M21 Pic2

The D-21 mounted on the back of the M-21.

The Lockheed D-21 was an American Mach 3+ reconnaissance drone. The D-21 was initially designed to be launched from the back of its M-21 carrier aircraft, a variant of the Lockheed A-12 aircraft.

An M-21 (specifically, a YF-12A Black Bird prototype) was used to transport a D-21 drone into Tselinoyarsk, during Operation Snake Eater in August 1964. The drone was used to insert Naked Snake into the area, due to heightened security. It was rigged to have its technologically-sensitive components self-destruct when the enemy was near in order to ensure the Soviets couldn't replicate the technology, although it was deliberately given U.S. markings to ensure that the Soviets knew of America's involvement, as part of negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev. Despite a successful landing, Snake felt that future designs of the D-21 pilot model should fix certain errors such as the landing buffer, as potential pilots could get killed using the drone in its current state.[1]

Ultimately, however, the project was cancelled in 1965 due to defense budget cuts made by then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Behind the scenes

The M-21 was colored metallic silver in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, due to a decision made by Yoji Shinkawa and Mataan, although director Hideo Kojima himself preferred the black color.[2]

In the 1990 Worlds of Power novelization of Metal Gear, Solid Snake infiltrates Outer Heaven in a similar composite aircraft, launching from a mother jet-plane outside enemy radar range inside a low-flying glider, before ejecting and parachuting to the ground.


Notes and references

  1. ^ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2004).
    This was mentioned in a radio conversation with Major Zero, and references the real-life termination of the project; a mid-air collision between the mother aircraft and the unmanned drone led to the death of the drone's launch operator.
  2. ^