skunk Works.
“The reason we approached Skunk Works is because I wanted to make the most realistic hypersonic aircraft we possibly could. In fact, as you saw, we built it full-scale in cooperation with them,” Kosinski told Sandboxx News. “But the reason it looks so real is because 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.”
If any firm could make a fake aircraft seem real enough to fool the Chinese military into re-orienting a spy satellite to snap pictures of it, it would be Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works. The firm has specialized in designing groundbreaking classified military aircraft for literally decades. The team at Skunk Works was behind the fastest operational aircraft in history, the SR-71 Blackbird, as well as the world’s first operational stealth aircraft in the F-117 Nighthawk and the world’s first true stealth fighter in the F-22 Raptor.
Related: Kelly Johnson: How one man changed aviation forever
According to Top Gun’s director, it was essential that they deliver that degree of realism to the fictional aircraft, because it had to fit in alongside the very real platforms shown in the movie. Unlike most fighter pilot action flicks, the actors in “Top Gun: Maverick” actually rode in the cockpits of U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets for filming. The G-forces you see them experience are very real, which was something the film’s star, Tom Cruise, championed for this movie.
“It had to look just as real as the F-18s, the P-51 and everything else in the movie in order for you to buy it, so that’s why we worked closely with them.”
Top Gun: Maverick hits theaters on May 27.
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Scott Lucas says
Good article, fun read. Thank you.
I’m new to Sandbox, reading and sharing.
I worked on a Darkstar program in the 90’s.
One of the Darkstar UAV’s is mounted on the ceiling of Wright Patterson Air Force Museum in Ohio, in the Cold War hanger.
I took a picture from underneath. Great Museum if you get to Ohio.
Is it so hard to believe we are tracking every satilite 24/7 so it’s easy to detect when one changes course?
Bryan Shepardson says
Why is it hard to believe? How do you think we text secret aircraft at places like area 51. You need know when a sat is within range so you can hide the aircraft and pull it back out where there are no eyes above.
Plus they track all satilites and even small space junk. How do you think the Space Station knows when to avoid space debris?
I thought they had Jake Paul floating outside the space station knocking out astroids lmao
Or was it, word around space station says Jake Paul is an ass###e
We used to delay the take off of the SR-71 because satellites were flying over. After they were gone we then took off and that was in the 70’s.
As IF 🙃, they can’t find the bigest yaht fro a rusian oligarh but they saw a chinise spy satelit reposition.
SO SO SO. FAKE NEWS
Or was this a April First joke 🙄
Anybody with a telescope can track a satellite. It isnt hard. Nothing hide behind in space.
Try flying the SR-71 in MSFS2020 with VR. The friggin thing requires California, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon just to do a tight 360. It was not represented well in the movie. It lumbers at 70K feet going M3.0 and is quite a pain to fly. Great plane but for the wrong movie.
The SR-71’s turning radius depended on speed. The faster it went, the larger the turning radius. The turning radius could be up to 110 miles or so at top speed. It certainly couldn’t turn on a dime and was a pain to fly, but it also didn’t require the equivalent of four large states to turn. When they would fly over the base at Kadena and Beale, it was absolutely amazing. A real special treat was when we would be having dinner at the Little Kadena Officer’s Open Mess (known at the time as the Skoshi KOOM) and the SR-71 would come in for a landing. Everyone would just stare out the window and watch.
No one knows the performance characteristics of the SR-72, which is the plane alluded to in Top Gun: Maverick. Can’t really judge how well something is represented in a movie when it doesn’t technically exist in real life [yet].
It’s the Aurora spy plane.
Lol, sure they did.
Oh how much we could mess with them…
(In Chinese accent)
“Big UFO on white house! Say ET XI phone home!?”
Jason Nacerino says
You are stupid