In This Review

Stealth: The Secret Contest to Invent Invisible Aircraft
Stealth: The Secret Contest to Invent Invisible Aircraft
By Peter Westwick
Oxford University Press, 2020, 272 pp

In 1974, the Pentagon held a competition to see if aerospace companies could develop an aircraft that could not be detected by radar. Creating stealth aircraft required reducing the likelihood that a plane would be detected by radar by a factor of 10,000. Two companies competed successfully, and each ended up with a major stealth program. Lockheed got the F-117 fighter, and Northrop, the B-2 bomber. Westwick does a good job of explaining the engineering principles at work, the competitive instinct of the engineers—which motivated them more than did a patriotic desire to gain the upper hand over the Soviet Union—and the advantages of a close partnership between the private sector and the state. This narrative presents a positive story of technological advance and the people who made it possible, although Westwick does raise questions about the expense of the programs, given that so few B-2 bombers were built, such as, “What targets were worth risking $2 billion to hit?”