With the success of Top Gun: Maverick at the Academy Awards and its subsequent surge of attention, Lockheed Martin has been celebrating with a particular image on their social media page. This image features Tom Cruise’s character Maverick wearing the iconic flight suit and standing in front of an SR-71 Blackbird, known as the “fastest acknowledged crewed air-breathing jet aircraft.” While this alone is enough to excite aviation enthusiasts, there could be more to it than meets the eye. Could this hint at a secret high-speed jet in development?

Lockheed Martin designed the SR-71 Blackbird in 1963 for the United States Air Force (USAF) use. It flew at speeds up to Mach 3.3 and held records for altitude and speed for decades until 2005 when it was retired from service. The Darkstar Hypersonic Aircraft was a proposed successor to the Blackbird that Lockheed Martin developed in 1995 that could fly at Mach 8 or higher speeds. However, the project was scrapped due to budget cuts before any prototypes were made.

Rumors have been swirling around since then about other secretive projects involving high-speed flight being developed by Lockheed Martin and whether they are currently being produced today. One such example is the SR-72 Unmanned Hypersonic Aircraft, which supposedly uses combined turbine engine/ramjet technology—similar elements used in Top Gun: Maverick’s design—that would enable it to fly above six times faster than sound while also being unmanned!