Secretive New Skunk works UAS Set For Ground Testing Soon

Skunk Works logo.
Credit: Skunk Works

A secretive new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed by the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is poised to enter ground testing “imminently,” a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman said on Feb. 11. 

The UAS known only as “Speed Racer” is awaiting the pending delivery of engines supplied by Technical Directions Inc. (TDI), a Michigan-based small turbojet supplier that was acquired in 2019 by Kratos Defense and Security Solutions, the spokeswoman said. 

A Lockheed official disclosed the Speed Racer project during a Sept. 16 press briefing, but provided few details. The name itself is an acronym, but none of the words have been released.  

The UAS is intended to validate a new digital engineering system within Lockheed called StarDrive. 

Heeding the U.S. Air Force’s call to unite digital engineering tools across the design, manufacturing and sustainment phases of a new weapon system, Lockheed built the StarDrive to reduce the time and cost of producing and operating new flight vehicles for the military. 

Despite its name, Lockheed has emphasized that the concept is not necessarily about producing a fast UAS. The link to the StarDrive program may imply that “Speed Racer” is a reference to the pace of design and production. 

The only clear fact about Speed Racer is that it is powered by multiple engines made by TDI, which suggests a smaller vehicle. TDI’s product portfolio consists of four turbojets with diameters between 4.5-8.5 in., and power ratings between 30-200-lb. thrust. 

Along with Florida Turbine Technologies—another Kratos acquisition—TDI is seeking to “disrupt the [small] engine market over the next few years,” said Eric Demarco, Kratos’ chief executive officer, during a Jan. 13 virtual presentation to investors and analysts. 

Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.