Reddit Reddit reviews Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

We found 121 Reddit comments about Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

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Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
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121 Reddit comments about Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed:

u/Lee_Ars · 124 pointsr/WeirdWings

According to Ben Rich in Skunk Works, the challenge was in creating a design that broke down into a series of triangles when viewed from every major angle. 90-degree angles provide clear radar reflection, so everything had to be oblique and obtuse angles. (Contrary to popular opinion, stealth is far more a product of an aircraft's shape than anything else. Radar absorbing material absolutely helps, but shape is the critical factor—even more so than size. An enormous F-117A-shaped aircraft would have pretty much the same radar cross section as a small one.)

And they did it—when you look at the Have Blue demonstrator or the F-117 final planform, it's all triangles—everything is triangles. The resulting design is unstable on all 3 axes and wouldn't work without fly-by-wire, but it does work.

The usage of triangular facets was a limitation of the computing power available to engineers in the 70s when Have Blue was being designed. More modern stealth airplanes like the B-2 and the F-22 have fewer facets and more curves because they were built with supercomputers that could work out the complex radar cross section equations necessary.

u/ay_gov · 69 pointsr/todayilearned

If you haven't already read it and stuff like this interests you I just finished Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich. Rich was Kelly Johnson's successor and went on to design the F-117. The book was a really good read with a bunch of interesting anecdotes from pilots and engineers involved with all kinds of different skunk works projects.

u/Volgin · 48 pointsr/pics

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed is mostly about the F117 but also has a lot of info on the SR71 that came before it including how they got Titanium from the Russians through a dummy company in the UK, awesome read.

u/Death_Bard · 46 pointsr/Roadcam

Skunk Works

It’s one of my favorite books. It covers development of the U-2, SR-71, & F-117.

u/GhostofSenna · 43 pointsr/todayilearned

The F117 was designed to be as invisible as possible. When Ben Rich was trying to sell the plane to goverment personnel he would walk into their office and roll a marble across their desk and say "heres your plane", because that represented its radar cross section. That seems pretty damn invisible to me.

I highly recommend the book Skunkworks to anyone interested in first hand accounts of producing some of Lockheed's greatest creations.

EDIT: I was just looking through my copy of Skunkworks to find the passage. Here it is! I found another interesting passage where they were having a F117 model tested by a government official to verify Skunkworks radar claims, and it was virtually invisible.

u/Plexfused · 38 pointsr/engineering

Skunk Works, it's literally about aerospace/defense/rockets. I recommend it.

u/acranox · 30 pointsr/pics

If you haven't, you should read Skunk Works. I highly enjoyed it.

u/VisualAssassin · 21 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

Skunk Works is a fantastic read for anyone interested in the development of stealth flight.

u/SpaceIsKindOfCool · 20 pointsr/woahdude

The U-2 was an amazing airplane.

At cruising altitude of 70,000 feet (over 13 miles) nothing else in the world at the time could even get close to touching it. When the US started using the U-2 to fly over the USSR the Russians were able to track the flights, but even their highest performance jets and surface to air missiles were unable to take out the U-2. Russia spent a considerable amount of time and money working on a way to stop these flights. For 4 full years the US was able to photograph any part of Russia with amazing resolution before the Soviets managed to shoot one of the planes down with their newly developed SA-2 missiles. According to people who worked on the U-2 program around 90% of US intelligence information for those 4 years was provided by the U-2.

I highly recommend Skunk Works by Ben Rich. He worked on the U-2, SR-71, F-117A, and several other top secret aircraft. His book is probably the best I've ever read.

u/redbarff · 19 pointsr/todayilearned

There is a really cool book about the development of these early stealth aircrafts. What I got from it is that they used a specific field of mathematics to calculate the optimal geometry for deflecting the radar signals. And also paint the aircraft with painting that would absorb some of the signal. It was also stated in the book that the reason for the F117 having such sharp angles was due to the limited computational power at that time.

u/thinkforyourself · 17 pointsr/Roadcam

I learned all of this stuff because someone left a copy of the book Skunk Works on a shelf in a storage closet at work. I never was interested in the topic beforehand and didn't expect to be so enthralled but it offers a fascinating insight into the world of US black military programs. I'm not usually one to offer endorsements but legitimately I couldn't put this book down. The matter of fact nature and the first hand account is fascinating.

u/diehard1972 · 16 pointsr/WarplanePorn

From Ben Rich's book, SkunkWorks, he would take ball bearings and roll them across desks at the Pentagon "Here's your new plane on radar". Took them a while to prove to many that it was true.

u/ComoImports · 15 pointsr/todayilearned

I would highly recommend Skunk Works by former head of Lockheed Skunk Works Ben Rich

u/ilovecreamsoda · 14 pointsr/aviation

the F-117 was basically designed with a slide-ruler, pen and paper with very little computer power behind it. Most of it is a series of 2d renderings put together. They literally had engineers designing and building them on the floor right next to the mechanics and welders and shit. The Skunk Works were an impressive bunch.

Go read it, its amazing.

Also, Clarence "Kelly" Johnson has some insight into it with his book, too.

u/Taldoable · 14 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

I seem to recall, in Ben Rich's book "Skunk Works", more engine wasn't enough. They had to use the computer to constantly manipulate the control surfaces to keep the thing in the air.

u/sicktaker2 · 14 pointsr/todayilearned

Yes, they used dummy companies to buy the stuff, which was then turned into super-fast spy planes used to spy on their country. I always thought it was more impressive that the equation for calculating radar reflectivity that allowed for the creation of the F-117 came from a Russian physicist. We took the best they had to offer, and used it to make sure they wouldn't blow us up. If you want more fun, read this.

u/nspectre · 10 pointsr/woahdude

Really good read: Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

He's top o' the list of my engineer heros, right along side Burt Rutan.

u/BigBennP · 10 pointsr/CredibleDefense

> Stealth isn't some sort of get out of jail free card that let's you ignore air defenses


Stealth simply reduces the radar cross section of an aircraft. Many dedicated stealth aircraft also have methods to reduce the infrared signature and the sound signature.

If you read "Skunk Works" book by Ben Rich, it has a great lay mans explanation of how this works in terms of aircraft.

Radar works by essentially creating an electronic "ping" and then listening for the echo when it bounces off distant objects.

Anything will generate some echo. Square lines and big flat metal surfaces reflect radar the most.

Rounded surfaces or angled surfaces can reflect radar away from the reciever, so that even if an echo is generated, some of it gets bounced somewhere else.

Certain substances like wood, or certain composites, tend to absorb more radar than they send back.

All of these reduce the radar cross section.

Something like an F-15 is like a literal "barn door" on a radar screen. The big square intakes, square fins, etc. create big flat surfaces.

The SR71, which was incidentally stealthy, initially at least by accident, has the cross section of a much much smaller aircraft, like a small cessna. It can be picked up by radar, but it's so high and so fast, usually it's out of radar range before anything can be done about it.

The F117 is the size of a large bird on a radar return. You have to have a very high powered radar, very close, to pick it up. It also is subsonic only and has ducted engines which reduces it's infrared signature.

The B2, despite it's size, is even smaller than the F117, with the assitance of computer aided design. Kelly Johnson desicribed this as the difference between an Eagle and an Eagle's Eyeball.

The radar returns of the F22 and the F35 are classified, but given they are trade offs between performance and stealth, probably are closer to the F117 than the B2. Low observable, but not completely undetectable.

And like /u/darthpizza notes, not all radars react the same way. A very low frequency radar may pick up some things that a normal high frequency radar might not. However, low frequency radars have their drawbacks.

u/Project_Tzanov · 9 pointsr/aviation

The reason I corrected you in the first place is the same reason you are so vehemently defending yourself: because you believe the chief engineer deserves their proper credit.

I got most of these facts from this book:

I even had it opened while I referenced some of the facts I mentioned. I think you would really enjoy it and it would help you get some of your facts straight.

u/Do_not_reply_to_me · 9 pointsr/engineering
u/opking · 9 pointsr/aviation

I read this like 20 years ago, and have the audiobook now. I've spent many a commute hour listening to Mr. Rich's memoirs. Here's a linky to Amazon:

Fun side note, my stepmom's father (step-grandpa?) was a machinist @ Skunk Works. I mentioned this book to her and she said, oh yeah dad gave Kelly Johnson rides home every so often when his car was in the shop. Uhhh, what Mari?

u/Harmon1986 · 9 pointsr/pics

If you have some extra time and cash I highly recommend reading Skunk Works. Some great stories from the guys who built that plane and created Area 51.

u/tinian_circus · 9 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

True stealth is "you fly over the radar and don't get picked up." They actually could do that back in the day. The F-117 project manager mentioned it, it's a great book.

...but that was 30 years ago. Over-the-horizon radars (which are long-wavelength) and other such still pick these things up, but not very precisely. But still enough to cue your air defense systems if you're on the ball.

That said they're optimized around the x-band, so it's a huge advantage during a dogfight with other fighters. There's lots of anecdotal stories of F-22s winning dogfights because no one gets a firm lock on them.

u/dulcebebejesus · 7 pointsr/engineering

Great question!

Skunk Works by Ben Rich is a great read. He tells his story of his time in the Skunkworks as both a designer and a project leader.

u/GoogleTrypophobia · 7 pointsr/spaceporn

It's mentioned in this. Well worth reading if interested in Lockheed's black project planes tested at area 51.

u/SgtBrowncoat · 7 pointsr/todayilearned

If you are interested in the history of the Skunk Works, I recommend the book Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich. He worked under Johnson on the U-2 and SR-71; Rich was Johnson's successor and went on to become the father of stealth aircraft with the F-117 Nighthawk.

Johnson was pretty incredible, the F-104 Starfighter was also one of his planes.

u/mach_rorschach · 7 pointsr/engineering

continuing aero theme:

Skunk Works - Ben Rich

u/gx1400 · 6 pointsr/funny

Can't sell this book enough as a great read. Talks about the development of the F-117 at Lockheed.

Skunkworks: A Personal Memoir of my years at lockheed by Ben Rich

u/[deleted] · 6 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

Just finished the Skunk Works book and it was incredibly fascinating. I always want more pics of the SR-71. Beautiful bird.

u/tiag0 · 6 pointsr/MachinePorn

And the Nav system is still a pretty cool piece of tech if you consider the technical limitations of the time and that it was made in a world before GPS: The bloody thing basically locked onto the stars and navigated using them as a reference and it was VERY precise (precise enough to keep this bird on it's target, considering small deviations in course result in a BIG distance traveled during sustained Mach 3+ flight).

If you haven't done so, you MUST read Skunkworks

u/north97 · 6 pointsr/AskReddit

It was because they could never come up with a way to seal the tanks that would work at those temperatures. I believe there was even a sort of prize to anyone who could come up with a way. Source, tho it was a while ago when I read it.

u/seedle · 6 pointsr/aviation

Ben Rich - Skunk it, if not most in this subreddit have already ;)

u/evanbeard · 6 pointsr/aviation

Highly recommend the book Skunk Works - it covers the story of this plane and others Skunk Works

u/Comtraya · 6 pointsr/AerospaceEngineering

Has your friend read the book Skunk Works? I'd recommend it. If your friend likes building models, you can also run down to your local hobby shop and buy a plane or spacecraft kit to build one. Some may come pre-assembled if your friend isn't into building them.

u/Teflon_coated_velcro · 5 pointsr/AskEngineers

I'm not an engineer(yet), but I thoroughly enjoyed Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

u/notepadow · 5 pointsr/aviation

Highly recommend reading Ben Rich's autobiography about his time at Lockheed especially in conjunction with Kelly Johnson at Skunkworks.

U2, SR-71, Have Blue/F-117 all masterfully documented from an insider's perspective. Fascinating stuff.

u/RickyRocket3 · 5 pointsr/CrazyIdeas

You're right, and the guy who wrote the paper had no idea the U.S. had taken his work and run with it. He didn't find out until he came to teach in America in the early 90s.


u/Golf-Oscar-Delta · 4 pointsr/aviation

Shithead McCuntface Jesus Diaz again without crediting the source where these pics came from.

For those of you who want to know more about those pics, see a lot more such pics and read some more:

  1. Kelly: More Than My Share of It All
  2. Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
u/osprey413 · 4 pointsr/hoggit

While it may not be the kind of military aviation book you are looking for, Skunk Works is a pretty fascinating read about the development of the F-117 Nighthawk.

u/__PROMETHEUS__ · 4 pointsr/aerospace

Note: I am not an engineer, but I do have some suggestions of things you may like.


  • Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Krantz: Great book about the beginnings of the NASA program, Gemini, Mercury, Apollo, and later. Gene Krantz was a flight director and worked as a test pilot for a long time, and his stories are gripping. Beyond engineering and space, it's a pretty insightful book on leadership in high-stress team situations.

  • Kelly: More Than My Share by Clarence "Kelly" Johnson: This is on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. Kelly Johnson was a pioneer in the world of flight, leading the design and construction of some of the most advanced planes ever built, like the U2 and the SR-71. Kelly's impact on the business of aerospace and project management is immense, definitely a good guy to learn about. Plus he designed the P38 Lightning, without a doubt the most beautiful plane ever built ;)

  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of my Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich: A fantastic look at the inside of Lockheed Martin's advanced projects division, the Skunk Works. Ben Rich succeeded Kelly Johnson at Lockheed, so this one is going to overlap with the book above quite a bit. I loved the pace of this one, and it covered a lot more than just the F-117, as the cover would suggest - cool info on the SR-71, U2, F104, the D21 supersonic drone, and stealth technology in general. Beyond that, it provides an inside look at the intricacies of DoD contract negotiation, security/clearance issues, and advanced projects. Awesome book, highly recommend.

  • Elon Musk's Bio by Ashley Vance: A detailed history of all things Musk, I recommend it for the details about SpaceX and the goal to make humans a multi-planetary species. Musk and his (now massive) team are doing it: thinking big, getting their hands dirty, and building/launching/occasionally blowing up cool stuff.


  • Selenian Boondocks: general space blog, lots of robotics and some space policy

  • Gravity Loss: another space blog, lots about future launch systems

  • The Age of Aerospace: Boeing made a cool series of videos last year for their 100th birthday. Great look at the history of an aerospace mainstay, though it seems a bit self-aggrandizing at times.

  • If you want to kill a ton of time on the computer while mastering the basics of orbital mechanics by launching small green men into space, Kerbal Space Program is for you. Check out /r/kerbalspaceprogram if your interested.

  • Subreddits like /r/spacex, /r/blueorigin, and /r/ula are worth following for space news.
u/Aurailious · 3 pointsr/AirForce

[This book is also an interesting look inside early skunk works projects.] ( )

u/LineofBestFit · 3 pointsr/aerospace

[Skunk Works by Ben Rich is a fascinating book that you should check out] (

u/qwicksilfer · 3 pointsr/EngineeringStudents

What everyone said is correct: math, math, math, and enjoy your last summer ;) You may also want to learn how to code in C++ or Fortran (yes, yes, it's ancient, but pretty much all NASA codes are written in C++ or Fortran) or even Matlab, if you have access to it.

Also, if you want to read some inspirational type books: Kelly Johnson's Memoir, the man basically invented Skunk Works. I also loved Flying the SR71, which is all about the Blackbird. It may sound corny, but Rocket Boys is my go-to book and/or movie when I feel discouraged and like I can't hack it as an engineer. And Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" was really interesting to me.

What I found pushed me through the grueling classes, assignments, 50% on a test... was my passion for space exploration and propulsion methods. So I suggest in addition to the math and enjoying the free time you have left that you find what makes you passionate to be an engineer :). Because sometimes, at 2 am in a computer lab, after staring at the same chunk of code for 3 hours and not understanding why it doesn't seem to friggin work out... passion is all you have!

Best of luck to ya!

u/codethevoid · 3 pointsr/pics

Currently reading Ben Rich's Skunk Works and it's mind-numbing how far ahead of its time the Blackbird was. "We are traveling at twice the speed of a sixteen-inch shell, and we don't turn on a dime. A tight turn takes between sixty and a hundred nautical miles, and if a pilot gets a little sloppy he could start a turn over Atlanta and end up over Chattanooga."

u/greyfinch · 3 pointsr/science

ahem Kelly Johnson with pencils and rulers. And he didn't need either.

I would highly recommend that aviation junkies read this book. I bought it when I was probably 12, and I reread it all the time. The things that skunkworks did is amazing.

It's a tragedy that Jim died. Unfortunately, when shit goes sour at mach 3, there's no power that can save you beyond dumb luck.

u/GetToDahChoppah · 3 pointsr/videos

Skunkworks - Ben Rich

This is one incredible book if this video even remotely interests you

u/flashbang123 · 3 pointsr/asktrp

I started to read more when I was trying to unplug. TV/Netflix/phones can really pull you out of reality, make your brain weak as you begin to lose control of your thoughts. Just try not watching TV/youtube for 3 days...why is it so hard? Are we addicted to screens or are we just lazy. Research neuroplasticity, and how you can make your brain work for you (any how you fall into additive traps when you lose control of your attention). A lot of people on here are recommending meditation, I can't stress how important this is.

Start by reading someting that interests you...check out r/suggestmeabook if you need some help. Also, I can recommend some great books:

  • Snow Crash - Neil Stephenson // The best cyberpunk/sci-fi roller-coaster of a read I have come across.
  • The Iliad - Homer / Fagles translaition // Read this to understand the mankind's greatest story about war, violence and masculinity - this is about the Trojan war (well 4 days near the end), and was widely considered to be the Bible for ancient Greeks.
  • A Man on the Moon - Andrew Chaikin // Fascinating (and accurate) account of NASA's Apollo space program from start to finish.
  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed - Ben Rich // Behind-the-scenes account of the Skunk Works program and the incredible achievements they made back in the day.

    Best of luck.

u/erlingur · 3 pointsr/videos

If anyone wants to find out just what went into making these amazing machines I highly recommend Skunk Works. Just a fantastic book filled with great stories of the development of the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird and more.

I got this as a birthday present and could not put it down until I finished it.

u/Finkaroid · 3 pointsr/WarplanePorn

Just bought this book

And just started the section about the blackbird. Very excited for that.

u/MisterYu · 3 pointsr/LosAngeles

If anyone is interested in learning more about Lockheed in Burbank, this book has some pretty good stories about some of the high profile projects that were designed/built there.

u/larrymoencurly · 3 pointsr/ScienceFacts

Read Skunk Works, a history of Lockheed's secret division that designed the SR-71, the U-2, and the F-117 stealth fighter. The author, aeronautical engineer Ben Rich, was the second person to head Skunk Works, after the legendary Kelly Johnson retired. Rich's first project as head of the division was the stealth fighter, and Johnson literally kicked him in the ass because he thought if it failed it could end Rich's career.

u/johnnycman · 3 pointsr/IAmA

Also not an AMA but related: Ben Rich's book Skunk Works covers some of what went on at Area 51.

u/ReluctantParticipant · 3 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

Read the book Skunk Works. It's fascinating and will answer all your questions about the F-117.

u/bmw357 · 3 pointsr/AskReddit

There are a few, probably one of the most appreciated/sought after is Sled Driver. Shul was a pilot and also a photographer, and the book is full of some awesome pictures. After he retired, he became a photographer and motivational speaker. He wrote the story above; this is a slightly different and expanded version.

There are also some great stories in the book (and a lot about the development/construction of the plane Skunk Works by Ben Rich. He also talks about the U2 and the F117A.

u/DLS3141 · 3 pointsr/AskEngineers

Anything by Henry Petroski

Skunk Works by Ben Rich Military aircraft aren't really developed this way anymore, but the stories are amazing.

Blind Man's Bluff

u/zcohenld · 3 pointsr/EngineeringPorn

All depends on what you do. Sure, many engineers stay at their desks their whole lives, just as many engineers are out in the field or on the floor working alongside the technicians.

Read Skunkworks. Rich goes into detail a couple times that Kelly Johnson, the father of Skunkworks would make sure his engineers were right next to the assembly line at all times. This allowed the engineers to still design what they needed to work on, but also go right to the floor in a matter of seconds to fix or check what they needed to.

u/Gereshes · 2 pointsr/AskEngineers

In no particular order but all of the following are great.

  • Skunk Works by Ben Rich - I reviewed it here
  • Ignition! - It's an informal history of liquid rocket propellant and I did a more in depth review of it here
  • The Design of Everyday Things - A book about how objects are designed. It changed how I look at the world and approach design. It took me few tries to get into it the first time.
  • Introduction to Astrodynamics by Battin - A great textbook on the basics of astrodynamics that is both easy enough for undergrads to start, and rigorous enough to keep you interested as your math skills improve in grad school and later.
u/BlueShellOP · 2 pointsr/recruitinghell

It's called Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed.

I can absolutely recommend reading it.

u/NewThoughtsForANewMe · 2 pointsr/Military
u/Carbonade · 2 pointsr/starcitizen

There is a really cool book called Skunk Works, which talks about this technology-race during the cold war. I recommend it for anyone interested in reading about the stealth tech development.

u/learnyouahaskell · 2 pointsr/pics

An immature internet writer adulterating the writing of Shul. Search for "Sled Driver pdf" if you would like to see the 1st edition original. I'm not sure if the account in fancy, limited, later edition was as brief, but it was definitely terse, understated, tongue-in-cheek, and professional. None of this highschooler self-congratulatory, chest-beating cowboyish fantasy.

You might be able to find it at a local library:
Here is another book highly worth reading:

u/KderNacht · 2 pointsr/CasualConversation

The autobiography of Ben Rich, one time chief of Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works division. He was in the team for U-2 and SR-71 and was head of the F-117 development. It's basically the birth story of modern stealth technology.

u/chucksfc · 2 pointsr/pics

Read Skunk Works - - if you want the whole story - great read - and Kelly Johnson is a pimp.

u/bbluech · 2 pointsr/personalfinance

Yeah, this one is really cool.

Just be aware that the author did run the skunk works for a time and is obviously biased towards the model. That being said the Skunk Works as a whole is a really fascinating model of business and the story of Lockheed's is really cool even beyond what you might take away from the book.

u/thisabadusername · 2 pointsr/suggestmeabook

Maybe this would be interesting? Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

u/Brad_Chanderson · 2 pointsr/hoggit

If you enjoyed this, give Stealth Fighter a read!

And if you're in this subreddit, give Skunk Works a read. It's one of the best.

u/AgAero · 2 pointsr/engineering

I might as well start.

Skunk Works -- This is a memoir by Ben Rich of Lockheed's Advanced Development Programs division(AKA Skunk Works). If you're interested in aviation, I'd highly recommend it! Ben Rich lead the Skunk Works during development of the F-117 Nighthawk and the development of stealth technology(including a stealth ship for the Navy that never got the green light). He also worked on the U-2 Dragonlady, and designed the engine inlets for the SR-71 Blackbird.

The Machine that Changed the World -- I'm currently working on this one, so I don't have a fully developed opinion just yet. So far it's pretty neat. This is an expositional work about the Toyota Production System, and similar aspects of industrial engineering(dubbed Lean Production) that were developed in Japan after WW2. The authors have a tendency to proselytize it seems like, but maybe that's for good reason. It's not my area of expertise.

u/planepartsisparts · 2 pointsr/aviation

Get Ben Rich’s book about Lockheed’s Skunk Works Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed also Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond has excellent stories and Brian Shul has some excellent stories and photographs in his books but I don’t think they are in print any longer.

u/DrMarianus · 2 pointsr/ProjectMilSim

After loads of reading on the bus to work every day, here follows my reading list for military aviation:


  • Viper Pilot - memoir of an F-16 Wild Weasel pilot who flew in both Iraq Wars
  • A Nightmare's Prayer - memoir of a Marine Harrier Pilot flying out of Bagram.
  • Warthog - Story of the A-10C pilots and their many varied missions in Desert Storm
  • Hornets over Kuwait - Memoir of a Marine F/A-18 pilot during Desert Storm
  • Strike Eagle - Story of the brand new F-15C Strike Eagle pilots and their time in Desert Storm


  • The Hunter Killers - look at the very first Wild Weasels, their inception, early development, successes, and failures
  • Low Level Hell - memoir of an OH-6 Air Cav pilot


  • Unsung Eagles - various snapshots of the less well-known but arguably more impactful pilots and their missions during WWII (pilot who flew channel rescue in a P-47, morale demonstration pilot, etc.)
  • Stuka Pilot - memoir of the most prolific aviator of Nazi Germany (and an unapologetic Nazi) who killed hundreds of tanks with his cannon-armed Stuka
  • The First Team - more academic historical look at the first US Naval Aviators in WWII


  • Skunk Works - memoir of Ben Rich, head of Lockeed's top secret internal firm and his time working on the U-2, SR-71, and F-117 including anecdotes from pilots of all 3 and accounts of these remarkable planes' exploits.
  • Lords of the Sky - ambitious attempt to chronicle the rise and evolution of the "fighter pilot" from WWI to the modern day
  • Red Eagles: America's Secret MiGs - the story of the long-top secret group of pilots who evaluated and flew captured Soviet aircraft against US pilots to train them against these unknown foes.
  • Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage - story of the US submarine fleet starting at the outbreak of the Cold War and their exploits

    Bonus non-military aviation

    I highly second the recommendations of Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Diamond Age. I would also recommend:

  • Neuromancer - defined the cyberpunk genre
  • Ghost in the Wires - memoir of prolific hacker Kevin Mitnick
  • Starship Troopers - nothing like the movie
  • The Martian - fantastic read
  • Heir to the Empire - first of the Star Wars Thrawn Trilogy and the book that arguably sparked the growth of the Extended Universe of Star Wars
  • Devil in the White City - semi-fictional (mostly non-fiction) account of a serial killer who created an entire palace to capture and kill his prey during the Chicago World's Fair
  • Good Omens - dark comedy story of a demon and an angel trying to stop the end of the world because they like us too much
  • American Gods - fantastic story about how the old gods still walk among us
  • Dune - just read it
u/LTmad · 2 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

I fucking love what SkunkWorks does. This book really made me want to try and become an aerospace engineer and potentially make it into Lockheed Martin. This stuff fascinates me, I just wish I was advanced enough in my education to understand most of it. In time, I will get there.

That book is also what gave me my always raging SR-71 boner.

u/phillymjs · 2 pointsr/todayilearned
u/giles202 · 2 pointsr/TrueReddit

A worthwhile read: Skunkworks by Ben Rich It includes development of the U-2, SR-71 and F-117 as well as stories from pilot and engineers.

u/whatwasmyoldhandle · 2 pointsr/aviation

by the way, has anybody else read this book?

it's a really good one. lots of cool information about the sr71, even though there's another plane on the cover

u/TheF0CTOR · 2 pointsr/todayilearned

They also were so fast that they had to be flown mostly by computers. A pilot once took manual control after his computer malfunctioned, and an error in judgement brought him over the wrong country.

They also did a fly-over where they broke the sound barrier over a building (on purpose). The sonic boom shattered the office windows, but the plane was never seen. It was too high to be visible. The plane was later sold and used by the US government.

Do you know why they used Titanium? Any other metal would've melted due to friction caused by drag.

Even if you can get a positive missile-lock (given the title, we'll go for death-ray) on an SR-71, you can't hit it. It would be across your airspace faster than you could give the order. If it's any comfort, getting a positive lock is next to impossible.

Source book on Amazon

u/kallekilponen · 2 pointsr/fireflyspace

Besides, black does have its advantages. It does absorb a lot of solar radiation, but it also helps to radiate heat at a faster rate than a white surface. This is why the Blackbird was painted black. It allowed them to use a more malleable grade of titanium.

Source: Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed

u/hwillis · 2 pointsr/MilitaryPorn

The director on the f117, Ben Rich wrote a book about his time in Skunkworks. The f117 was incredible. It was actually made possible by a Russian academic paper! They had a hell of a time translating it, and then they had to build a computer program to do the first radar signature simulations to actually design the thing. Even today it's the stealthiest thing flying because it sacrificed absolutely everything to be as undetectable as possible. The aerodynamics are hell and the engines are choked by huge baffles. Even the cockpit is uncomfortable to keep radar from getting in. No visibility and it was computer controlled way before its time because it was uncontrollable otherwise.

But that little thing is hard to see. The first tech demonstrator they designed was a small model that sat on a pole a short distance away from a radar antenna. It didn't even show up. It has to be measured with special equipment in a controlled environment... and the full-scale plane was even less visible.

u/orangetsarina · 1 pointr/todayilearned

It depends on your budget. I got this for my dad as a "thank you for helping me fly" present and he loved it. The pictures are what really got me to purchase it. The new edition is available on his website and is slightly cheaper than the original (250ish?). I think it was worth it my dad talked about it for months. Read skunkworks my dad said if you loved that you would enjoy Sleddriver as well... Ah ur link was cheaper mi scusi! I guess the new ones reached amazon now!

u/Sequenc3 · 1 pointr/cigars

Assuming you're an adult male above the age of 5 you'll love this book.

You can read excerpts online, I did then I went and bought the thing.

u/Chrusciki · 1 pointr/MachinePorn

its that good? I just dont have the time right now to sit down and read a book, classes are kicking my ass.

you should check out this book. i sense you would enjoy it allot. i have given this around to so many people because of how good it is.

u/WalterFStarbuck · 1 pointr/AskReddit

In addition to Guns, Germs, and Steel:

u/AmbivelentApoplectic · 1 pointr/UFOs

I've got the book [Skunkworks] ( and in that Ben Rich says they have the technology to take ET home but it's locked up in black projects. So I would say Lockhead, Boeing and the usual other military suppliers.

u/imwear · 1 pointr/videos

If you want to learn more about how the stealth bomber & other Lockheed planes (including the SR-1) were developed check out Ben Rich's book:

u/idontreadresponses · 1 pointr/AdviceAnimals

There's actually a large amount of info out there about Area 51 from people who worked there.

This book was written by the former director of Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991, overseeing the development of stealth technology at Area 51.

Loads of information and photos (yes, photos from inside Area 51!!!) from a former employee involved in the top secret transfer of prototype supersonic spyplanes to Area 51 for testing.

There's a fuckload of other good info out there. You might be able to track someone down and ask them directly if they'd be willing to do an AMA.

u/NZAllBlacks · 1 pointr/videos

If any of you like this, I would HIGHLY recommend the book Skunk Works written by the head of Lockheed Martin's secret division that made these planes. It's a fantastic book.

u/_Mr-Skeltal_ · 1 pointr/explainlikeimfive

It may be slightly dated, but you definitely want to read Ben Rich's autobiography Skunk Works. It's extremely thorough on this topic.

u/thalguy · 1 pointr/AskReddit

If you want a lot of firsthand stories of Area 51 and awesomeness in general, check out Skunkworks by Ben Rich. He worked on, or oversaw, the development of the U2, F-117a, SR-71, and other stealth planes and boats. It's really awesome and has some good pictures in it too.

u/driftingphotog · 1 pointr/MachinePorn

Ben Rich's book Skunk Works is also a good read.

u/ShooDooPeeDoo · 1 pointr/conspiracy

This is not the FIRST time they've opened up. Read from one of the original leaders in his book here:

u/soxy · 1 pointr/AdviceAnimals

There is a book called Skunk Works about Lockheed's experimental division (written by the retired head of the division) that came out nearly 20 years ago that has full details about finding and naming the site Paradise Ranch and exactly what planes they flew in and out of there. I just doesn't ever explicitly call it Area 51.

So yeah, not new news at all.

u/ReggieJ · 1 pointr/funny

In another thread that had nothing to do with TSA or politics or any of that kind of stuff, someone recommended this book, authored by the head of Lockheed-Martin skunkworks.

He basically talks about the same thing you just did -- how the company would close the contract with one branch of the military and then the military would reduce its order number, and Lockheed would end up getting bitched at because costs per unit would spike.

u/FuSoYa69 · 1 pointr/MilitaryPorn

Folks might be interested in this seminar given recently as well as this book.

u/Redarrow762 · 1 pointr/space
u/theyoyomaster · 1 pointr/explainlikeimfive

Excellent write-up but missed a few things. The first (minor one) is losses to transmissions; the more fancy the transmission the more likely it is to steal some of that sweet, sweet horsepower on its way to the wheels. CVTs are nice for the obvious benefit of infinitely variable ratios, but they lose a fair amount in the process.

Transmissions aside, the main factor you excluded was the ratio speed per energy used rather than power per energy used. The easiest example of this for ELI5 is the SR-71. They found that it was most efficient at max throttle, it would be burning twice as much fuel but it would be going more than three times as fast. Pointing out the integral of distance vs speed is probably above the ELI5 level but power per gallon per hour isn't the measure of automotive efficiency over MPG for a reason. If you make 200 hp at 8 gallons per hour, but can make 180 at 9 gallons per hour going 30% faster (perhaps losing the 20 hp to drivetrain at speed) you are still going to go further with the same gas. The most efficient RPM/throttle at the highest point on speed per fuel is going to give you the best MPG.

Airplanes have a lot of great data that shows all the variables if you really want to geek out about it. PDF page 132 of the Cessna 172 POH has some great tables showing all the variables of altitude, temperature and RPM setting with % maximum power, air speed and fuel used. Ben Rich's book [Skunk Works] ( also dives into great detail on the efficiencies at high mach.

u/eddier1200 · 1 pointr/EngineeringStudents

If you haven't read it already...

It depicts Kelly Johnson from Ben Rich's point of view. A great read.

u/alupus1000 · 1 pointr/worldnews

It's not how it works. Otherwise you could paint a B-52 and make it a stealth aircraft.

I'd recommend this book, by the guy that designed the F-117.

u/fuckitimatwork · 1 pointr/pics
u/by_a_pyre_light · 1 pointr/laptops

> failed stealth bomber from the 90's

The F117 Nighthawk was 1) a fighter, 2) a triumph of technology, 3) from the 1970s to 1980s, and 4) a massive success. It single-handedly destroyed more targets in the Gulf War than any other bomber or fighter wing, and it did all of that without losing a single plane.

If you're at all interested, I highly recommend this book. Written by the head engineer of the F117a and SR-71 Blackbird projects, it's an amazing look into the technical challenges they had to overcome to make the most advanced technology on the planet.

/end rant

> If I can somehow find a deal on the blade in the UK for >£1200 I might pull the pin, however, it will probably be hugely overpriced. It's a lovely laptop tho.

I mean, I don't understand how that could ever be possible on a new one. They sell for $1,799 USD new and that's the cheapest it's ever been. I'm not so good on the maths and conversions, but my experience tells me you guys usually get a straight across trade, where $1,799 = £1,799. Sometimes, you guys get more.

You may be able to get one of the 2015 970m ones used in good condition for that price though, but then you're buying a device that's 40% slower across the board.

u/ptitz · 1 pointr/history

The Francis Gary Powers part you can read about in Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben Rich. It's a fantastic book, even if you're not into planes. It has a chapter about the U2 program, and the whole incident. Long story short, when Francis Gary Powers returned he was ostricized by the CIA, and in the media he was sometimes portrayed as a coward or a traitor for "choosing" to be captured instead of killing himself. In the end Lockheed took him in as a test pilot, and it wasn't until years after his death that he was completely rehabilitated.

u/ksobby · 1 pointr/todayilearned

Please read Skunk Works. An argument can be made that civilians made this ... but for no other reason than to give it to the military. The development of the F117 or the SR71 shows you just how far ahead of the curve that military funded R&D is versus civilian products.

And while I agree that cost will take a backseat, reliability is actually QUITE important when coupled with performance. Both must be at their peak for a project to go off the board and onto the tarmac.

u/Dug_Fin · 1 pointr/MilitaryPorn

> Don't many other nations possess advanced Russian SAMs that could easily take out a U-2?

Sure, but the specific mission the U-2 and SR-71 were built for was mapping overflights of the Soviet Union. The U-2 is still valuable for a variety of aerial recon missions, but we no longer need to violate hostile airspace when we use it. They claim satellites have supplanted the SR-71, and while that claim is dubious in many regards, the mapping of hostile territory mission has definitely been shifted to satellite assets.

Skunk Works is a good book on the subject. It's the autobiography of Ben Rich, one of the engineers of the SR-71 and the head of the Skunk Works after Kelly Johnson retired. Lots of detail on the early cold war stuff that spurred the development of these two remarkable aircraft.

u/Little_Metal_Worker · 1 pointr/MilitaryPorn

first of all, i would recommend reading Skunk Works by Ben Rich. if you really find the subject interesting, that book is fascinating.

as for the F-22, and mind you I'm certainly not an expert in stealth technology, but i can tell you that radar waves don't work like visible light. next, i can tell you that some of the techniques used to achieve stealth include skinning the plane in a radar transparent materials, sometimes with a copper mesh woven in to absorb the radar waves and then dissipate them in the form of heat. behind the radar transparent materials the inner structure would be designed in a way to reflect the radar wave away from their point of origin. all of this of course is the most basic level of stealth. but remember the US has been working on this tech for over 50 years now. anyway hope that helped you understand it a lil bit.

u/PurposeToMelody · 1 pointr/pics

Everyone should check out Ben Rich's book "Skunk Works" he worked under Kelly Johnson and took over the Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works after he left and worked on the SR-71 and rhe F-117. It's a fantastic book and a interesting look into one of the most beloved aviation divisions of all time.

u/zipperseven · 1 pointr/todayilearned

For anyone interested in aerospace design, Lockheed Skunkworks, Cold War military industrial complex bureaucracy, the founding of Area 51, or the design of the U-2, SR-71, and F-117 aircraft; I'd highly recommend the book by Ben Rich, who was the program manager on the 117 and a protege of Kelly Johnson. There's lots of nifty details and anecdotes like this.

u/MudvayneMW · 1 pointr/todayilearned

Read this

Lockheed had successfully tested a weaponized version of it, although if I recall correctly the only pilot that lost his life was during this testing (although I could be mistaken and have it mixed up with the D21 incident, or I might just be completely wrong on that part).

I unintentionally read the book in two days. Being as aerospace engineer I really loved it. And I couldn't agree more with Kelly' Johnson's rule #15 (never work with the navy).

u/GalantGuy · 1 pointr/askscience

>it cannot change the amount of radiation it emits.

I don't believe that's correct. In the book Skunkworks (highly recommended, by the way), the author talks about the decision to paint the SR-71 black as a way of dealing with heat dissipation problems, because black objects emit more heat than the unpainted surfaces did.

I'll try to find a better source.

u/Lighth_Vader · 1 pointr/worldnews

I can't link, but the info is in Ben Rich's book, Skunk Works.

u/DirkChesney · 1 pointr/AviationHistory

I’m halfway through a book all about the time they were developing this airplane and other stealth fighters at skunk works. Interesting read if you’re into engineering and of course flying. here is the link to it on amazon

u/LimEJET · 1 pointr/WeirdWings

Ah yes, cadmium. I knew cobalt sounded wrong.

As for the wood, I got it from the book Skunk Works.

u/raindownsugar · 1 pointr/HistoryPorn

Correct. And Ben Rich's book about Skunk Works is a must read.

u/tspek · 1 pointr/Military

This is a pretty interesting read. The book probably creates some bias for me but they truly did build something awesome...

u/awesome_jawsome · 1 pointr/spacex

Not a SpaceX book, but when I was a young buck in engineering I found this a good read about rapid development of airframes:

u/mkjones · 0 pointsr/AskReddit


Seriously now, its probably this:

By Ben Rich of the Skunkworks/Lockheed. Truly amazing.

u/DougieWougie · 0 pointsr/pics

Ben Rich, or as it states in the book his cover name "Ben Dover".

u/ElectricWraith · -1 pointsr/AskEngineers

The aircraft itself is pretty amazing, although nowhere near close to being as good at the individual combat tasks as separate dedicated-role planes would be. By that I mean it won't come close to the A-10 for ground attack missions, won't hold a candle to the F-14 or F-15 for air superiority, etc. But that's a function of the design process itself, and that is what I have a real problem with.

If anyone is interested in finding out why the process is so broken, read Skunk Works by Ben Rich. He explains not only how much better things used to be, but exactly why they ended up the way they are now. Great book.