From Rainbow to Gusto: Stealth and the Design of the Lockheed Blackbird (Library of Flight)

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Press: American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (September 30, 2009)
Author Name:Suhler, Paul A.


In 1956, the shock of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the horrors of the war that followed were still fresh in the minds of America's leaders. 
When the Soviet Union exploded its own atomic bomb in August 1949, the sense of vulnerability increased, with the realization that the next surprise attack could destroy American cities and kill millions of people.
Deterring an attack required knowing Soviet capabilities and intentions.
To gather that information, the U-2 spyplane had begun photographing large sections of the Soviet Union, flying at altitudes far above the reach of their air defenses.
But while the U-2 could go where it wanted, the Soviets could track it from border to border.
It was only a matter of time before their interceptors or missiles would be able to knock it out of the sky.
The only hope was to make the U.S.
aircraft invisible to their air defense radars.
And if it couldn't be made invisible, then a new aircraft would be needed.
This is where the story of stealth and the Blackbird begins.
Based on interviews, memoirs, and oral histories of the scientists and engineers involved, recently declassified CIA documents, and photographs, reports, and technical drawings from Lockheed and Convair, this is a technical history of the evolution of the Lockheed A-12 Blackbird.
It begins with the attempts to make the U-2 invisible to Soviet radars, presents the subsonic and supersonic designs for the follow-on aircraft, and describes the competition between Convair and Lockheed to accomplish a quantum leap in performance.
It traces the evolution of various technical approaches and explains engineering concepts in terms accessible to the educated layperson.


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Comment List (Total:7)

  •     As advertised, on time
  •     I received this book for Christmas, and could not put it down. The writing is not tops, but the subject matter and the narrative on how the stealth design happened is captivating. Suhler did an excellent job researching for the book; it shows through all the footnotes, references, and diagrams. It is too bad many of the original drawings and diagrams don't come out very well in the printing of the book. Despite that, it was a very enjoyable read.
  •     I bought this book to use as a reference for a paper I was writing, and it also sounded interesting.I really enjoyed the information about the stealth technology from the U-2 program. This book went into a lot of detail about the people working on the programs, and had many quotes that added a lot to the story. It acknowledged that in some cases there were discrepancies between accounts, which is to be expected.Enjoyable to read, intriguing details about what it was like working on such secretive projects back then.
  •     Paul Suhler faced a daunting task while researching the true history of the A-12 and SR-71. The project, one of the CIA's blackest, was cloaked in secrecy and a false history.The CIA had protected the plane's true history by constructing a false back story to mask the real development path that lead from Lincoln Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts through Washington, DC to Los Angeles and onto Groom Lake's Area 51.Suhler's desire to tell the true story led many important contributors to step forward and offer previously unpublished, classified information. He was given exclusive access to a private memoir my deceased father had written four years prior to his death. Suhler reveals for the first time that the graceful slope of the chines owed their creation, not to a desire to increase stability as has been popularly reported, but to a requirement to create the world's first stealth aircraft.This book should be on every aviation history scholar's bookshelf. For a deeper understanding of the forces at play that led to the development of the Blackbird, one should also include "Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and the U-2 Affair" by Michael Beschloss.
  •     This is just what I wanted, a complete technical history of the the engineering progression from the U2 to the A12 with emphasis on the Blackbird design. The accounting of Stealth was a bit tedious but a plus for grasping the overall effort.
  •     I worked at P&W on this project and provided some input to the author. This book provides an excellent detailed description of the mostly classified activities in the late 1950's leading up to the design of the A-12 and SR 71 articles. Well worth the time to read. Brings back lots of memories of my career.
  •     It's become evident to me how stage-managed the story of "stealth" has been in the aviation media. I remember when the F-117 was reveled, and what a revelation it was. We were led to believe that this was a recent break through. It was nothing of the sort. We've been actively trying to reduce the Radar Cross Section of our military aircraft since the mid-50s, and the book From Rainbow to Gusto is a window into that early development work, the various research programs that were setup around attempts to reduce the Soviet's ability to track the U2, and how those efforts then segued to the U2 Replacement; the SR-71.Fascinating work was being carried out by our country's best and brightest. Just as an example, when Lockheed was having trouble reducing the radar reflections that emanated from the engine inlets, they turned to the possibility of ionizing the air ahead of the inlet as way to mask the return. While the system clearly never made it onto the aircraft (too large, heavy, and a potential health hazard for the pilot [X-rays]), we're left to wonder how relevant a system like that would be today, with 50 more years of development...An extensive development history is given stepping through A-1 through A-12, the projects ahead of the A-series, and Convair's rival project. Fan of the SR-71? Read this.

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