The photo — clearly doctored, unless the Pentagon is running a secret spacecraft program — shows the T-65 being refueled by the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker. The image was submitted to MacDill Air Force Base, which in turn shared it with its 18,100 Facebook followers Wednesday. To date, it has been shared on Facebook more than 1,100 times.
The photo once again shows the long fascination in the U.S. military with the “Stars Wars” franchise. There’s many examples of it, including President Reagan’s now-defunct Strategic Defense Initiative to intercept enemy nuclear missiles commonly being referred to as the “Star Wars program” and a recently retired senior Pentagon official, Andrew W. Marshall, widely being referred to as Yoda, Skywalker’s sage mentor.
It’s unclear whether the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum saw MacDill’s Facebook post, but it also got in on the X-wing parody act Thursday night. Its submission:
The museum said the craft depicted is a T-56 X-wing “attached to the Carrier Suitability division of the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at Pax River.” As pointed out on the Naval Historical Foundation website last year, the doctored photo is now at least 10 years old, and originally looked like this when it was taken in 1942:
It stands to reason these won’t be the last doctored X-wing photographs we see. But the jokes will continue. Just last summer, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, chief of staff of the Air Force, told reporters at a breakfast in Washington that the service would continue to find people who want to fly the nation’s most advanced aircraft.
“We will continue to get the kinds of people we have gotten for years who want to come in and fly the F-22, the F-35, the X-Wing fighter,” he said, according to a Wall Street Journal account of the conversation.
Welsh, asked to clarify whether he was referring to the “Star Wars” spacefighter, responded, “Oh heck yes,” and then vowed jokingly that the service would have one someday.
UPDATE, 2:43 p.m.: The publication of this piece has led to a series of questions on social media. Consider this, which asks how much fuel an X-wing aircraft needs to complete the “Kessel Run,” an intergalactic smuggling route in “Star Wars”:
That led one journalist to wonder whether Peter Singer, the co-author of the military strategy thriller “Ghost Fleet,” could get the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency to weigh in during a panel discussion Singer was moderating at a “tech summit” sponsored by Defense One on Friday:
Singer responded. And so did DARPA:
UPDATE: 3:42 p.m.: I’m not sure, but I think DARPA just predicted X-wing technology is imminent.