Inside Lockheed Martin’s top secret fighter jet development factory where few are allowed in

From circus tent to megafactory
  • Lockheed Martin’s ‘Skunk Works’ research and development facility is shrouded in secrecy and mystery
  • It’s not open to the public, but recently opened its doors to a select group of reporters
  • They were treated to a factory tour, led through underground tunnels

Published on May 16, 2024 at 4:20PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on May 17, 2024 at 6:19PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Tom Wood

Lockheed Martin is a famously tight-lipped company.

That’s with good reason, seeing as it’s one of the leading producers of aerospace and defense technology.

The company’s aircraft design and production factory in Aerospace Valley is shrouded in mystery and secrecy.

But it’s just opened its doors to citizens for the first time.

READ MORE: How long before we could see the fastest plane ever, SR-72 ‘Son of Blackbird’ in active service

In the world of aerospace, military and security, few come close to Lockheed Martin.

The manufacturer is the brains behind icons of the sky such as America’s most covert aircraft, the Nighthawk.

It also designed the C-130J Super Hercules, which made history when it flew with external fuel tanks attached beneath its wings.

And the company doesn’t stop at incredible aircraft, having also developed F-35 helmets worth $400k each.

Considering the purpose of its products, Lockheed Martin keeps its factories protected with the highest security measures.

It’s not unusual to see jet spotters and potential spies gathering around Skunk Works, the company’s research and development facility in Palmdale, California.

This is the same facility that brought us the SR-71 Blackbird, one of the fastest aircraft ever made.

It’s also the workshop where the F-117 Nighthawk, the first plane to feature stealth technology, was built.

Last month, a select few reporters were given a once-in-a-lifetime tour of Skunk Works.

But Lockheed Martin wasn’t just in the mood to give some aviation enthusiasts the tour of their dreams, this was a move to show off and garner support.

The company wants to show the world, specifically the Pentagon, that it’s investing heavily in digital engineering.

The Air Force’s next fighter jet program, Next Generation Air Dominance, is looking for a manufacturer and it’ll have to beat out competitors like Boeing to win the gig.

Reporters took a tour of a new facility at Skunk Works, which is made up of 58 buildings.

The tour started in the only unclassified room, the Skunks’ Den, which is lined with 60 models of Lockheed Martin’s greatest achievements.

They were escorted there by an underground tunnel to control just how much of the campus they got to see.

Next they were allowed to see NASA’s X-59 supersonic flight demonstrator in its assembly stages.

What is unique about Skunk Works is that it’s designed to evolve with the times.

Instead of fixed machines to assemble specific aircraft, it’s just one massive warehouse, ready to be reconfigured accordingly.

It’s come a long way since the very first iteration of Skunk Works, which was a rented circus tent.

Who knows what will come out of there in future?

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