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Video: Mysterious aircraft spotted at secret test facility and Lockheed Martin won’t say what it is

Unknown object reportedly seen at Lockheed Martin's Lockheed Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility. (YouTube screenshot)
October 01, 2021

Lockheed Martin is keeping quiet after a video surfaced last week of what appears to be an unknown aviation technology appeared to have been taken at the company’s Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility.

After the video first appeared on TikTok, aviation enthusiast Ruben Hofs took notice of scaffolding in the background and began working to identify where the video was taken.

“Coincidentally, this morning I stumbled upon a very interesting tiktok video of an unknown shape on a flatbed trailer,” Hofs tweeted. “The scaffolding in the background got my interest and this appears to be the Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility. Also, this does not seem to resemble the so-called polecap used for calibration purposes. So if it isn’t that, then what is it… @[email protected]_Intel#OSINT.”

The Helendale Radar Cross Section Facility has been associated with Lockheed Martin’s secretive Skunk Works division. In October 2000, Lockheed Martin announced it had completed radar cross-section (RCS) testing at its Helendale facility for the Joint Strike Fighter, later to be known as the F-35 Lightning II, another Lockheed Martin Skunk Works project.

Skunk Works is a pseudonym for the company’s Advanced Development Programs, which develops military aviation technologies.

Last week, The Drive reported the object seen in the video is likely to be a new test shape for a low observable “stealth” aircraft.

The Drive also reported the object in the video might be facing upside-down. Test shapes are often transported upside-down since they are often mounted inverted on the test pylon at Helendale and other radar test facilities before being subjected to the electromagnetic emissions used to measure their radar signature.

Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s vice president and general manager of Skunk Works, faced questions about the video during a recent interview with Defense One’s Global Business Editor Marcus Weisgerber.

“Are you able to tell us anything about what we saw?” Weisgerber asked.

Babione only replied, “I can’t.”

Weisgerber then asked if Lockheed Martin’s security posture had changed, given the video of the secretive project, which was later posted across social media.

“We’re good,” Babione replied.

Steve Trimble, the defense editor for Aviation Week, tweeted that he had similar luck trying to get information about the video from Air Force Gen. Mark Kelly.

“I showed this to Gen Mark Kelly, Air Combat Command chief. His immediate reply was that he had no idea what it was,” Trimble tweeted. “And then he took my laptop and stared at it for about 20 seconds. His expression was (WARNING: my impression) somewhere between confused and impressed.”