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Lockheed skunkworks from a comic strip

Updated on July 19, 2012

What are Skunk works

Skunkworks also known as skunk works a really just a group of people that are brought together usually with different expertise to work on a unconventional project. This groups is there to create something quick but of good standard with little or no management. Usually these groups of people roll out a sort of prototype that will be later on developed into the full blown product.

Skunk works Logo
Skunk works Logo | Source

Skunk works is and has been for years now a registered trademark of Lockheed's Advanced Development Programme (ADP) this is the programme that is responsible for many of the famous names that came out of Lockheed. The term skunk works first originated in a Hill Billy comic strip from the 40's/50's. This strip included a character that worked in a facility making sunk oil for an unknown individual and in the comic strip he was referred to work at the skunk works.

Now the Origin of this name in the Lockheed family was the idea of one of the employees in what was then know as the Advanced Development Programme. When it came to actually making the name stick it came in a very funny way. Where the ADP was located was next to what was a factory which at the time used to give off a very bad odour. So as a joke one employee came into work one day wearing a gas mask. When he was asked why he was wearing the mask he simply said this is the skunk works.  The name actually stuck because one day a phone call came through from one of the top government department to Lockheed asking for the ADP and by mistake was sent to the wrong man. This man was Irving Culver the man that has came up with the idea of the skunk works. When he received  the phone call he simply answered Skunk Works Culver speaking , from that day the name stuck and has been with Lockheed ever since. 

Lockheed's Skunk Works was founded by Ben Rich and Kelly Johnson in 1943 at the time Kelly Johnson was in charge of the department. Skunk works designs of planes soon attracted the attention of the government. Receiving a contract from the CIA they soon became work on a spy-plane named the A12. This was to be known later on as the SR71 Blackbird which was the two seater version of the A12.

Amongst  and number of other designs Skunk works was responsible for the SR 17 black bird which was a plane that broke numerous records including flying from New York to London in under 2 hours. They also produced the supersonic F35 Lightning and the super stealthy Nighthawk. Now when it come to fighter planes don't count them out they were behind one of the most advanced fighters of its time the F22 Raptor which was used in numerous conflicts and was know to be an aircraft that fighter pilots loved. Skunk Works is embodied in Lockheed's AD Programme and I feel its only right to call this department by this name for their efforts at development and their achievements.


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