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When the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works began marking its 70th birthday this year, media specialist Bob Driver dragged an old suitcase into a company director’s office. Opening it, he asked if the contents could finally be shown to the public.
Inside was a 55-year-old model of the A-3, Lockheed’s first try at blending stealth with speed—and a direct predecessor of the triple-sonic A-12 Blackbird. It had been designed by Skunk Works founder Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, and Driver had hidden it away for decades, defying periodic management directives to purge company archives.
The director he approached was Stephen Justice, who runs Advanced Systems Development at Skunk Works. “I treasure that the people here want to protect our history,” says Justice. “Bob recognized the A-3 model as being something special, and important to hold onto.”
Today’s Skunk Works employs 3,700 employees at facilities in Palmdale, California, Marietta, Georgia, and Fort Worth, Texas. They are working on over 500 projects, from radar coatings to war games to compact fusion reactors to a Mach 6 spyplane.