In the mid-1950s a small group of overworked, underpaid scientists and engineers, working on a remote base in the Mojave Desert, developed a weapon no one had asked for but that everyone was looking for. Sidewinder is the story of how that unorthodox team at China Lake, lead by the visionary Bill McLean, overcame Navy bureaucracy and more heavily funded projects to develop the world's best air-to-air missile. Based on years of research and hundreds of interviews, Westrum’s study examines the unique military-civilian cult of creativity that helped Mclean and his China Lake team produce an amazing array of technological and engineering marvels. In the intellectual pressure cooker provided by the desert isolation, the scientists dreamed and tinkered while test pilots such as Wally Schirra and Glenn Tierney took to the air, often risking life and limb to test a fledgling system. Against the ongoing story of billion-dollar weapons development contracts, astronomical cost overruns, and defense acquisitions scandals, this revealing, highly readable account of the development of one of the most successful weapons in history provides an instructive contrast.
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