Why the Chinese military used a satellite to spy on the filming of Top Gun

During the filming of Top Gun 2, the US Navy detected a maneuver performed by a Chinese spy satellite to photograph the Darkstar, the hypersonic plane piloted by Maverick. Is this fictional plane really?

Top Gun is a global blockbuster, but not just for movie buffs, Tom Cruise fans or aviation enthusiasts. The Chinese military would thus have closely followed the filming of the film, according to Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the producers of the two opuses. It was not a question for them of knowing the scenario, but of knowing more about Darkstar, the hypersonic plane piloted by Maverick and whose name is a nod to Star Wars.

“The US Navy warned us that a Chinese satellite changed course to photograph this plane. They thought it was a real device and we made everything to make it look real,” said Jerry Bruckheimer at Sandboxx News.

To see this device, nothing can suggest that it is only an accessory made in Hollywood. And for good reason, the design of the device was created by the film teams with Skunk Works. Either the Lockheed Martin division responsible for so-called “special” aeronautical programs.

James Taiclet, CEO of Lockheed Martin, and John Clark, Vice President of Skunk Works, at the premiere of Top Gun
James Taiclet, CEO of Lockheed Martin, and John Clark, Vice President of Skunk Works, at the premiere of Top Gun © Capture LinkedIn

James Taiclet, CEO of Lockheed Martin, was one of the guests of honor for the film’s premiere and took the break with John Clark, Vice President of Skunk Works. On Linkedin, he even published a message that raises questions.

“Work [de Skunk Works] in hypersonic flight isn’t just movie magic. [Les équipes] push the art of the possible into reality to advance global security,” said James Taiclet.

Did Maverick fly an SR-72?

Skunk Works is working on the SR-72, the American spy plane which is intended to succeed the SR-71 Blackbird to become the fastest spy plane in the world. Capable of reaching Mach 7, it was designed to reach any point on the planet in a maximum of one hour. This project is of course carried out in collaboration with Darpa, the Pentagon’s innovation agency. An unmanned version of the SR-72 is even under consideration.

Sketch of the SR-72, Lockheed Martin's hypersonic aircraft
Sketch of the SR-72, Lockheed Martin’s hypersonic aircraft © Lockheed Martin

Apart from its velocity and an artist’s drawing for Skunk Works communication, nothing filters through on this futuristic device except for one detail. In a video produced in 2021 by the US Air Force to promote its reconnaissance and intelligence aircraft, a new model appears for a moment. For the specialized press, it would be a prototype of the SR-72. And its resemblance to the Darkstar is striking.

The Darkstar in scale model version
The Darkstar in reduced model version © Matchbox

In 2020, when the film’s trailer was released, Sandboxx had already detected similarities between the fictional plane and the one Lockheed Martin is to develop for the US Air Force. At the time, the site even wondered if Maverick was not at the controls of an SR-72. When in doubt, Beijing apparently preferred to spy on the shooting of the film, going so far as to redirect a spy satellite.

Pascal Samama



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