Skunk Works’ knack for innovation enters the “digital” age with a factory able to spit out advanced aircraft faster and cheaper than ever before.
BY JOSEPH TREVITHICK
Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works advanced projects division has opened a new cutting-edge manufacturing facility at its campus in Palmdale, California, which is part of the U.S. Air Force’s Plant 42. The company says that the technologies it will employ in this new “factory of the future,” blandly named Building 648, will help it drastically speed up and otherwise improve how it designs and produces advanced aerospace vehicles, including stealth fighters and drones, hypersonic missiles, and more. Beyond that, however, this factory is the centerpiece of a larger transformation going on within Skunk Works that could potentially revolutionize the development and production of even very advanced aerospace concepts, industrial capabilities that could be increasingly essential for the U.S. military to maintain its competitive edge.
The War Zone was among a select group of outlets given an opportunity to visit Skunk Works and attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 215,000-square foot Building 648, which Lockheed Martin representatives have described as an “intelligent, flexible, advanced manufacturing facility,” on Aug. 10, 2021, as well as tour other relevant portions of the overall facility at Palmdale. The factory is the “cornerstone” of approximately $400 million worth of investments the company has made to help expand its capabilities and capacity at what is formally known as Plant 10 in recent years, which has already led directly to the creation of 1,500 new jobs since 2018
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