Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed

Overview

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...

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Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed

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Overview

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.

Here, for the first time, is the inside story of Lockheed's Skunk Works--the supersecret facility that developed the U-2, America's most successful spy plane; the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest-ever production jet; and the F-117A stealth fighter, the radar-invisible attack plane used during the Gulf War. "Dynamite--the true story of one of America's crown jewels!"--Tom Clancy. of photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Since its inception in 1943, the Skunk Works has been one of the most top-secret military contractors. Now that the Cold War has ended, its story is uncloaked by former chief Rich, now retired. Using a small number of expert employees, the Skunk Works built technologically advanced aircraft that were disavowed by the government and its users, the Air Force and the CIA, for years after the aircraft were operational. The Skunk Works built notable planes such as the P-80 (the first operational jet fighter), U-2 (the high-altitude spy plane), and F-117A (the Stealth fighter). The story of Stealth's development is most interesting not only in the design, building, and testing but also in its origina in a Russian scientist's paper on aeronautics. There are first-person accounts of some of the missions flown by pilots and notes from many government officials. Highly recommended.-William A. McIntyre, New Hampshire Technical Coll. Lib., Nashua
Booknews
An account by the head (1954-1975) of Lockheed Advanced Development Co. Rich guided the creation of the U-2, Blackbird, Stealth. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316743006
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 2/1/1996
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 95,690
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Rich headed the Skunk Works from 1975 until he retired in 1991. He died in 1995. Leo Janus is the author of Yeager, the acclaimed bestselling autobiography of test pilot Chuck Yeager.

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2009

    Great book

    I first picked this book up and started reading it because hey, skunkworks (also, it probably helped that I was discussing the SR-71 online around then).

    The book not only tells of the research and development of several famous Skunk Works aircraft, but it also tells how Ben Rich's life and corporate outlook changed during his years at Skunk Works.

    Personally, the thing that will stick with me about this book is Rich's focus on quality control as a means of keeping the costs down. I think that all managers should read this book, especially if they are in a industry that designs and produces physical products.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2005

    Best view into aviation developement

    Ben Rich is the main character and leads you through all his work that he is associated with in the Skunk Works projects. Ben Rich describes the difficulties and solutions developed that him, Kelly Johnson, and the rest of the Skunk Works encountered. The reader recieves a front row seat in aviation developement, the mechanics, the economic, and the political views. The reader also learns about the experiments that each airplane went through while the Skunk Works overcame the properties of physics and simple mechanics and test flights gone horribly wrong. I recommend this book to anyone who likes aviation, is interested in government spending, and mechanics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2000

    Outstanding!

    Ben Rich tells the story of his years at Skunkworks with both historical and technical perspective that make this book an absolute pleasure to read. He narrates his experiences under Kelly Johnson's leadership, and later as Kelly's chosen successor, with great detail and grace. I particularly liked his tales about dealing with politics, economics and Kelly. Also, as an aerospace engineer, I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of technical difficulties encountered and solutions developed in designing the aircraft that have kept the U.S. at the forefront of air supremacy. His dry humor adds spice and his candor make the reader feel as if they were sitting with Ben and hearing him tell the story. Another point of interest is the added perspective of people who worked with Ben throughout the years. All in all, this absorbing and revealing book is great reading for anyone who enjoys technical, historical and military topics.

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