The Dark Secret of the Skunk Works

By Cook, Nick | The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 19, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Dark Secret of the Skunk Works


Cook, Nick, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)


Byline: NICK COOK

One of the world's foremost aviation and aerospace scientists once told me about a place - a 'virtual warehouse' - where ideas that were too dangerous to develop into hardware were locked away for ever, like the Ark of the Covenant in the Harrison Ford film Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

At the time, I dismissed it as one of the more fanciful chapters from the wilder shores of science fiction. Not any more.

I am now convinced, after ten years of research, that one of these discoveries, locked away for half a century, is the biggest secret since the invention of the atomic bomb. A source of energy so great that it offers the world a limitless supply of power: antigravity. So great that, in the wrong hands, it could destroy the world.

Occasionally, the hardware emerges from the layers of security designed to keep these secrets from public scrutiny. Take, for example, the strange craft spotted from the mid-Eighties onwards in a triangle bordered by New Mexico to the south, California to the west and Nevada to the north-east.

Nearby, on the edge of the desert, is

Palmdale, home of the Skunk Works, a legendary aircraft-manufacturing facility. So-called because, in the Forties, foul-smelling chemicals emanated from its secret facilities on the edge of the main Lockheed aircraft plant.

Other factory workers, not knowing what was going on there, joked that it was being used to make moonshine, or 'skunk juice' as it was referred to in the L'il Abner cartoon strip of the day.

Skunk Works employees work on top-secret projects and are highly skilled engineers. They are recruited from the works' parent company, Lockheed, which today builds everything from Stealth fighters to space launchers and satellites. Could a team from its 4,000 Did they make a plane that flies at 5,300mph?

Thedarksecret employees have had something to do with the 'airquakes' reported by the US Geological Survey as having been caused by an unknown craft as it flew over California?

If antigravity was real, where better to look for it than in the Skunk Works, ostensibly hugely profitable and crammed with workers, but with little to show the public for its efforts. What technologies were being pursued there?

The Skunk Works was founded in 1943 in response to an urgent US requirement for a jet fighter to counter the threat of the Messerschmitt 262, a revolutionary twinjet fighter-bomber being developed by the German Luft-waffe.

The result, the XP-80, built in great secrecy, under budget and on time in just 143 days, became an aviation classic.

It set the standard for everything that followed. Ten years later, when the CIA demanded a spyplane to overfly the Soviet Union, the Skunk Works delivered the answer - the graceful Mach 3 A-12 Blackbird. It developed into the fastest operational aircraft in the world until its retirement in 1990.

But what else had been happening at the Skunk Works? Because of its track record in developing top-secret aircraft projects such as the U-2 spyplane and the F-117A Stealth fighter, it was my belief that this was the logical place to look for antigravity development in the United States.

My request for an interview with Jack Gordon, the head of the Skunk Works, was eventually granted. It took place in his office at the heart of his empire - a hangar which dominated the desert for miles. In his 23 years with the company, he said, he had worked on 15 'real flying aircraft' - but significantly, he could only talk about 12 of them.

I asked how many of the remaining three had anything to do with antigravity?

Gordon was admitting nothing, but there was informed speculation within the industry that one was Aurora, the 'fast mover' people said they had seen as a pulsating light flying over the south-western United States.

Aurora was also linked to a dark, triangular shape that had been spotted over the North Sea by trained observers in 1989. …

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