Lockheed Martin

The Lockheed Company, one of the giants in the modern aerospace industry, began in 1912 when the Loughead brothers, Allan and Malcolm, formed the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company in San Francisco. Their first aircraft, the Model G seaplane, debuted on June 15, 1913. It was the largest seaplane yet built in the United States. Though the brothers couldn't find a customer for their plane, they earned some income for the startup company by flying passengers in their plane.

In the summer of 1916, the brothers moved to Santa Barbara, California, and, backed by Burton Rodman and other investors, formed the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company. Their first plane with the new company was the 10-passenger F-1 seaplane. John K. "Jack" Northrop, who would later form his own company, designed and helped build the hull and wings. The twin-engine biplane had a 74-foot (22.5-meter) upper wingspan, a 47-foot (14-meter) lower wingspan, twin booms, and a triple tail. It debuted on March 29, 1918. The Navy took delivery of it after a record-setting flight from Santa Barbara to San Diego on April 12, 1918, flying the 211 miles (340 kilometres) in only 181 minutes.

When World War I ended, Navy aircraft orders dried up. The brothers tried to sell a small sport plane, the S-1, but the market was saturated by surplus warplanes. The business barely survived by building two Curtiss HS-2L flying boats and by working as a subcontractor. But it wasn't enough, and the business went into liquidation in 1921. Northrop went to work for Donald Douglas.

On December 13, 1926, the Lockheed brothers (they changed their last name to avoid mispronunciation)) and a group of investors formed the Lockheed Aircraft Company. This company lasted for less than three years, but in that time, it developed and built the first Vega, designed by Northrop, who had returned to Lockheed. It was a cantilever high-wing wooden monoplane with a streamlined monocoque fuselage built from two half-shells of plywood that had been shaped under pressure in a concrete mould. It could hold four passengers and a pilot.

The Vega 1 first flew on July 4, 1927. Newspaper owner George Hearst bought it to compete in the Oakland to Hawaii Dole Race. Jack Forst and Gordon Scott piloted the aircraft, named the Golden Eagle, on the trip, but the two disappeared without a trace. This did not, however, deter future sales of the aircraft. The plane was used for several record-setting flights, including the first trans-arctic flight in April 1928 and the first flight over Antarctica in November 1928, both made by George Hubert Wilkins and Carl Ben Eielson, It also made the first solo transatlantic flight by a woman, Amelia Earhart; and the first solo round-the-world flight, made by Wiley Post. A total of 128 Vegas were built, 115 by Lockheed and nine by Detroit Aircraft Corporation after it acquired Lockheed in 1929.

The Lockheed Company also built seven Lockheed Air Express airplanes, which resembled the Vega except for the open cockpit and higher wings than the Vega. Designed by Northrop specifically for Western Air Express‘s airmail route between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Los Angeles, its development began late in 1927. One of the Air Express planes used the NACA cowling. A variant of the Air Express, the Explorer, was designed for a non-stop transpacific flight to Japan. The two Explorers built, though, both crashed. In the meantime, Northrop in 1928 had again left to begin his own company, and Gerard "Jerry" F. Vultee replaced Northrop as chief engineer.

In July 1929, Fred E. Keeler, an investor who owned 51 percent of Lockheed, decided to sell 87 percent of the company assets to Detroit Aircraft Company, a holding company. As part of Detroit Aircraft, the company continued building Vegas and also built the Lockheed 8 Sirius, which Charles Lindbergh used as a floatplane on several round-the-world survey flights for Pan American Airways in the early 1930s. The Sirius had fixed tail landing gear and two open cockpits. Retractable landing gear was added onto a successor aircraft called the Altair, which made the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Australia to the United States between October 20 and November 4, 1934.

The Lockheed 9 Orion was another successful plane built during this period. The Orion, which featured the NACA cowling and retractable landing gear, was a wooden monoplane that could carry a pilot and six passengers. The first Orion flew in early 1931. A number of U.S. airlines used it and it also flew in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. An Orion-Explorer, constructed from Orion and Explorer parts, crashed in Alaska on August 15, 1935, killing Wiley Post and Will Rogers.

Lockheed remained with Detroit Aircraft until 1931, when Detroit Aircraft went into receivership. A group of investors led by Robert Gross bailed the company out and purchased Lockheed's assets in 1932 for $40,000, forming the new Lockheed Aircraft Corporation with Lloyd C. Stearman as president. Allan Lockheed, who had left the company in 1929, returned as a consultant. Gross also attracted Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, a young engineer who would soon help make Lockheed's reputation.

Gross realized that the company needed to move past the Vega and similar planes if it was to compete with the other major aircraft companies, Boeing and Douglas. He also saw that the future lay with multi-engine planes and pushed for construction of a new plane that would be smaller, faster, and cheaper to operate than the larger Boeing and Douglas planes. His initiative paid off. Lockheed's innovative twin-engine Model 10 Electra, with retractable landing gear and twin fins and rudders, helped establish the company's line of commercial passenger aircraft. The 10-passenger all-metal plane flew for the first time on February 23, 1934. Northwest Airlines was the first airline to use the plane. In the late 1930s, eight U.S. airlines flew the plane as did European, Australian, Canadian, and South American customers. Model 10 Electras were used for long-distance flights, and Major James "Jimmy" Doolittle flew an Electra from Chicago to New Orleans in five hours 55 minutes in 1936—two hours quicker than the previous fastest time. Amelia Earhart disappeared in an Electra on her round-the-world attempt.

The Model 10 Electra was followed by the Model 12 Electra Junior executive transport in 1936 that seated six passengers with a two-person crew. Many Model 12s were used by the military, and the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) used a Model 12 to evaluate a wing de-icing system that used hot air from the engine exhaust.

The 1937 Lockheed 14 Super Electra, designed to compete with the Douglas DC-2 and DC-3, failed as a commercial aircraft in the United States because it had too small a capacity. Most were sold abroad, and more than 100 were license-built in Japan for use by the Imperial Japanese Army. But this plane helped elevate Lockheed into the ranks of major aircraft manufacturers. The 14 Super Electra formed the basis for the Lockheed Hudson, which was used by Britain's Royal Air Force in World War II.

The Lockheed 18 Lodestar followed the Super Electra in 1939. This plane was longer than the Super Electra and could hold 15 to 18 passengers. Some were configured to seat up to 26 passengers. However, it still did not sell well in the United States because, by this time, most airlines were using the DC-3. It did well abroad though, and once World War II began, the U.S. Army Air Force raised the total number produced to more than 600.

In 1939, Lockheed began work on a 40-pasenger airliner, the L-049 Constellation, based on an order from TWA. The triple-tailed plane incorporated a pressurized cabin, tricycle landing gear, and ultra-modern cabin features. The first plane flew in January 1943, and when the United States entered World War II, the Air Force took over the first batch for service as C-69 transports. It was the largest and fastest cargo transport to serve in the war. The plane would form the basis for future civil transports.

World War II saw Lockheed grow enormously. At the end of 1937, the company employed fewer than 2,000 people and had produced only a few hundred planes during its entire corporate lifetime. On March 31, 1940, its workforce stood at about 7,000 employees. By 1941, it had grown to almost 17,000 employees, and by 1943, to more than 90,000 people, including thousands of women who were engaged in building aircraft on the Lockheed production lines. By 1945, the company was rolling out 23 planes per day, and held war contracts valued at $2 billion. Between July 1, 1940 and August 31, 1945, Lockheed turned out more than 19,000 aircraft to become the fifth largest U.S. aircraft producer.

In 1937 Lockheed established a new AiRover Aircraft subsidiary to give Lockheed a place in the personal aviation market. Ai developed the StarLiner business airplane, but it didn't sell in the depressed market. AiRover became Vega Airplane Company in June 1938, which converted to military activity when the war began. At the end of 1941, Vega Airplane became Vega Aircraft Corporation, and Lockheed absorbed it on November 30, 1943. Its plants at Burbank, California, built more than 2,500 Boeing B-17s under license and also the PB-1 patrol bomber.

Lockheed also became a multinational corporation. During the war, it operated in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Australia. The company provided Hudson aircraft for maritime patrol duties to Britain, benefiting from Britain's failure to build up its antisubmarine reconnaissance air fleet and its reliance instead on a sonar device that proved ineffective against German submarines. During 1938, an order that Britain placed for Hudsons as well as for Ventura transports and options on P-38 Lightning fighters totalled $65 million.

The Hudson was the first U.S.-built aircraft to be used operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the war. Responding to an urgent British requirement, Lockheed first received a contract for 200 aircraft; this grew to 250 aircraft by November 1939. By the time production ended in May 1943, a total of 2,941 Hudsons had been built. The Hudson succeeded in elevating Lockheed into the ranks of major aircraft manufacturers. During the war, a Hudson scored the first RAF victory of the war when it shot down a German flying boat on October 8, 1939, and the plane also scored a number of other military firsts.

Another Lockheed plane, the P-38 Lightning, was developed to satisfy a 1937 U.S. Air Corps need for an advanced high-altitude fighter. It was the first military design under legendary Lockheed engineer Kelly Johnson. The plane first flew on January 26, 1939. It became the first service aircraft to exceed 400 miles per hour (644 kilometres per hour) and the first to encounter problems associated with approaching the speed of sound. It entered service in late 1941. More than 10,000 were built, and the plane was used in every theatre during the war. 

After the war, hundreds of military transports were suddenly available as well as the many civil transports that had been pressed into military service. These included the Lockheed C-69 (L-049 Constellation), which had first entered service in 1943 and was the first pressurized air transport—much preferred for long-distance routes—produced in large numbers. By the mid-1950s, Lockheed had developed stretched versions of this plane—called the Super Connie—that could carry more than 100 passengers for over 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometres) and could cross the Atlantic on regularly scheduled flights.

In the mid-1950s, Lockheed was seeking to replace its Super Constellation series with a mid-range airliner, which it did with its four-engine turboprop Model 188 Electra. On June 8, 1955, American, Eastern, and other carriers ordered several dozen. The Model 188 was completed in 26 months and flew on December 6, 1957, eight weeks ahead of schedule. Airline deliveries began in 1958. But three Electras were lost in fatal accidents in 14 months in 1959-60, and the company was forced into an expensive modification program. In two of the crashes, in-flight structural failures caused by weakness of the engine mount that led to excessive vibration had torn the aircraft apart. Although Lockheed overcame the problem, the public lost confidence in the plane, and its production ended after only 174 aircraft were built. Lockheed suffered an estimated loss of $57 million plus another $55 million in lawsuits. A military version, the P-3 (P3V) Orion long-range patrol aircraft, however, went into service in 1962 and stayed in production into the 1990s, with hundreds of variants successfully flying worldwide.

Work on jet propulsion had started at the beginning of the war, and Lockheed received a contract for its first jet fighter, the XP-80, from the U.S. Army Air Force in June 1943. The XP-80 project was completed in just 143 days. It embodied Kelly Johnson's credo: "Be quick; be quiet; be on time." At the start of the program, Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson had established his famous Advanced Development Projects Section, housed next to a plastics factory. Its location earned it the nickname "Skunk Works" after the smelly moonshine still in Al Capp's Li'l Abner comic strip. The Skunk Works' method of an isolated project team focusing on a single goal would become part of the Lockheed aura, especially in connection to future classified reconnaissance aircraft such as the U-2 and the SR-71.

The Lockheed P-80 "Shooting Star" (based on the XP-80) was America's first production jet fighter and first flew in 1944. Plans had been to produce some 5,000 of the planes, but it was not ready for combat until December 1945, after the war had ended. However, the P-80 (later called the F-80) was used during the Korean War and about 1,700 were eventually built. A lengthened two-seater F-80 used as a trainer designated the T-33A served with more than 30 Air Forces, and almost 6,000 were built.

In January 1951, Lockheed reopened a government-built plant at Marietta, Georgia, and the complex was used to build Boeing B-47 Stratojets, C-130 Hercules, and JetStar aircraft. The YC-130 prototype, which would become famous as the Hercules, first flew on August 23, 1954. The JetStar would continue in production until 1980. In 1961, the Lockheed-Georgia Division was reorganized as the Lockheed-Georgia Company.

In the mid-1950s, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, based in southern California, moved firmly into the military aviation sector. Its Skunk Works, the popular name for its advanced projects office, could take credit for most of Lockheed's early military sales. Led by the talented designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, the facility designed America's first operational jet fighter, the P-80, that entered service late in World War II. In 1952, the Skunk Works designed the famous reconnaissance plane, the U-2, which debuted in 1955. It presented intelligence analysts with the Central Intelligence Agency and other organizations with critical airborne imagery over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. The U-2 remained the mainstay of airborne reconnaissance through the end of the 20th century.

When a U-2 spy plane was brought down over the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960, the need for a faster and higher-flying plane became obvious. The result was the SR-71 "Blackbird," which evolved from the YF-12 interceptor. The YF-12 itself had evolved from the A-12, which first flew on April 24, 1962, and which was used for CIA flights around the world. The Blackbird first flew on December 22, 1964, and test pilot Robert Gilliland took the aircraft to Mach 1.5. It entered service as the Air Force's first Mach 3 aircraft in January 1966. It was retired in 1990, and then brought back into service briefly in 1995. The Blackbird was the only plane to be the fastest operational aircraft in the world from the day it entered service until the day it was retired.

The Skunk Works also produced the F-104 Starfighter. Accepted by U.S. Air Force in 1958, it was the first and most widely used Mach 2 jet fighter built. Although sales of the plane began slowly and a large number of planes crashed during use, worldwide Starfighter production eventually reached 2,583. Manufacturers in seven countries produced Starfighters, and they equipped at least 15 Air Forces.

With the need for military deployment around the globe as a result of the Cold War, Lockheed began in the latter 1950s to develop a succession of significant military transports. The first of these was the C-130 "Hercules." Lockheed buildt more than 2,000 of the turboprop C-130, in different models, for the U.S. Air Force, and the airplane later found service in a multitude of nations around the world. It gained fame in the siege of Khe Sanh in Vietnam in 1968, re-supplying the Marines holding the post against a concentrated onslaught of North Vietnamese. The C-130 remained in service at the end of the 20th century. In the early 1960s, Lockheed produced the C-141 "Starlifter," the first pure jet cargo aircraft in the military transport fleet. The U.S. Air Force purchased 270 of these aircraft, greatly enhancing its ability to project military force around the world. It has served since 1964 and remains a central aircraft in the military air transport fleet. In the late 1970s, the fleet was modified for in-flight refuelling, increasing its operational range, and in the 1980s these aircraft were "stretched" by adding sections to the fuselage for greater cargo capacity.

Lockheed also received a contract in 1965 to build 115 C-5 "Galaxy" jet transports. The plane first flew on June 30, 1968. The largest U.S. Air Force plane to date, its wings spanned 222 feet 9 inches (67.9 meters) and it was 247 feet 10 inches (75.5 meters) long. (A football field is 300 feet [91 meters] long.) But Lockheed had underestimated the aircraft's cost. Delays and cost overruns resulted, and what had begun as a $2 billion project grew to $5 billion. In November 1969, Congress reduced funding to pay for only 81 aircraft.

Although primarily a military plane builder, Lockheed's chairman and CEO Dan Haughton was anxious to remain in the commercial sector. In 1969, the company decided to develop the three-engine L-1011 TriStar equipped with the high-performance Rolls-Royce RB.211 engine.

This decision led to all sorts of problems. Rolls-Royce itself was having serious financial difficulties and was almost bankrupt. But the British government was not inclined to help and in 1971, Rolls-Royce Aero Engines was placed in receivership. Production of TriStars stopped immediately. Lockheed was depending on TriStar sales, and without government help, would have followed Rolls-Royce into bankruptcy. After much negotiating, Haughton arranged for Congress to guarantee a loan of $250 million to Lockheed, allowing it to go ahead with its project and giving Rolls-Royce the funds it needed.

TriStars were produced until 1983. But the company never recouped its investment, and when production ended, it had lost over $2.5 billion on the aircraft. This was the last commercial airliner that Lockheed built.

In 1976, in the midst of the problems with the TriStar, the company revealed that some $22 million in "sales commissions" had been paid to foreign government officials, including $1 million to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and perhaps some amount also to West Germany, in exchange for doing business with Lockheed. In fact, questionable payments by Lockheed to foreign officials may have extended back to the 1950s and factored into the F-104 sale to NATO. Sales of the L-1011 to Japan in 1972 also involved bribery in the amount of some $14 million to Japanese agents and officials.

Arguably some of these payoffs could be termed extortion, where the foreign purchasers demanded payment in order to ensure a sale or prevent its cancellation. Nevertheless, whether Lockheed or the purchaser initiated them, and whether they actually improved Lockheed's financial situation, the "Lockheed Bribes" scandal shook the company to its core and forced several Lockheed executives to resign. The ensuing Senate investigations led to passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which President Jimmy Carter signed into law on December 19, 1977.

On September 1, 1977, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation became the Lockheed Corporation. At the time, the C-130 Hercules was still one of Lockheed's most successful planes, having first flown in December 1956. Lockheed produced the 1,500th unit of this large cargo plane in 1978. The 2,000th was delivered on May 15, 1992, and early in the 21st century, production still continues.

Lockheed's A-12 and SR-71 of the 1960s had used some low-observable, or stealth, technology, meaning that the aircraft were difficult to detect by radar. In 1976, after Lockheed had developed several prototypes, the Air Force awarded it the contract to develop the first stealth aircraft. Under the guidance of Ben Rich and his Skunk Works team, small test models began flying late in 1977. A full-scale development aircraft, piloted by Hal Farley, flew in June 1981. The aircraft used the radio signal of 117, which led to its designation as the F-117A even though it was solely an attack aircraft and not a fighter. It was also called the Nighthawk because the highly secret plane flew only at night for five years. Not until November 1988 was the F-117's existence revealed. Around the same time, 52 of the aircraft were delivered to the Air Force.

In the mid-1980s, Lockheed, along with aerospace companies Boeing and General Dynamics (GD), won a competition for the Advance Tactical Fighter (ATF), called the YF-22. The team received the development contract in April 1991. Under development as the Raptor, it may be operational by 2004. Lockheed acquired GD's Fort Worth Division in 1992, gaining both GD's share of the F-22 project as well as its highly successful F-16 program.

Meanwhile, on January 1, 1954, Lockheed had established a Missile Systems Division, soon renamed the Lockheed Missile and Space Company (LMSC). Its first project was the X-7 ramjet high-altitude vehicle. Beginning in 1956, Lockheed began producing reconnaissance satellites and other space hardware for the U.S. intelligence community. In 1960, after a string of failures, the Air Force and CIA orbited the first successful reconnaissance satellite, named CORONA. More than 140 versions of this spacecraft flew until 1972. Lockheed went on to build later reconnaissance satellites and the Agena upper stage, which boosted hundreds of military and civilian spacecraft into orbit. From 1959, it also supported the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program and built the solid-fuel Polaris missiles.

Early in NASA's Space Shuttle program, LMSC manufactured the tiles for the Shuttles' thermal protection system. It also beat out Rockwell International, the incumbent contractor, for the contract to manage all ground processing of the Space Shuttle fleet at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Lockheed also participated in the Air Force activation of Vandenberg Air Force Base for Shuttle operations. The company also developed the Support Systems Module for the Hubble Space Telescope as well as providing support for NASA during operations of the telescope.

In 1995, Lockheed and Martin Marietta, the dominant firm in defence/aerospace electronics, merged, forming Lockheed Martin. The new aerospace giant listed combined revenues of some $23.5 billion, with products ranging from transports and the most advanced combat planes to missiles and rocket launch vehicles, as well as a myriad of electronic systems and services. In 1997, Lockheed-Martin attempted to merge with Northrop Grumman, another aerospace company, but the Federal Government blocked the merger. In October 2001, a Lockheed-led team was chosen to produce the Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy, supersonic, multi-role fighter designed for use by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as the British military. The team plans to fly the first test aircraft in 2005 and deliver the first operational JSF in 2008.