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Ben R. Rich Books In Order

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Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

Skunk Works (With: Leo Janos) (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon

Ben R Rich was an American engineer and researcher from Los Angeles California that made a name for himself conducting top secret military research. During his active years, he worked at the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation that would later on become the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Working under an alias for security reasons, he conducted research on military aircraft most of which would result in some of the most groundbreaking aircraft ever designed.

Rich used to work under the name Ben Dover and over several years he was involved in the designing and development of more that two dozen aircraft most notably the stealth fighter bomber, the F-117 Nighthawk.

The aircraft was made to elude detection flying in enemy territory as it could not be detected on the radar screens of most of the US’s enemies.
He was also involved in the design of the reconnaissance craft the SR-71 Blackbird, which can cruise at three times the speed of sound. He was also involved in the designing of the spy plane U-2 that was active between 1956 and 1960 flying missions into the Soviet Union in the Cold War era.

The brilliant scientist and researcher was born in the capital of the Philippines Manila as one of five siblings born to Isidore Rich a lumber kill supervisor and Annie his French wife. The Rich family then had the distinction of being among the pioneering Jewish families that settled in Manila.

They would flee the Philippines a few weeks prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and move to the US in 1942. Soon after Ben Rich would become an American citizen in Los Angeles.

During this time, he used to work with his father in a machine shop at the height of the Second World War even as he completed his high school studies. After graduating from high school, Rich attended the University of California, Berkeley from where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1949.

He would then proceed to the University of California, Los Angeles for his masters degree after which he got a job with Lockheed.

At Lockheed he worked at the Burbank based Advanced Development Projects Division under Kelly Johnson, a respected aircraft designer. His division was usually referred to as “Skunk Works,” since it was situated near a plastic factory that usually omitted a malodorous stench throughout the year.

He wrote his seminal memoir “Skunk Works” in 1994 as a biography that recounted the development of the F-117 stealth bomber.

Unlike Johnson, his boss at Lockheed Martin, Rich was known to be an affable rather than intimidating man that loved to build bridges. He often listened to the wishes of his clients and then thoughtfully delegated responsibilities to ensure he developed some of the best aircraft for their needs.

For military officials used to the brusque manner of Johnson, Rich was a breath of fresh air. It was not long after he took a leading role at Lockheed Martin that he persuaded the Pentagon that his company needed to be their go to in aircraft design when he redesigned their U-2 spy plane.

He modernized the airplane to make it better suited to the contemporary battlefield even as he worked on the F-117 stealth bomber. It was a great gamble that Ben Rich took in supporting the unusual but revolutionary stealth aircraft.

This was also a crucial development as it came very early in his tenure with Lockheed. Many people did not like it and in fact it was called the “Hopeless Diamond” by naysayers.

But Ben persisted as he had a lot of confidence that he was close to a breakthrough that would make American aircraft virtually invisible on the radar screen of its enemies.

In time Ben R. Rich would prove that he was just the manager for such a project as he was a decisive and encouraging team leader and savvy salesman all at once. Doubting engineers were quickly brought up to speed on stealth technology so that they would be better informed on how useful it could be.

Later on, when two experimental prototypes were requisitioned by the US Air Force he made use of hardware gleaned from other projects to save money. In the process, he met what had been deemed a near impossible deadline and watched as his prototype plane slipped past radar in the Nevada desert in 1979.

Under his leadership, Lockheed Martin was the winner of the stealth fighter contract and he would be proud to watch the F-117A nighthawk conduct its first official flight test in 1981 on his fifty-fifth birthday.

By sheer coincidence, the F-117nighthawk’s first tactical strike was on the day he was having his official retirement party. One of the pilots on the plane that was flying the first combat mission dedicated the first strike to Ben and later handed him an American flag.

“Skunk Works:A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed” is a story that chronicles the life and times of one of the most respected military scientists in the history of the US.

From the development of the stealth fighter that would become the U-2, it is an insider look into the high stakes effort to dominate the skies during the Cold War era. Ben Rich tells the story of one of the most successful and secretive aerospace operations in the US.

As the brilliant boss in charge of the entire operation, it chronicles the history of Skunk Works and its role during the Gulf War and the Cold War. The author also recounts the extraordinary feats of achievement and engineering against fantastic odds.

Rich provides up close insights into the workings of a maverick band of engineers and scientists that crafted the reputation of Skunk Works. Full of high adventure and telling personal anecdotes, it tells interesting stories from the Air Force and CIA pilots who flew all manner of risky and classified missions.
It is a portrait of some of the biggest triumphs in 20th century aviation. The novel takes a behind the scenes look at the designing and making of the most successful planes in the United States.

The author explains in simple terms how several driven men used some impressive engineering to create planes that are unlikely to be matched any time soon. Even though it is written by an engineer, both ordinary folk who hate equations and math and engineers who love it will find this a fascinating read.

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