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Showing 1-10 of 317 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 442 reviews
on August 12, 2012
This is a phenomenal book, and I want to stress that the few criticisms I'm going to offer should not dissuade people from picking this up and reading it. With help from co-writer Leo Janos, Ben Rich has written a fascinating account of one of the most secretive and successful "black projects" outfits in American military history.

Lockheed's "Skunk Works" was responsible for developing the P-38, but its real fame began to build as it concentrated on spy planes during the Cold War, specifically the U2 and the SR-71 Blackbird. Rich's account of the conception, construction and deployment of these two iconic aircraft is absolutely ... well, pun intended here ... RIVETING. The narrative is exciting; how could it not be? Here you had a secretive division of a major aeronautical contractor working on planes that would change the course of world history, and this division was facing deadlines, problems with materials, difficulties in coming up with new construction methods, and on and on. The Blackbird's use of titanium alone proved a major engineering hurdle, given how difficult that metal is to work with, but Skunk Works pulled it off...and the Blackbird remains the FASTEST air-breathing aircraft ever constructed, years after its retirement!

Two brief criticisms: One, the "other voices" interludes sometimes break up the narrative flow a bit too much. But Rich being what he was -- the second leader of a highly complex organization -- would naturally feel drawn to this kind of structure, in which value is placed on multiple viewpoints. Two, and I can't believe I'm writing this: Most books, if length is a problem, suffer from being too long. With "Skunk Works," I was hoping it would last even longer. Again, though, the book's concision is indicative of its author's personality; Rich was a "get it done" kind of guy who belied the image of a greedy contractor stretching out a project for as long as possible. Skunk Works prided itself on making or even beating deadlines, and thus Rich the author wasn't going to write a bloated book.

This is just a terrific read, especially for anyone interested in how successful organizations of any kind work, how America truly did win the Cold War, and how complexity challenges people with creative minds.
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on December 23, 2016
Excellent read about a true story. As an engineer, I found this a very captivating, informative, and engaging read - but I think the information is presented in such a way that a reader from any background can appreciate and understand the story and the bulk of the info presented. This book adds a huge amount of perspective and previously unknown background info to the story of the iconic Lockheed planes from the end of the Kelly Johnson era and also from the entirety of the Ben Rich era. The book tells the story in many chapters written by the author and his co-writer, but also in other chapters from the different perspectives of people that designed and flew the planes, among others. Rich and his co-writer go into interesting in-depth details about the engineering challenges faced and the benchmarks required of some of the best and (at the time) most secretive airplane programs of the Cold War era. The book also provides a window into the personality and character of the iconic Lockheed Skunk Works figures of this time period. Also, a great deal of interesting added perspective on the military industrial complex contract-garnering process is provided by this book. This book is a very interesting historical account presented in a page-turner format. Great read for the engineering inclined, history and CIA buffs, and others as well.
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on October 9, 2015
This book is absolutely AMAZING!
I'm kicking myself in the teeth for not having read it when it first came out. The hard copy was given to me as a gift when it was released and I refused to break the binding on it because I knew it would be a good book, perhaps a collector even.
I had forgotten I had it when I saw it was available on kindle and immediately bought it.
This book isn't simply about the amazing work of the Skunk Works up until the declassification of the F-117, this book is about leadership, teamwork and dedication.
SIMPLY AMAZING, A MUST READ!
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on September 23, 2016
"Skunk Works" is the popular moniker of Lockheed Martin's top, top secret aircraft aircraft program for the US government. This book is written by the second director of this program, Ben Rich. The book's primary focus is the U-2, F-117A, and last but not least the SR-71. A ship for the Navy, and a drone program are briefly covered also. Ben Rich is credited for developing and building "stealth" into military assets. Primarily aircraft. After Francis Gary Powers was shot down piloting a U-2 over Soviet Russia, it quickly became apparent that a faster, higher flying and stealthy aircraft was needed. Hence the SR-71. It can travel in the atmosphere at a height of nearly 90,000 feet. It can cruise at well over Mach 3, and has a Radar profile of about a ball-bearing (thus "Stealthy"). This book is fascinating and gives you a first-person account of these extraordinary aircraft. The F-117 flew over the center of Baghdad, without fighter escorts; and dropped 2,000 lb. bombs during the Iraq war. The U-2 is the only one out of the three that is still flying missions. As a matter of fact, a U-2 just recently crashed in California.
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on February 17, 2015
This book is amazing, what the men inside skunk works were able to do with a slide rule and paper is simply awe inspiring. Being an engineer and having a healthy understanding of what it takes to make things fly I was speechless reading about the quick turn around and the minuscule budgets they were able to operate on and still create the most advanced aircraft of all time. Still nothing has topped the SR-71 and they were able to completely design and build a prototype in a matter of months with not a single computer in the building. The end is a bit preachy about money and misappropriation of government funds but it does not over shadow the feats described by Ben Rich and many of the pilots that flew his contraptions.
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on June 1, 2017
Fascinating story of some of the most innovative aircraft in history. The story thrills me with the brilliance behind the scenes. I highly recommend this read.
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on April 13, 2017
This book is amazing. So much insight and detail into things that were beyond top secret, my favorite work of non fiction yet!
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on September 26, 2015
Kelly Johnson decided in 1958 that he wanted to design a Mach 3 plane that flew at 80,000 ft.

4 years later in 1962 the first legendary SR-71 spy-plane was on the runway ready for test flights.

Today such a feat seems like magic. This book is a reminder of what a small dedicated team can achieve under an inspired leader.

A very enjoyable read, and an insight into the "anything is possible" 60's that culminated in the moon landings.
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on December 31, 2016
This is as advertised - so if you are looking for insights into the Lockheed Skunkworks as it was this is a great introduction. A long time ago I had a previous book by Ben Rich which as I recall had a lot more anecdotal stories about the F117A. I lent it someone and it was never returned so I thought maybe this was an updated version. This book covers a lot more about the U2 and the SR 71 but at lot less about the F117.

I (mostly) enjoyed the extra quips from insiders and outsiders, it served to fill in a little more detail.

Still a good read and quite inspirational.
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on March 17, 2017
This book came recommended from an engineer I know. Amazing story, great advice in the last chapter. Shows how good we can be when focused. A good factual account that has technologies that are discussed in fiction books such as space wars.
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