In the spring of 1943, amid the urgencies and alarums of wartime, bureaucracy took a back seat to necessity for the U.S. Army Air Force and aircraft maker Lockheed. The Nazi military machine was making notable progress developing a jet-powered fighter, a cutting-edge technology with the potential to give the Germans an edge in the battle for air superiority. The Army, then, didn't waste any time when it got a bold, confident pitch from Lockheed to build a jet aircraft prototype and build it fast. It gave Lockheed the green light in June 1943, setting in motion not just an aircraft design but also what was soon to become known as the Skunk Works.
The aircraft that came from that agreement was the Lockheed XP-80 (seen above), completed well ahead of schedule in a remarkable 143 days. The XP-80 would make its first flight on January 8, 1944. And while jet aircraft never became a factor in the aerial combat of World War II, a new era had dawned in the the world of aviation. And 70 years on, Lockheed's Skunk Works operation is still going strong. In this slideshow, we'll take a look at Skunk Works aircraft from across those seven decades.
June 23, 2013 8:45 AM PDT
Photo by: U.S. Air Force
| Caption by: Jonathan Skillings
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