Case In Point


The Hybrid Airship represents an innovative solution to a hard problem, which has been a hallmark to Skunk Works since its inception.  Hybrid Airships can carry heavy cargo affordably to and from remote locations thanks to an air cushion landing system (ACLS) and its unique shape, allowing it to carry a wider range of payloads for increased flexibility.

  • Build a half-scale prototype airship to demonstrate critical functions
  • Small integrated design/build/test team
  • Identify and enforce focus on a small number of test objectives critical to validation of key performance parameters
  • Design the airship for the lowest operating cost reflecting customer value proposition 
  • Thirteen months from program start to successful first flight test
  • The half-scale prototype successfully demonstrated the technologies required for an operational hybrid airship
  • Provided momentum for the commercial sales campaign in the oil and gas, and mining industries


Polecat is a high altitude unmanned aircraft technology demonstration that exhibits Skunk Works convictions for decreasing development time and costs.   

  • Limit the technical requirements and enforce no requirements creep
  • Small build team empowered to execute the task
  • Concentrate on quick operational fielding
  • Advocate stabilized program funding 


  • Conceived and built in 18 months
  • 50 percent cost improvement over other prototypes
  • 98 percent composite structure
  • Revolutionary production techniques achieved a 50 perecent reduction in touch labor, the elimination of 8,000 fasteners and a 3x reduction in tooling costs


The X-55 Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft  program was designed to advance the readiness of multiple technologies needed for the next generation of theater airlift aircraft. This development approach exhibits Skunk Works’ commitment to providing solutions to customers’ problems on time and under budget.

  • Modify an existing aircraft structure
  • Small, co-located team to efficiently execute task at hand
  • Utilize advanced composite technologies and inventive structural approaches
  • Reduce aircraft weight to reduce fuel use and part count while increasing structural durability
  • Conceived and built in 15 months
  • 50 percent estimated cost reduction of a conventional design of the same size
  • Compared to the original metallic components, the composite structure used approximately 300 structural parts versus 3,000 metallic parts and approximately 4,000 mechanical fasteners compared to 40,000, significantly reducing tooling costs and assembly labor