In reviewing any book, one has to keep in mind the author’s intent and whether it delivers on that desire. Robert E. Bradley in his Convair Advanced Designs II sets out to illuminate the “Secret Fighters, Attack Aircraft and Unique Concepts” of Consolidated Vultee Aircraft in its many incarnations from 1929 to 1973. The subject matter is fertile ground; few authors have looked at the details of advanced engineering—specifically design studies and proposals, which led to production aircraft.
Bradley does this in style. From the clay-coated, thick, glossy stock of the pages to the subtle tones in watercolor reproductions, this is impressive. The paper choice is an imperative for crisp reproduction not only of the photographs and paintings, but the many line art 3- and 4- views. Those drawings are, from my point of view, the most important addition to my library. Disappointingly, they represent the greatest failing of the work—the lack of identifying information so that the reader can easily track down the originals if needed. But that is my quibble as a researcher. Any other quibble isn’t worth mentioning.
Consider one chapter. The XP-92, which evolved into the XF-92A that eventually led to the F-102 and F-106, is a good case in point. Over 21 pages, there are 36 illustrations, six of which are detailed 3-view drawings. All are of adequate size and very good quality reproductions of the originals, they are not redraws. This is a well-illustrated production. Very few are familiar, virtually every turn of the page is an addition to an aviation reader’s visual lexicon.
While the focus is on studies and proposals that never saw metal, Bradley does give us enough information about related programs—and even a few competitors—that saw production to give the reader context.
No book can be all things to everyone, and that is the case here. But Bradley touches all the bases he outlines in the introduction. He defines the limits of what he presents and the limits of the information that is available. Within those limits this work is bang-on and a worthy addition to the library of anyone who has more than a passing interest in the genesis of military aircraft.