In the mid-1950s a small group of overworked, underpaid scientists and engineers on a remote base in the Mojave Desert developed a weapon no one had asked for but everyone in the weapons industry desired. This is the story of how that unorthodox team, led by visionary Bill McLean, overcame U.S. Navy bureaucracy and other more heavily funded projects to develop the world’s best air-to-air missile. Author Ron Westrum examines that special time and place—when the old American work ethic and “can do” spirit were a vital part of U.S. weapons development—to discover how this dedicated team was able to create a simple and inexpensive missile. Today, many decades after its invention, the Sidewinder missile is still considered one of the best that America has to offer.
In a time of billion-dollar weapons development contracts, astronomical cost overruns, and defense acquisitions scandals, this revealing, highly readable tale about one of the most successful weapons in history should be of interest to anyone concerned with national security.