by Richard Whittle, Henry Holt, New York, 2014, $30.
Almost every fact one could hope to see about the Predator’s transformation from exotic concept to nuts-and-bolts reality is included in this engaging narrative. The story begins in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the Israeli Air Force suffered a potentially catastrophic attrition of warplanes and pilots due to the scourge of advanced Soviet surface-to-air missiles supplied to Egypt. Young Israeli engineer Abraham Karem became obsessed with the challenge of keeping that from happening again.
Eventually Karem lands in southern California, where his bankrupt company is acquired for pennies on the dollar by General Atomics, the high-tech conglomerate controlled by Neal and Linden Blue. A couple of decades after he had conceived a different kind of flying robot, the transplanted Israeli’s vision took flight as the Predator. Along the way, readers are treated to an array of unforgettable personalities.
As things unfolded, targeted killing by the Predator did not stop terrorist cells from metastasizing. Hopefully, a second edition of this important developmental account will follow, with a chapter that explores the aircraft’s service history and why such a promising platform failed to smother the West’s low-tech enemies.