Top Gun: Maverick’s Darkstar Arrives at Palm Springs Air Museum

Events planned to showcase the creation of the fictional hypersonic star of the 2022 blockbuster

Although the Darkstar itself is only a movie prop there have been hints that a follow-up aircraft to the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird might be flying - or at least in the planning stages.
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By Adam Estes

As millions of moviegoers around the world sat for the opening of Top Gun: Maverick, we here at Vintage Aviation News were at the edge of our seats when Captain Pete Mitchell – callsign “Maverick” – flew the experimental Darkstar to the edge of Mach 10. But like the real aircraft developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility, the Darkstar movie prop has spent much of its time away from prying eyes, save for an appearance at the Edwards AFB Aerospace Valley Expo in October of 2022. But now, airplane enthusiasts and movie fans alike can see the aircraft at the Palm Springs Air Museum (PSAM) in California, United States.

The SR-72 Darkstar is welcomed to the museum with a water salute from two fire trucks (Credit: Palm Springs Air Museum)
The Darkstar is welcomed to the museum with a water cannon salute from two fire trucks. [Photo via Palm Springs Air Museum]

With their experience such projects as the U-2, A-12, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk and future concepts such as the SR-72 hypersonic unmanned surveillance aircraft, the specialists at Lockheed-Martin’s Skunk Works put their decades of experience to work advising the production team with the construction of the Darkstar with the goal of making the movie prop as accurate to anything in hypothetical development as possible, and in doing so, it has captured the hearts of aviation and film enthusiasts alike.

The Darkstar (not to be confused with the Lockheed Martin RQ-3 Darkstar unmanned aerial vehicle) arrived on the flatbed of a trailer, being received with a water salute in a video posted by the PSAM on Friday, February 9th 2024. The film prop was also the talk of the museum’s annual fundraising gala as well, and will remain on a short-term loan from Lockheed Martin. “Obviously, we’d like it because we want to interpret it into our next-generation hangar we’re building to talk about hypersonics and stuff like that,” museum director Fred Bell said in an article for the Desert Sun, a local newspaper across the street from the museum. “I don’t know whether they’ll let us keep it or not, so we’ll see. It’ll be exciting if they do.”

The PSAM will hold four special Darkstar Rising Experience events, hosted by a Lockheed Martin employee, where visitors can learn more about the creation of both the Darkstar and future of hypersonic and stealth aircraft. Each event will have an exclusive T-shirt and other collectibles available for purchase and begin at 5:30p.m. local time:
February 24th – The making of Darkstar.
March 1st – Behind the scenes – Darkstar comes to life.
March 20th – The next generation of stealth.
March 27th – The next generation of hypersonic aircraft.
For further details about the Darkstar Rising Experience events and to book tickets visit

The Darkstar was a popular part of the PSAM’s Heroes of Modern Tech Gala held on Saturday, Feburary 10th, which was held to raise funds for the Ronald M. Auen Learning Center.


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