The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1926 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995. The founder, Allan Lockheed, had earlier founded the similarly named but otherwise unrelated Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which was operational from 1912 through 1920. Allan Loughead and his brother Malcolm Loughead had operated an earlier aircraft company, Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which was operational from 1912 to 1920. The company built and operated aircraft for paying passengers on sightseeing tours in California and had developed a prototype for the civil market, but folded in 1920 due to the flood of surplus aircraft deflating the market after World War I. Allan went into the real estate market while Malcolm had meanwhile formed a successful company marketing brake systems for automobiles.

In 1926, Allan Lockheed, John Northrop, Kenneth Kay and Fred Keeler secured funding to form the Lockheed Aircraft Company in Hollywood (the spelling was changed phonetically to prevent mispronunciation). This new company utilized some of the same technology originally developed for the Model S-1 to design the Vega Model. In March 1928, the company relocated to Burbank, California, and by year's end reported sales exceeding one million dollars. From 1926-28 the company produced over 80 aircraft and employed more than 300 workers who by April 1929 were building five aircraft per week. In July 1929, majority shareholder Fred Keeler sold 87% of the Lockheed Aircraft Company to Detroit Aircraft Corporation. In August 1929, Allan Loughead resigned.[citation needed] The Great Depression ruined the aircraft market, and Detroit Aircraft went bankrupt. A group of investors headed by brothers Robert and Courtland Gross, and Walter Varney, bought the company out of receivership in 1932. The syndicate bought the company for a mere $40,000 ($660,000 in 2011). Ironically, Allan Loughead himself had planned to bid for his own company, but had raised only $50,000 ($824,000), which he felt was too small a sum for a serious bid. In 1934, Robert E. Gross was named chairman of the new company, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, which was headquartered at what is now the airport in Burbank, California. His brother Courtlandt S. Gross was a co-founder and executive, succeeding Robert as Chairman following his death in 1961. The company was named the Lockheed Corporation in 1977. The first successful construction that was built in any number (141 aircraft) was the Vega first built in 1927, best known for its several first- and record-setting flights by, among others, Amelia Earhart, Wiley Post, and George Hubert Wilkins. In the 1930s, Lockheed spent $139,400 ($2.29 million) to develop the Model 10 Electra, a small twin-engined transport. The company sold 40 in the first year of production. Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, flew it in their failed attempt to circumnavigate the world in 1937. Subsequent designs, the Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior and the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra expanded their market.  

At the beginning of World War II, Lockheed – under the guidance of Clarence (Kelly) Johnson, who is considered one of the best-known American aircraft designers – answered a specification for an interceptor by submitting the P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, a twin-engined, twin-boom design. The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in production throughout American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to Victory over Japan Day. It filled ground-attack, air-to-air, and even strategic bombing roles in all theaters of the war in which the United States operated. The P-38 was responsible for shooting down more Japanese aircraft than any other U.S. Army Air Forces type during the war; it is particularly famous for being the aircraft type that shot down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto's airplane.
In 1943, Lockheed began, in secrecy, development of a new jet fighter at its Burbank facility. This fighter, the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, became the first American jet fighter to score a kill. It also recorded the first jet-to-jet aerial kill, downing a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 in Korea, although by this time the F-80 (as it was redesignated in June 1948) was already considered obsolete. Starting with the P-80, Lockheed's secret development work was conducted by its Advanced Development Division, more commonly known as the Skunk works. The name was taken from Al Capp's comic strip Li'l Abner. This organization has become famous and spawned many successful Lockheed designs, including the U-2 (late 1950s), SR-71 Blackbird (1962) and F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter (1978). The Skunk Works often created high-quality designs in a short time and sometimes with limited resources.