Class of 2009 – Skunk Works
The biographical information below was compiled by Alan Renga, Assistant Archivist, for the 2009 International Hall of Fame Gala. For more information on the Museum’s Library and Archives, click here.
Shrouded in secrecy, this program has produced some of the most sophisticated and ground breaking aircraft built and has pushed the limits of what we have thought possible. This program is known as the Skunk Works.
The Skunk Works is an official alias for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), formerly called Lockheed Advanced Development Projects. The origins of the Skunk Works can be traced back to World War Two when The Air Tactical Service Command of the Army Air Force requested that Lockheed produce a jet fighter. Clarence L. “Kelly” Johnson led a group of engineers which were able to produce the successful XP-80 in 143 days. It was during this time that the program got its alias, which it borrowed from the popular Lil Abner comic strip of the day. Johnson would play a key role in many of the Skunkworks projects well into the 1970s.
After the war, the Skunk Works was pressed into service to produce aircraft to fight the Cold War, including the F-104, U-2 and the incomparable SR-71. More recent Skunk Works aircraft have focused on stealth technology and include the F-117 and the F-22.
In 1995 Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin. The Skunk Works, now located in Palmdale, continues to operate under Lockheed Martin and has recently produced the F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation, single-seat, single-engine, stealth-capable multirole fighter, that can perform close air support, tactical bombing, and air defense missions.
For its efforts, the Skunk Works has received the prestigious Collier Trophy five times. This trophy is awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association for “the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.”
For their immense contributions to aerospace engineering, which have pushed man higher and farther than thought possible and for their efforts to keep America safe, the San Diego Air & Space Museum takes great pleasure inducting the Skunk Works into its International Aerospace Hall of Fame.