Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lockheed Skunk Works D-21 Reconnaissance Drone.

Wait, what is that old Dodge grill doing in there?

   No project in the first three decades of Lockheed Skunk Works history was more stealthy, or more secret, than the D-21 reconnaissance drone. A brief history of the D-21 can be read in a previous article (click here to view).
     The D-21 was made of many exotic materials, some of which are potentially dangerous to come in contact with. Many of the D-21 aircraft in museums have had their asbestos components removed. Engines are often stripped from the D-21 because they contain Mag-Thor, a magnesium alloy that includes radioactive thorium.
     In 1994, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (now Armstrong) acquired D-21 537 for hypersonic research projects that were never performed. Eventually, NASA removed the engine containing radioactive materials, so the drone could be displayed at March Field Air Museum, located on March Air Reserve Base in California.


  1. For any of you that have read Tom Clanceys "Debt of Honor", this is the drone he mentioned that overflow a POW camp and confirmed American prisoners to be present. Then they sent in 'SNAKE' to recon prior to extraction.

    1. Just an something wasn't sitting right in my sub-conscience since making this off-the-cuff post from memory. The correct book I was referring to is Tom Clancy's (correct spelling this time) "Without Remorse". The main character is a former Navy SEAL, and I can hardily recommend it as an engrossing read. My apologies to all for relying on my memory.

  2. They have one of these in the Evergreen Air Museum and another mated to its M-21 mother ship at the Museum of Flight. I believe both still have their Marquardt ramjet engines but the engines could be mock-ups.

    The A-12, all it's variants and accessories, like the D-21 drone, fascinate me to no end and I spend dozens of hours seeking out info, stories and reading books.

    The final D-21 launch from its mother ship crashed into the M-21 engine nacelle and the crew successfully ejected at mack 3.0+ as their plane disintegrated around them. They both survived, landing in the sea but Ray Torick drown due to a hole in his space suit sustained during ejection. The program was cancelled and the only surviving MD-21 is at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

    Just imagine the violence of a mach 3.0+ ejection! Poor Ray Torick had to know he was toast almost immediately and no doubt endured some rather sobering final minutes at the end.