DARK EAGLES: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs by Curtis Peebles

DARK EAGLES: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A top-notch survey of the covert aviation programs conducted by the US military and intelligence agencies since WW II. Drawing on previously classified archives and other sources, aviation historian Peebles pieces together a fascinating story that begins with the XP-59A. This fixed-wing fighter with British-designed engines was America's first jet. Airframe flaws kept it out of production and combat, but the armed forces gained valuable experience in running secret projects with small teams at isolated test sites. Probably the best known of the socalled dark eagles were the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes developed by Lockheed's fabled Skunk Works. Less familiar craft also performed important if less glamorous services"": Model 147 drones (a.k.a. Lightning Bugs) did bomb-damage assessments and other reconnaissance missions in the unfriendly skies over Communist China and North Vietnam. Equally unheralded is the GNAT-750 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), which the CIA has used to overfly Bosnia at relatively small cost. Not all clandestine aeronautical enterprises are developmental, as the author makes clear in his judicious review of the still unacknowledged pilot-training programs that have been conducted with the aid of captured MiGs. Nor, press reports and purported sightings by believers in UFOs to the contrary, is every rumored project a reality. Indeed, Peebles goes out of his way to put paid to any lingering notion that the Air Force has funded or even contemplated a hypersonic flying wing code-named Aurora. He then segues gracefully into an assessment of the socioeconomic credits and debits that accrue from putting strategic weapons systems under security wraps for prolonged periods. An informed and informative overview--complete with anecdotal detail on the venturesome souls who participated--of the undercover activities that have given America air superiority over friends and foes alike.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1995
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Presidio