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Skunk Works: 70 years of cutting-edge aircraft
Date:2013-06-24writer:by Jonathan Skillingsfrom:Cnet NewsClick the number:5436

Think aerodynamics in the animal world, and your mind may turn to the barn swallow and the peregrine falcon, the shark, and the sailfish, perhaps the greyhound. You probably won't conjure up the image of the zaftig, waddling skunk.

But think aerodynamic designs from hands and minds of humankind, and you can't help but turn your mind to the legendary Skunk Works.

That pungent nickname surely imparts more character and color to a long-running series of aviation innovations than the bland and anodyne, if accurate, bureaucratic title of the Lockheed Martin unit, Advanced Development Programs. Cutting-edge aircraft that have emerged from the hush-hush environs of the Skunk Works include the U-2, the A-12 (which became the SR-71 Blackbird), the F-117, and the F-22.

It was 70 years ago this month, in June 1943, that the Skunk Works got its start, when the U.S. Army Air Force -- worried by Nazi efforts to develop a first-of-its-kind jet-powered fighter aircraft -- welcomed a bold pitch from Lockheed to build a jet aircraft prototype for the Allies and build it fast. The resulting aircraft was the Lockheed XP-80, completed well ahead of schedule in an impressive, no-nonsense 143 days.