Darkstar: Why does a fake plane draw so much attention?
Fictional aircraft from the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” designed by the renowned Skunk Works will have their mock-up on display at an air show at Edwards Air Force Base.
The stage is perfect: Edwards Air Force Base, where several revolutionary aircraft have flown. Its creators are none other than Lockheed Martin’s “Skunk Works” team, famous for giving birth to planes like the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird. However, the first public appearance of “Darkstar“, during an air show this weekend, is nothing more than a big act. The pointed-shaped “plane”, as many know, is just a mockup of a hypothetical hypersonic jet used by actor Tom Cruise in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick”, which was one of the highest grossings of 2022.
The fame of the fictional aircraft, however, exceeded the limits of the screen to the point that the Darkstar became an attraction at the Aerospace Valley Open House, an air show that takes place on the 15th and 16th in the famous California desert testing area. Images of the model were seen next to an SR-71 Blackbird, this one very real, making it possible to even notice some similarity between them, despite the age difference.
Waiting for the next spectacular plane
But what makes an idea without great commitment to reality so successful? One of the reasons is certainly in the fact that the Darkstar model is very detailed. The model can even be towed like a normal plane and its surfaces convince that it is something capable of flying, according to those who have seen it up close. Another possible reason is that for many years aviation fans have been waiting for a spectacular new aircraft that will usher in a new technological era.
The idea of a mysterious hypersonic plane has been cherished since the 1970s, when the Blackbird was at its height. After all, it would be the logical thing to do after designing a jet capable of flying at Mach 3.5. However, the rumors that the US Air Force was developing this superplane ended there, in spite of every now and then alleged evidence of the existence of the “Aurora” or “SR-72” project.
Real sonic boom
As palpable as the Darkstar may be, the truth is that even for a Skunks Works project, the hypersonic plane sounds like a decoy. A hypersonic aircraft couldn’t be that small, say some observers. To carry out its missions it would take a very large range and the modest dimensions of Tom Cruise’s plane would not allow it to go very far.
In the end, the make-believe plane looks more like a reimagining of the Blackbird than an authentic Lockheed Martin suggestion of what a real hypersonic aircraft would look like. For those lucky enough to make it to Edwards this weekend, 13 years after the last air show, at least one experience will be very real: hearing the crash of the sound barrier breaking, something the air base can afford to provide viewers.