I was a very happy 11-year old boy when I was bought a copy of Stealth Warplanes, by Doug Richardson. I had negotiated hard to make my mum buy me the book. I left WH Smith’s in the murky depths of Wood Green Shopping Centre thrilled by my new book.
The Lockheed F-117 ‘Stealth Fighter’ had only just been revealed to the public; In November 1988, an airbrushed photo was held aloft to an ecstatic press by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, J. Daniel Howard. The F-117, until then top secret, was a new weird shape. Slightly preceding this (in April 1988) the DoD had released an artist’s impression of the Northrop B-2, which had also emerged from the Black world of secret defence projects. The B-2 was a charcoal grey flying-wing, clearly designed by the same person who designed the Batmobile.
Stealth was big news, until then, aeroplanes had been tubes with wings. Overnight the aircraft that had previously looked sleek and high-tech, now appeared drab and prosaic. The F/A-18 Hornet, with its sophisticated curves, the F-15 Eagle with its invincible muscularity, were both now relegated to the position of has-beens.
I believed that this book, with its immensely exciting cover, was my secret pass to the cladestine world of Stealth.
I bought another copy today, and it was fascinating to see how well this book had stood the test of 32 years.
Back then the Eurofighter typhoon was known as the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA). EFA is included as an example of a “reduced RCS (radar cross-section) design”. The large artwork, of an RAF machine, is surprisingly accurate.
Sadly, the dummy canopy (Canadian CF-18 stylee), an example of deception camouflage, visible on the artwork, has not been applied to real operational aircraft.
The strakes (a 1989 design amendment) and the PIRATE IRST are not featured, but the text acknowledges, these design changes took place after the artwork was made.
Eurofighter price. What is staggering is the cost estimate, put at wonderfully dainty £10-12 million (1989 prices), a far cry from today’s figure of around £68 million. Even taking into account inflation, this is quite a jump.