BENJAMIN ROBERT RICH (June 18, 1925 – January 5, 1995) was the
second Director of Lockheed 's
Skunk Works from 1975 to 1991,
succeeding its founder, Kelly Johnson . Regarded as the "father of
stealth", Rich was responsible for leading the development of the
F-117 , the first production stealth aircraft. He also worked on the
F-104 , U-2 , A-12 ,
SR-71 , and F-22 , among others. He is the author
of Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed .
* 1 Early in life
* 2 Lockheed
* 3 The
* 4 Awards
* 5 Family
* 6 Death
* 7 Selected aircraft
* 8 References
* 9 External links
EARLY IN LIFE
Rich was born in
Manila in the
Philippines , one of the five children
of British lumber mill superintendent Isidore Rich and his French
wife, Annie, the daughter of one of his paternal grandfather's Jewish
customers who resided in Alexandria, Egypt. The Rich family was one of
Jewish families to settle in
Manila . Having fled the
Philippines just weeks before the
Empire of Japan
Empire of Japan 's attack on Pearl
Harbor , they moved to the
United States in 1942, where Rich became a
naturalized US citizen. He worked (with his father) in a Los Angeles,
California machine shop during
World War II
World War II , and studied at the
city's Hamilton High School. After the war he started his college
education when he was 21, majoring in mechanical engineering at UC
Berkeley , followed by a master's degree in aeronautical engineering
UCLA , instead of in the medical field as he originally planned.
Upon graduation Rich was hired by Lockheed as a thermodynamicist.
There he worked on a variety of projects - he was awarded a patent for
designing a nichrome heating system which prevented Navy patrol plane
crew members' penises from freezing to their urine elimination pipes.
He designed inlet ducts for the
F-104 Starfighter , the C-130
transport aircraft, and the F-90 fighter.
THE SKUNK WORKS
In December 1954 Rich was transferred to the
Skunk Works , the secret
research and development section run by Lockheed's Chief Engineer,
Clarence "Kelly" Johnson . There he designed the inlet ducts for the
U-2 spy plane, then next led the effort to design and build a
large-scale hydrogen liquefaction plant for project Suntan , a
proposed hydrogen-powered supersonic very high-altitude aircraft meant
to replace the U-2. After Suntan was canceled, hydrogen proving to be
impractical for a number of reasons, Rich became propulsion systems
program manager for the U-2's successors, the A-12 and the SR-71
Blackbird . Rich was chief aerodynamicist for the projects, designer
of the complex translating shock cones inlet design, air conditioning
and heat management systems, and the specification of the aircraft's
black skin coatings which optimized heat dissipation of their
tremendous aerodynamic heating as well as incorporating materials to
reduce radar signature – the aircraft incorporated a number of
features of what would later be referred to as low observables or
stealth technology .
SR-71 crews became upset that engineers were not putting enough
effort into solving a constant problem with violent engine unstarts in
flight, Rich was forced to take a flight in the SR-71, which included
having to go through the same flight physical as pilots. After being
scared so badly that he "almost died of fright", he managed to solve
the unstart problem by installing automatic controllers to keep the
aircraft in control during unstarts.
He briefly worked on a program that used ionizing radiation to help
absorb radar coming from ahead of the aircraft. The radiation proved
to be excessive and the test pilot disliked the heavy radiation
shielding he was forced to wear. The project was cancelled when the
military decided the radar signature was already low enough without
the ionizing equipment. The concept was proven to work, but
Later, as Johnson 's successor as leader of the
Skunk Works , Rich
championed and directed the early experimental prototypes of stealth
technology and led the development of the
F-117 stealth fighter.
A member of the
National Academy of Engineering
National Academy of Engineering , he won numerous
awards during his career, including the
Collier Trophy . In 2005 he
was inducted into the
National Aviation Hall of Fame . In January
1981, he received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished
Public Service for his work on the then-still-classified stealth
airplane, in a secret ceremony in the office of then-Secretary of
Defense Harold Brown . He was allowed to show the medal to his two
children, Karen and Michael, but was not allowed to tell them why he
had received it.
In 1950, he married the former Faye Mayer, a fashion model, who died
in 1980. In 1982, he married Hilda Elliot. His son, Michael , is an
executive with the
RAND Corporation and his daughter, Karen, is a
Ben Rich died of cancer in
Ventura, California , on January 5, 1995.
F-104 Starfighter. Single-engine, high-performance, supersonic
* XF-90 . Experimental fighter / bomber escort aircraft.
* U-2 "Dragon Lady". Reconnaissance aircraft. A high altitude jet
aircraft used by the CIA and the US Air Force during the cold war.
SR-71 "Blackbird". An advanced, long-range, Mach 3.2 strategic
reconnaissance aircraft. The Blackbird was designed to provide
reconnaissance in defended airspace while improving aircrew
survivability. In the Blackbird, mission success and survivability
depended on aircraft speed.
Ben Rich was responsible for engineering
the spikes and engine inlet systems which made the Blackbirds the
fastest jet aircraft in the world.
F-117 Nighthawk. World's first production stealth aircraft.
YF-22 , prototype of the
F-22 Raptor .
* ^ Congressional Record--Senate, January 17, 1995, page S962
(Statement of Senator Robert Dole)
* ^ http://www.f-117a.com/Ben.html
* ^ Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military
Base By Annie Jacobsen
* ^ Memorial Tributes. Washington: National Academies Press. 1996.
p. 203. ISBN 9780309055758 .
Skunk Works (paperback edition), ISBN 0-316-74300-3 , p. 73.
* RICH, BEN; Janos, Leo . (1996) Skunk Works. Little, Brown
* WorldCat Identities
* VIAF : 50912200
* LCCN : n94019547
* SUDOC : 162085850
"https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ben_Rich additional terms