- Skunkworks redirects here. For the heavy metal album by Bruce Dickinson, please see Skunkworks (album)
As used by Lockheed
The Skunk Works is the unofficial name for Lockheed Martin's Lockheed Advanced Development Projects Unit and was the production unit responsible for a number of famous aircraft, including the U-2, the SR-71, and the F-117. Its newest project of note is the F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter), which will be used in the air forces of several countries around the world. Production is expected to last for up to 4 decades.
The history of the Skunk Works began with the World War II period, when the black projects of the Skunk Works were located near the Burbank Airport, now renamed Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California. The legendary Kelly Johnson and team developed the P-80 Shooting Star in a circus tent set in the parking lot (as there was no existing secure area) in only 143 days. This aircraft was the U.S. Air Force's first operational jet fighter. Kelly Johnson headed the Skunk Works until 1975, when Ben Rich took over leadership.
After the end of the Cold War in 1989, Lockheed reorganized its operations and relocated the Skunk Works to Site 10 at U. S. Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California where it is still in operation today.
Lockheed now considers the term "Skunk Works" to be a trademark of theirs, and has several registrations of it with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. They have filed several challenges against registrants of domain names containing variations on the term under anti-cybersquatting policies.
The Skunk Works are often credited with having originated the term KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) as one of their design principles.
One suggestion for the origin of the name for the secret facility is that it was coined due to it being down wind of a odorous plastics factory.
Another suggestion is that the name came from the popular comic strip Li'l Abner by cartoonist Al Capp. In the comic, the Skonk Works was a small factory whose business used skunks (the exact nature of this enterprise was never explained). The Skonk Works was located far from other human habitation due to the terrible odor, and people who worked at the Skonk Works could only communicate with people of the outside world by yelling at them from a great distance while downwind. On the request of the copyright holders, Lockheed changed the name of the development facility to Skunk Works.
Another theory for the name arises from the parking lot where Skunk Works was originally run. The development of projects was held in a black circus tent that is rumored to have had white lines running through its top. Therefore, when seen from an airplane in the sky, the circus tent took the appearance of a skunk.
Aircraft created by the Skunk Works
- P-80 Shooting Star
- Lockheed U-2
- QT-2PC PRIZE CREW
- Army-Lockheed YO-3A
- SR-71 Blackbird
- D-21 Tagboard
- F-117 Nighthawk
- F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
- Lockheed X-27
- Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works Celebrates Diamond Anniversary (Lockheed Martin Press Release)
- The Graphing Calculator Story A story of how Pacific Tech's Graphing Calculator started out as a skunkworks project in Apple Computer
- Rich, Ben; Janos, Leo. (1996) Skunk Works. Little, Brown & Company, ISBN 0316743003