From the development of the U-2 to the Stealth fighter, the never-before-told story behind America's high-stakes quest to dominate the skies Skunk Works is the true story of America's most secret and successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation's brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the chronicle of Lockheed's legendary Skunk Works is a drama of cold war confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering and human achievement against fantastic odds. Here are up-close portraits of the maverick band of scientists and engineers who made the Skunk Works so renowned. Filled with telling personal anecdotes and high adventure, with narratives from the CIA and from Air Force pilots who flew the many classified, risky missions, this book is a riveting portrait of the most spectacular aviation triumphs of the twentieth century.
Lockheed's Advanced Development Project has set standards for the aerospace industry for half a century. Under its presiding genius, Clarence ``Kelly'' Johnson, the Skunk Works produced America's first jet fighter, the world's most successful spy plane (U-2), the first three-times-the-speed-of-sound surveillance aircraft and the F-117A stealth fighter. Rich was Johnson's right-hand man and succeeded him as director in 1975, retiring in 1990. In an entertaining style, the authors describe Johnson's tyrannical managerial style, his thorny but productive relationship with the Air Force and the stealth-technology breakthrough that revolutionized military aviation. Writing with freelancer Jonas, Rich also recounts Skunk Works' failures, including experiments with liquid hydrogen as a propellant and spy-drone flights over China's remote nuclear test facilities. He has much to say about the Defense Department bureaucracy and warns, ``Everyone in the defense industry knows that bureaucratic regulations, controls, and paperwork are at critical mass... and... in danger of destroying the entire system.'' This is a significant book for those interested in aerospace research and development. Photos. (Oct.)