But the producers couldn't have done it without leveraging the expertise of some of the world's foremost experts in all things aerospace, and that includes tapping into the minds of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works engineers to craft their physics-bending Darkstar hypersonic jet.
Without wanting to give away any of the plot's specifics, the Darkstar aircraft features early in the film as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (played by Tom Cruise) carries out his duties as a test pilot for the US Navy. The futuristic fighter jet is a jaw-dropping introduction to the hyperreal aesthetics of the film, but may also strike a familiar chord with aviation enthusiasts due to a likeness to one of history's most revered aerial vehicles, the SR-71 Blackbird.
When looking for some expert assistance in creating the Darkstar aircraft, the film's producers were pointed in the direction of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works division, responsible for the SR-71, its forthcoming successor the SR-72 and the U-2 spy plane. This collaboration created a new outlet for expression for Skunk Works clandestine conceptual designers, in the sense that this particular aircraft design was one they could share with the world – as conceptual designer "Jim" explains in this video.