Lockheed Confirms New Details Of Speed Racer’s Role And Future

Lockheed Martin has confirmed a secret customer has ordered the Speed Racer flight vehicle that the Skunk Works unveiled a year ago as a technology demonstrator. 

A poster on a wall of a Skunk Works facility shed new light on the secretive vehicle’s intended role by spelling out each letter in the program’s official acronym: “Small, Penetrating, Expendable Decoy Radically Affordable Compact Extended Range.”

Lockheed plans to begin manufacturing the Speed Racer on the Palmdale, California, site, but production likely will transition elsewhere, said Jeff Babione, vice president of the Skunk Works division.

Babione compared the likely transition of the Speed Racer to the Skunk Works’ experience with developing the prototype for the AGM-158 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile, which was handed over to Lockheed’s Missiles and Fire Control Division to build and sustain. 

Lockheed unveiled the Speed Racer project in September 2020 as a technology demonstrator to prove out a new internal, digital engineering process called the StarDrive. 

In February, Lockheed released a video showing launch of the aircraft from a carrier aircraft. At the same time, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) named the Speed Racer as one of the projects that would be discussed during the Armament Industry Roundtable in March. 

The first Speed Racer prototype has not yet flown, said Renee Pasman, director of Integrated Systems at the Skunk Works. 

The term “decoy” in the title of the program’s acronym suggests a role similar to the mission now performed by the Raytheon ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy. The AFRL previously funded Northrop Grumman to develop a low-cost alternative called the Gray Wolf. The latter project yielded an autonomous-control and networking system that was used for the AFRL’s Golden Horde experiment, which joined multiple Small Diameter Bombs in a series of demonstrations. 

Steve Trimble

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


1 Comment
Go Speed Racer....