HISTORY

Stealth: The Secret Contest To Invent Invisible Aircraft

Oxford Univ. Feb. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780190677442. $27.95. HIST
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Westwick (Blue Sky Metropolis) meticulously probes two highly competitive and contentious U.S. corporations, Northrop and Lockheed, from 1976 to 1988. Located in California, these companies developed and produced the first generation of radar-proof aircraft: the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk fighter and the Northrop B-2 Stealth bomber. The Nighthawk was presented to the Air Force in 1982 so pilots could acquaint themselves with the craft’s flight characteristics, including late-stage stealth. By contrast, the B-2 was awarded a design philosophy completely different from the Nighthawk, opting for a smooth surface that would act to nullify the enemy’s incoming radar energy. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Westwick explains, defense specialists and economists argued there was no longer a need for two radar-invisible aircraft, and resultant U.S. military cutbacks threatened the B-2 program in the early 1990s. Westwick describes how during the Iraqi Desert Storm campaign, Nighthawk aviators questioned these reductions by destroying almost half of their strategic targets in Baghdad with minimal losses.
VERDICT This authoritative contribution to the history of aviation will be welcomed by academics and general readers of flight, military theory, and aeronautical engineering.

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