Monday, February 20, 2006

Two Great books - I just want to recommend two great aviation history books that I recently read. Both are by James P. Stevenson, noted aviation author. Both deal with the Pentagon's procurement process, of which I was a player for 3 years. Given my experiences, both are absolutely accurate and factual.

  • "The $5 Billion Misunderstanding: The Collapse of the Navy's A-12 Stealth Bomber Program" -- an amazing story of how the A-12 was mishandled and bungled. $5 Billion spent and not a thing to show for it. This book clearly shows the excesses and mismanagement that can occur when a program forges normal oversight because it is "black". I was there through much of this (1986-1989) and was just amazed at how little critical review was undertaken. In the end, an inexcusable train wreck. Also, this is an amazing look into how "black" programs are treated and developed.
  • "The Pentagon Paradox: The Development of the F-18 Hornet " a look at the tortured history of the F-18 aircraft development and procurement. Another amazing look at how the Pentagon procures tactical aircraft. I wish this book had a sequel where it went more in-depth with the development of the Super Hornet (F/A -18 E/F) and it's performance in the two Gulf Wars. This book really hits home, because as a former USN A-7 pilot, my aircraft was replaced by the F-18, and while I don't doubt the improvement in performance, reliability, and lethality, it seems pretty apparent that the Navy did not get the aircraft they were promised or truly needed -- and probably not as good an aircraft as the contender, the F-16.

I recommend both of these books. I can attest to their accuracy. I only hope that Jim continues to explore these topics. My suggestion for the next book; "The V-22 Osprey: How on earth did this program survive and why is the USMC still flying it?"