Automaker McLaren is in a near-constant perpetual state of losing money. Despite its financial woes, it decided now is the time to enter a partnership with none other than Lockheed Martin's high-tech, high-speed development group called Skunk Works. In a statement, the British automaker said the partnership “will focus on deploying a new Skunk Works’ design system, developed for the world of aviation, into the realms of high-performance, cutting-edge automotive supercar design.”
McLaren said Skunk Works uses a suite of software to develop aircraft prototypes rapidly—or at least McLaren says it does. I'm not sure what a group like Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works could reasonably share about these engineering processes with any automaker, let alone a foreign automaker. Despite this limitation—they don't mention it, of course—the company wants help from Lockheed Martin to translate this alleged system into cars.
Exactly what sort of project the Skunk Work's technology might be leveraged upon isn't clear. It seems like the partnership is still in its early days. Despite this, we can safely assume that it will be a supercar. McLaren only makes supercars, for now.
Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works has developed a slew of cutting-edge aircraft over the past several decades including the first operational American jet fighter, the P-80 Shooting Star; the fastest operational air-breathing jet ever, the SR-71 Blackbird/A-12; as well as the first operational stealth military aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk. More recently, it helped to develop the F-22 Raptor as well as the F-35 family of aircraft.
It's getting an unusual amount of mainstream press lately due to its role in assisting in the development of the Dark Star, a hypothetical hypersonic aircraft in the movie Top Gun: Maverick. The physical mockup is very real, but not capable of flight. The Skunk Works says its capabilities are real, though, and that it used cutting-edge design/engineering techniques to build it. The organization's willingness to play ball with the civilian world in Top Gun might've been what gave McLaren the idea to pursue a partnership with the company.
Limitations on what Lockheed might be able to share with McLaren aside, the fruits of a partnership between a legendary automaker and an equally legendary aerospace organization will be interesting. Will world-class aircraft design techniques translate into cutting-edge road cars as we've never seen before? Well, when there's a new McLaren with a cartoon skunk on the back, we'll find out.
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