Military Aviation

Top Gun: Maverick Lockheed Martin Darkstar is on display at Edwards AFB (side by side with an SR-71 Blackbird)

Top Gun: Maverick Lockheed Martin Darkstar hypersonic jet of the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” is on display this weekend at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show, & STEM Expo at Edwards AFB.

The real-world mockup of the fictional “Darkstar” hypersonic jet seen in the opening sequence of the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” is on display this weekend at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show, & STEM Expo held at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB).

Word about the Darkstar’s possible appearance at the air show had been circulating on aviation websites for days, and Edwards AFB confirmed them with a post from its official Facebook and Instagram pages on Oct. 13, 2022.

‘Yes, the rumors were TRUE!,’ Edwards AFB’s Facebook post reads.

‘The Lockheed Martin Darkstar IS at Edwards and will have its world debut at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show, & STEM Expo this weekend!

‘Designed to showcase the future, it was only right local STEM students received the first look!

‘The Darkstar will be on static display all weekend long at AvAirshow.’

As explained by, in “Top Gun: Maverick,” the Darkstar appears in the opening sequence as Tom Cruise’s eponymous character takes it on an unauthorized test flight that reaches speeds of well over Mach 10, causing the craft to disintegrate. The stunt gets Maverick in enough hot water that he is reassigned to a teaching position, setting the film’s plot in motion.

According to The Aviation Geek Club contributor and SR-71 Blackbird expert Linda Sheffield Miller Facebook page Habubrats, at the Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show, & STEM Expo the Darkstar is on display side by side with the legendary SR-71 Blackbird Mach 3 spy plane. As the video below shows in fact the Air Force Flight Test Museum at Edwards AFB moved SR-71 # 955 being moved to take part at the airshow.

Linda Sheffield Miller explained on Habubrats earlier this year, ‘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 accident. According to Jerry Bruckheimer and Joseph Kosinski, the film’s director, they actually worked with engineers out of Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works on the design. I found out from a friend who’s in the movie business that Skunk Works designers went to an SR-71 that’s on display and carefully studied the aircraft! You can see the family resemblance. The airplane that they made up is so realistic that the Chinese turned their spy satellite toward the mock-up that the Skunk Works had made up so they could see it better.’

The aircraft shown in the movie is very clearly not based on anything in operation today… but that doesn’t mean it’s without an analogous real-world platform.

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. SR-71A Blackbird 61-7972 “Skunkworks”

According to Lockheed Martin website in fact, ‘When the Top Gun: Maverick team was looking to push the envelope and stand true to Maverick’s Need for Speed, Skunk Works was their first call. With the Skunk Works expertise in developing the fastest known aircraft combined with a passion and energy for defining the future of aerospace, Darkstar’s capabilities could be more than mere fiction. They could be reality…’

The SR-72 in fact is envisioned as a manned or an unmanned, reusable hypersonic ISR and strike aircraft capable of Mach 6 flight, or nearly double the speed of its predecessor, the SR-71 Blackbird. As we have previously reported, NASA is funding the validation of a previous Lockheed study that found that speeds up to Mach 7 could be achieved with a dual-mode engine that combines turbine and ramjet technologies. Like the engines used by the Darkstar in Top Gun: Maverick.

H/T Earl Belz

Photo credit: Travis Cooper / Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force

This model is available in multiple sizes from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.
Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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