Defining the Future
At Lockheed Martin Skunk Works®, your mission defines our purpose. Our team of dedicated engineers and scientists assume it can be done. With a visionary focus on the future, we partner with our customers to anticipate tomorrow’s capability gaps and technology needs to solve the most critical national security challenges today.
With our enduring legacy, unique culture and way of operating, Skunks move quickly to develop disruptive solutions in core capability areas needed for our nation’s future success. Discover how our team is defining the future by clicking the capability icons below.
Transforming the Fight
Like a good chess game, at Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® we’re always thinking five steps ahead. And in today’s constantly changing and highly contested battlespace, staying ahead is critical.
The global defense landscape is more unpredictable than ever before. So what are we doing today to ensure that we maintain U.S. air dominance in a post-2035 world?
In partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), U.S. Air Force and Navy, our Skunk Works team has been exploring ways to deliver non-linear, game-changing capabilities that deter current and emerging threats – ultimately delivering a competitive and decisive advantage for the U.S and its Allies.
The Skunk Works is committed to advancing technical capabilities and investigating new venues for developing next generation air dominance (NGAD) air platforms as well as potential enhancements to current platforms that are projected to be a part of the future joint force structure.
Informed by a legacy of successfully conceptualizing and developing leading-edge technology aircraft like the SR-71, F-117, F-22 and F-35, the Skunk Works spirit of innovation and ability to quickly and quietly deliver a quality product is what our customers have come to rely on for more than 75 years.
Defining the Future of Unmanned Aerial Systems
Unmanned aerial vehicles have come a long way since the world’s first unmanned aerial vehicle, the Kettering Aerial Torpedo, was introduced in 1918. The vehicle’s mission was precision attack and it was guided toward its target by a system of preset internal controls. It was a remarkable and sophisticated technology for its time.
Since then, we’ve made an exponential leap in computing power, advanced flight controls and materials to advance the capabilities of unmanned systems. These systems partner with a manned operator and are known for supporting the dull, dirty and dangerous missions, keeping humans safe and out of harm’s way.
Today, we no longer have the luxury of a single aircraft performing a single mission – threats in the battlespace are driving the need for agile, multi-mission aircraft to support evolving battlespace needs.
When we consider the next generation of unmanned aerial systems, success in this ever-changing world will depend on survivable, interoperable systems that fully realize the human-machine team and can penetrate and operate in contested environments.
Leveraging more than six decades of unmanned aerial systems expertise, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® is working on solutions for next generation systems that combine stealth technology, open systems architecture, manned/unmanned teaming, and persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
An Enduring Legacy of Unmanned Aerial Systems Innovation
The unique and proven Skunk Works approach has enabled seemingly impossible tasks to become a reality, including the design of revolutionary unmanned aerial systems and enabling technologies.
Our work extends as far back as the 1960s with the D-21, then continues with the Aquila, Tier 3 Minus, Polecat, X-44, RQ-170 and much work completed in secrecy. In partnership with our visionary customers, the Skunk Works looks forward to leveraging our unmanned systems expertise to create trusted solutions for many years to come.
Next Generation ISR
Most of us will never fully understand or appreciate the impact of the missions of America’s spy planes. But that’s the point. For decades, U.S. reconnaissance aircraft have been relentlessly looking deep into enemy territory to provide sensitive information to our country to keep the peace.
There’s great diversity in today’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, with unmanned and manned options large and small. Regardless of their physical differences, our systems all have common denominators: high powered sensors to provide crisp, clear imagery and data.
As the threat evolves to a highly contested environment, a more advanced, survivable, persistent ISR system is needed to provide lifesaving intelligence for our warfighers. We’re working on solutions that combine stealth technology, speed and improved sensors to be able to penetrate and operate in a hostile environment. By leveraging our expertise in open system architecture, we’re ensuring these solutions can connect with systems across air, space, land, sea and cyber to rapidly share data and create confusion for our adversaries, ensuring dominance in the multi-domain fight of the future.
The Need for Speed
There’s a common saying among military pilots that speed is life. In nature, speed allows an animal to outrun a predator. In a dogfight, speed gives a pilot a distinct, often lifesaving, advantage.
To put the advantage speed offers in context, consider this: a Mach 2 supersonic fighter jet flies about 1,400 miles per hour or about 20 miles per minute. That means that fighter jet could cross the contiguous U.S. in under two hours. At Mach 5 and higher, you enter the hypersonic zone where speeds above 3,840 mph can take you almost anywhere in the world within an hour. When you can get anywhere anytime, speed becomes a significant difference-maker in the battlespace.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® has a proven track record for creating systems designed to maximize the speed advantage. With practical applications across the commercial and military world, our team of talented Skunks continues to explore how to deliver a decisive competitive edge to the U.S. and its Allies.
Enabling the Next Generation of Supersonic Commercial Flight
In partnership with NASA, the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works team is solving one of the most persistent challenges of supersonic flight – the sonic boom. NASA awarded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works a contract in February 2016 for the preliminary design of X-59, designed to reduce a sonic boom to a gentle thump.
In 2018, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works was selected for the design, build and flight test of the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator (LBFD). The X-59 aircraft will collect community response data on the acceptability of the quiet sonic boom generated by our design, helping NASA establish an acceptable commercial supersonic noise standard to overturn current regulations banning supersonic travel over land. This would open the door to an entirely new global market for aircraft manufacturers, enabling passengers to travel anywhere in the world in half the time it takes today.
Defining the Future Battlespace
Today’s challenges to global security aren’t just changing – they’re rapidly accelerating more than ever before. We know the battles of the future won’t be simple or fought on a single battlefield. Every warfighter, aircraft and system operating across the sea, ground, air, space and cyber domains will need to instantaneously share critical information to ensure dominance in the future battlespace.
This future battlespace capability is known as Multi-Domain Operations, and that is no easy task.
At a basic level, successfully conducting Multi-Domain Operations is about connecting systems and building resilient networks that quickly connect critical data across domains to predict, disrupt and paralyze our adversaries.
For more than a decade, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® has worked alongside the Department of Defense to develop architectures, mature critical technologies, and explore concepts of operations that will enable Multi-Domain Operations.
“With a deep understanding of our nation’s challenges and a clear vision for the future battlespace, we have been leading the development of Multi-Domain Operations enablers for more than a decade,” said John Clark, Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works®. “We’re focused on connecting systems by ensuring every element is a collector, a sharer and a learner to move data faster than ever before – shrinking decision times to a matter of moments. This involves integrating our expertise in emerging technologies such as autonomy and AI, cyber security and open architectures to ensure mission success.”
These enablers aren’t just concepts on paper – they’ve been proven to work in multiple exercises and demonstrations. Lockheed Martin continues to be a leader in partnering with industry and the U.S. military to make Multi-Domain Operations a reality – the future is closer than you may think.
We Call it Skunking
At the Skunk Works®, we have a rich history and an unmatched capability of using unconventional methods to achieve seemingly impossible breakthroughs—and we do it ahead of schedule. We call this unique design system Skunking. Skunking is quick, risk-tolerant and most importantly, smart.
You’ve heard it before — “quick” is part of our mantra. Skunking is all about streamlining processes. The guiding question is how can we get something off the ground as soon as possible. The golden rule: Get to a Prototype.
The bottom line is we aren’t afraid of failure. We know you can’t you push the boundaries of what’s possible without getting outside the comfort zone. Sometimes that means making mistakes, but from those mistakes, we learn how to be better.
One area we’re pushing the boundaries in is unmanned systems. In the early 2000s, we designed and built Polecat, a high-altitude unmanned aircraft technology demonstration. Though Polecat crashed and retired shortly after its first flight, so much of our unmanned expertise today can be attributed to discoveries made with this prototype, including how we’re changing aircraft command and control. Polecat is one example of how we use failures and initial prototypes as a launchpads to the forefront of innovation.
We work smarter, not harder, understanding you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to produce greatness. This work method not only saves us time and resources but also enables us to increase affordability for our customers.
The X-55 Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft is a perfect demonstration of working smarter. Rather than starting from scratch, we modified an existing aircraft structure, resulting in a small team’s quickly completed prototype. The aircraft was conceived and built in 15 months, with a 50% estimated cost reduction, a 90% reduction of structural parts and the elimination of 15,000 rivets.
Building a Network for Battlespace Supremacy
We all know the saying: Two heads are better than one. A unified team working together toward a common goal achieves success more quickly and more effectively than any one person could achieve operating alone. The same is true when it comes to aircraft and systems operating in the battlespace, but how they work together is much more complicated.
The ability to quickly and affordably connect these highly capable, complex technologies operating at multiple levels of security is a challenge. Also, as software and technology continue to evolve, a cost-effective solution is required to ensure aircraft and systems stay relevant over time.
The solution? An approach known as open system architecture, or OSA.
By reducing the cost and time needed to develop and deploy critical capabilities to the warfighter, OSA transforms the battlespace. OSA enables rapid upgrades, the ability to quickly swap out sensors, and ensures systems in operation today, as well as the systems of the future, work together and share information to create a comprehensive view of the battlespace.
This enables a new way of fighting, called multi-domain operations. This is important because it enables our forces to understand what our adversary is doing, and quickly take necessary action to stop them in their tracks – even as their technologies rapidly advance.
The idea of multi-domain operations can be daunting. Integrating every system operating in air, sea, space, cyber and on the ground is no easy task. To tackle this seemingly impossible challenge, Lockheed Martin has partnered with government agencies for more than a decade to take an incremental approach to this problem and demonstrate how it could be achieved through a series of OSA flight tests.
Striving for the Bold
How do we leverage physics to create self-healing materials? How can we create a sustainable source of energy that generates zero emissions? How do we reimagine human-centered technologies to enhance performance in an autonomous future?
At Lockheed Martin Skunk Works®, nothing is impossible. Our scientists and engineers tackle some of the world’s hardest problems every day. Their goal – to pioneer radical approaches to groundbreaking advanced technology concepts.
Our focus on developing uncontested disruptive capabilities enables the next frontier of cutting-edge technology solutions at Lockheed Martin.