Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin‘s Skunk Works is known for turning out super special aircraft such as the SR-71 Blackbird. Last month, though, Skunk Works reportedly teamed up with supercar maker McLaren to “assess a futuristic design methodology.”
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According to the UK-based McLaren Automotive, the project will focus on deploying a new Skunk Works design system, initially developed for the world of aviation, and incorporating it into the realms of high-performance, cutting-edge supercar design. The automaker is reported to be interested in collaborating on the development of pioneering software that can set parameters for high-speed systems more accurately and swiftly than traditional design methods.
McLaren scientists and engineers will work alongside counterparts at Skunk Works to test and explore commercial uses for such cutting-edge technology in automotive design.
“McLaren is a pioneering company that has always pushed boundaries and sought out new innovative and disruptive solutions to making the ultimate supercars,” said Darren Goddard, chief technical officer at McLaren Automotive, via a statement.
“Working alongside an iconic company such as Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, renowned for their visionary focus on the future, is a natural fit,” Goddard added. “We hope this is the start of a longer and deeper collaboration that will benefit our customers in the long term.”
The Skunk Works
Skunk Works is a not-so-secret facility that has designed very top-secret aircraft for the U.S. military. It was responsible for inspiring the “Darkstar Jet” seen in the recent Top Gun: Maverick – the aircraft that would reach a top speed of Mach-10.2. Though a real aircraft, the SR-72, is believed to be in development, few details have been released. Still, the mock-up produced for the movie was enough to convince the Chinese military to re-task their satellites to get a closer look.
Officially known as the Advanced Development Programs – the nickname “Skunk Works” came from the “Skonk Oil” factory in the Li’l Abner comics of the 1940s – it was where America’s first fighter jet was developed. Later, Skunk Works conceived such iconic aircraft as the U2 spy plane, F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and the aforementioned SR-71 Blackbird.
Mach Speed Autos?
Exactly what the two companies will produce is speculation. However, the thinking from auto analysts is that what can work at Mach-3 at 81,000 feet could perhaps translate to working at 300 km per hour on the ground.
To mark the start of the technology collaboration, each of the companies showcased some of their latest projects at Skunk Works headquarters in the California High Desert last month. That included a McLaren Artura hybrid supercar placed alongside the conceptual Darkstar hypersonic aircraft.
As McLaren’s first-ever series-production High-Performance Hybrid (HPH) supercar, the Artura is the brand’s first model built on the all-new McLaren Carbon Lightweight Architecture, which is uniquely optimized for HPH powertrains. It features an all-new twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 petrol engine with an E-motor.
Lockheed Martin has been fairly silent on the matter and did not even confirm the partnership. In a statement to Forbes.com last month, spokesperson Candis Roussel only offered, “What we can share at this time is that Lockheed Martin Skunk Works sees great value in collaborating both within and outside of the Aerospace and Defense industry.”
For now, we’ll have to wait and see what materializes from the collaboration, but whatever it is – it will likely be extremely fast!
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Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.