Aerial photos of Air Force Plant 42

These amazing aerial photos of the secret USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, near Edwards AFB, were taken on Sunday, May 17, 2020. The Black Projects divisions of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed, the two largest military aircraft contractors, are located on opposite ends of the installation. They share a common runway. Also in the complex are the NASA Neil Armstrong Flight Research Center and other facilities. The entire Plant 42 complex includes approximately 5,800 acres of land. The entire complex is managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH.

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Panorama of the entire USAF Plant 42 looking due south. Bottom left is the Northrop Black Projects division, top right is Lockheed Skunk Works. In the background, above the Northrop facility is the NASA Neil Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC, formerly known as NASA Dryden Flight Research Center). The control tower is north of the NASA complex, below it in the panorama. According to a recent Environmental Impact Study the old 1959 structure will be replaced by a new 160-foot tower to be completed in 2021. In this photo no activity is evident at the designated site about a mile NW of the current tower.

Panorama of the Northrop Grumman plant, looking SW. The large hangar in the center is the birth place of the B-2 stealth bomber. Three new hangars and what appears to be a support building are under construction above and to the right of the B-2 hangar. They all share a new, common ramp.

Another panorama of the Northrop Grumman plant, looking due south. The new construction is in the center of the image.

Close-up of the new ramp. The hangar on the left appears complete. The hangar opposite is still under construction. The ramp is being extended to connect yet another new hangar with an attached support building. The new ramp is thought to be associated with the new super-secret B-21 Raider bomber.

This low-angle photo allows a look inside the skeleton of the hangar under construction and it also gives an idea of the size of these new hangars. The completed hangar appears to have hangar doors only on the left half of the side facing the ramp.

Close-up of the new ramp and hangar construction. It looks like the skeleton hangar has a pit in the center that contains some sort of mounting platform.

The Lockheed "Skunk Works" plant, home of the F-117 Stealth Fighter and other former Black Projects. This photo, looking due south, shows a large scraped area to the left of the ramp. The outline suggests that a new large hangar will be built here in the very near future.

The main hangar of the "Skunk Works" plant. Several Lockheed aircraft are mounted on pylons around the parking lot and office building complex in the foreground. Including an F-117 Stealth Fighter, in the shade between the two office buildings.

Beginning construction on the west side of the ramp. The footprint of a new good size hangar is barely visible. According to a local paper it will be a new 208,000 sq.ft. low bay advanced manufacturing facility. The facility will allow Lockheed Martin to integrate the use of AI, robotics, and other advanced technologies that help reduce costs, while incorporating advanced safety features. More information on the new building, designated Building 648, here.

NASA Neil Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC, formerly known as NASA Dryden Flight Research Center)

B-2 Stealth Bomber on the ramp in front of Northrop Grumman's main hangar. This particular airframe is used for maintenance training and possibly for the testing modifications. There is plenty of evidence of sheet metal repair work.

Lockheed CATBird (N35LX), a highly modified Boeing 737-330 that serves as an airborne avionics test bed, on the main ramp at the Lockheed Skunk Works facility. It is used as a test platform for F-35 avionics, in particular for new versions of the software.

X-47A (left) and X-47B, two Northrop Grumman UAV designs, under small scoot-and-hide hangars on the west side of the Northrop Grumman plant, just south of the engine test cells. The top of one of the cells can be seen in the bottom right corner of the photo

The Blackbird Air Park and the Air Force Flight Test Museum at the south entrance of the Plant 42 complex.

Related Links:

Air Force Plant 42 - Older article on DLR about Plant 42

Raw photos from the Plant 42 and China Lake photo mission (Sunday, May 17, 2020)

Raw photos from another Plant 42 photo mission (Wednesday, May 20, 2020)


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