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In 1969, after his return from Vietnam, George Marrett took a job as a test pilot at Hughes Aircraft. For twenty years, he tested the most sophisticated airborne radar and missiles ever designed for advanced Navy and Air Force aircraft. Marrett's masterful command of storytelling puts the reader in the cockpit during the F-15, F-16, and F-18 weapons systems flyoff, as well as during the firing of a Mach 3 Phoenix missile from an F-14A Tomcat at a Soviet MiG Foxbat target. In addition to the weaponry, Marrett relives stories of espionage, deadly crashes, and the development of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber radar. He combines the thrill of test flying with the pathos, humor, and tragedy that is the everyday life of a test pilot, showing how the Cold War was actually won in the skies above Southern California. The background to Marrett's tale is the story of Hughes Aircraft. While Howard Hughes's huge and unwieldy Spruce Goose never made it into World War II, the Radio Department he started grew to become the electronics giant Hughes Aircraft Company. By the 1950s, Hughes Aircraft built airborne radar and missiles for all of the Air Force interceptors stationed on the East and West Coasts and along the border with Canada to defend the United States from Soviet bombers. In the years that followed, the company built airborne radar for the Navy F-14A Tomcat, the Air Force F-15A Eagle, the Navy F-18A Hornet and the B-2 stealth bomber. They also built the Navy air-to-air AIM-54 Phenix and the Air Force air-to-ground AGM-65 Maverick missiles. These advanced electronic weapons were developed and fielded during President Reagan's massive buildup of military might. Even though Hughes himself did not live to see the Berlin Wall fall in 1989, the company he built made an essential contribution to the collapse of communism.
George Marrett delivers another stunning book on the experiences of American test pilots, drawing on his own personal experiences from the Golden Age of flight testing. "Testing Death" details the development of many of the many Hughes weapons systems that can still be found on US military aircraft thirty years after their first development. The projects include such mainstays in the US arsenal as the Phoenix and Maverick missiles, and the predecessor of today's highly classified terrain mapping radars currently found on some American military aircraft. The other key element of the book focuses on the human element of flight testing. Marrett writes of his emotional highlights of his career; his despair of losing a friend in an aircraft accident; and his strange mix of anger and empathy for a friend who sells out his country because he has fallen on hard times. This is another great book from George Marrett on the Golden Age of flight testing.