According to Lockheed Martin spokeswoman a secretive new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed by the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is poised to enter ground testing “imminently”.
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.
Speed Racer is designed using an all-new digital engineering process known as StarDrive. The aircraft’s mission—if it even has one, other than validating the StarDrive process—is still a total mystery.
Lockheed originally announced the aircraft in September 2020. While Skunk Works officials didn’t reveal any details about Speed Racer’s configuration, they did tout StarDrive, a process that allows for the rapid development of modern aircraft, which has grown increasingly complicated over time. StarDrive should allow for faster and cheaper development of military aircraft.
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.