Found in 22 comments on Hacker News
WalterBright · 2024-07-04 · Original thread
My dad was a fighter pilot, and I have read many accounts of them. I'm not sure their reflexes are better. It's more like they're the master of the feel and minutia of the airplane. They're also masters of managing the energy of their airplane, constantly trading off between altitude and speed. John Boyd was a fantastic example of that. There's a wonderful biography of him, "Boyd".

WalterBright · 2023-02-21 · Original thread
Boyd's biography is a great read:

about a very unconventional man.

WalterBright · 2022-10-30 · Original thread
Anyone interested would enjoy reading about John Boyd, head of the Fighter Mafia:

F00Fbug · 2021-03-26 · Original thread
Col. Boyd must be spinning in his grave!

One of my favorite books:

There's a lot about what's wrong with aircraft procurement in this book and how he fought against it. Idealism and pragmatism still lose to politics and money fifty years later!

There's an excellent biography about Boyd ( the pilot who formalized using energy & momentum into actual combat techniques. The book is really good reading.
WalterBright · 2021-02-24 · Original thread
Take a look at how John Boyd upended the Air Force dev process, but of course that ended with his untimely death. Nobody else was able to do it.

He ran the "Fighter Mafia" which was responsible for the F-15 and F-16 aircraft.

skookumchuck · 2019-05-22 · Original thread
"Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War"

late2part · 2018-06-29 · Original thread
This is addressed quite well in Robert Coram’s Excellent _Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War_ with the life shaping question:

“Do you want to be somebody, or do something?”

You will be a really big deal at FANG but you are not likely to do as interesting work as you would in a smaller mildly successful company.

Check out this biography of Col Boyd (the OODA Loop guy):

It's a total hagiography with some dubious historical claims, but a fun and interesting read nonetheless.

ProAm · 2017-11-21 · Original thread
If you are interested in how the Pentagon, Air Force and Navy decides to fund and build aircraft, I highly recommend reading this book [1]. It's about the father of the A-10, F15 (sort of), F-16 and FA-18. Fascinating read about how the armed forces will completely ignore data on flight characteristics due to politics. (it's about the life of John Boyd, not just how aircraft a chosen but its covered quite a bit in the book)


akkartik · 2016-05-07 · Original thread
One of the cool things about the biography of John Boyd ( was the quoting from and parsing of his performance reviews in the US Air Force.
crikli · 2015-12-06 · Original thread
Sounds like a good read, are you referring to this?
gshubert17 · 2015-06-30 · Original thread
Robert Coram's biography of John Boyd is very good.

heyalexchoi · 2015-03-21 · Original thread
For anyone interested in learning more, the book 'Boyd' provides a lot of useful background information on

- why the F-35 is a total disaster - the Pentagon's intrinsic inability to make reasonable decisions

In a nutshell, this guy Boyd pioneered modern fighter jet design (and important general strategic theorems as well), but spent his career fighting crony-bureaucrats to get any of it adopted by the U.S. military

lionhearted · 2014-12-06 · Original thread
Close Air Support -- CAS -- is one of those interesting things that you rarely read or think about when you think of air power, but is absolutely critical to mission success in anything that looks like conventional warfare.

Someone already linked John Boyd below in the comments. He's worth reading much more about --

He's often credited with his later-life grand strategy, but his Aerial Attack Study in the early 1960's is actually more impressive to me. He developed a working mathematical model of how fighters (and other aircraft) can gain or lose speed, velocity, turning, etc at different speeds/altitudes/etc based on their specs.

A lot of "sexy-looking" fighters performed pretty poorly, and the Air Force command were aghast at many aspects of the study.

At the time, the "state of the art" was building multi-purpose aircraft that could do reconnaissance, establish air superiority (dogfighting), bomb enemy targets, etc. But these multi-purpose aircraft didn't excel on any parameter: they weren't large enough to carry the fuel and payload to be exceptional bombers, and they weren't fast and light enough to out-dogfight the leading Soviet aircraft.

The book on Boyd I linked talks about the back-and-forth nature of defense contracting and the armed forces in that era, which was a problem. Likewise, it describes the various jockeying for power and budget between the various branches of the armed services: Navy, Air Force, and Army all had aircraft and certain missions assigned to them, and fought to preserve and expand their territory.

Close Air Support (CAS) is a mission the Air Force was never so crazy about and was somewhat de-prioritizing compared to air superiority and strategic bombing missions... yet, at the same time, they didn't want to lose the mission to the Army for political reasons.

Meanwhile, Boyd and the people he worked with, notably aircraft designer Pierre Sprey who led the A-10's build -- -- they didn't see their roles as just related to being a technician or soldier, but were very deep historians and scientists.

They noted that a lot of Nazi Germany's early success was the mix of maneuver warfare mixed with close-air support from Stuka Bombers. The Nazi advantage was erased when the Western Allies eventually achieved air superiority, but Luftwaffe CAS was absolutely devastating in the early stages of WWII.

Sprey, Boyd, and the rest built around the theory of CAS and seeing the potential of it for turning a ground war, and then sat to work out an aircraft that was about as un-sexy as it gets, but was incredibly safe for the pilot, could stay involved in the battle for a very long time, and could have devastating impact on enemy ground forces.

The A-10 thus isn't flashy, can't do multi-mission roles (at the time, it was the only pure CAS airplane in the U.S. armed forces; it only did close air support and nothing else), it's not particularly fast, it doesn't look good at an air show, it's not particularly prestigious.

It is, however, devastatingly effective as a tank killer, artillery killer, convoy killer. Rather effective against infantry too.

The lessons from Boyd, aircraft design, etc, are probably worth reading for anyone who deals with technology or organizational development, since they seem timeless -- eventually prestige and politics come to dominate true mission, and how do you navigate around that?

The book "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the World" is worth reading; so are the remnants of various briefings Boyd and colleagues gave with commentary. A useful insight into lots of things, not the least of them how to actually get things done with ingenuity and how to really be service-oriented in a world that often doesn't reward that. Marvelous book, amazing men, great stories, lots of lessons. Highly highly recommended.

hangonhn · 2014-10-18 · Original thread
A few more I would add ( not sure if they are "professional" enough but all very insightful and similar to the existing ones on that list ).

1. Boyd ( ) - Came up with the EM theory that gave the air force the analytical framework to analyze dog fighting maneuvers and aircraft. Known for authoring the OODA loop and leading the infamous Fighter Mafia that gave us the F-16 and F/A-18

2. Warfight ( ) Boyd' OODA ideas distilled into a book

3. The American Way of War ( )

4. Engineers of Victory ( ) - a decent account of how middle level officers solve problems that allowed strategies to be realized

5. Makers of Modern Strategy ( )

6. The German Army ( ) - A great account of the rise and fall of the German army, including its innovations caused by the constraints imposed on it and its fall

7. Panzer Battles ( ) - a great account how the various battles fought by the German army and where they excelled and where their shortcomings are and vice versa for their enemies.

8. The Second World War( ) - Great "summary" of the Second World War, including the civilian dimension.

9. Panzer Leader ( ) - a history of the development and deployment of the German panzer armies by the father of tank warfare himself.

10. Six Days of War ( )

11. The Yom Kippur War ( ) - an account of the Yom Kippur War and how the Israelis were blind to the innovations of the Egyptian army that upended its defense strategy based on tanks and aircraft and also how a near victory for the Egyptians allowed them to negotiate a peace with Israel.

jauer · 2014-06-17 · Original thread
The book "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War" goes into how the F-16 happened. Sprey worked with Boyd on it and is one of the evangelists of the management/development philosophy that Boyd pushed. In a nutshell, normal development pushed for stacking on as many features as you could to please everyone involved. Boyd pushed for making the plane fit a specific performance envelope for the role and making everything else secondary.

I guess this makes Boyd and Sprey co-designers in that they shaped the requirements and specifications.

smacktoward · 2012-05-10 · Original thread
The best overall study of Boyd and Boydism is Robert Coram's book Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art Of War:

The best general-audiences intro to Boyd-as-philosophy is probably Chet Richards' book Certain to Win:

Wikipedia has some brief descriptions of Boyd's work and thinking in his page on him:

Fast Company magazine did a decent article on Boyd-for-business back in 2002:

Many of Boyd's original writings have been preserved and made available for download here: (Warning, though, these were not written for a general audience and can be quite dense.)

dpritchett · 2012-03-13 · Original thread
The creative destruction alluded to in this post is well covered by John Boyd's life work, although Boyd presented things through a military perspective. For a teaser, know that Boyd's philosophies underpinned the U.S. plan of attack in Operation Desert Storm.

If you want a dense white paper try Boyd's mangum opus:

and here's his excellent (and quite accessible) biography:

dpritchett · 2010-12-04 · Original thread
Really glad to see this here on HN. I read Boyd by Robert Coram a month ago and I still can't stop seeing the parallels in any competitive endevavor. Definitely a great book for hackers.

The book covers the history behind Boyd's OODA loop and a lot of Pentagon bureaucratic infighting as well. Corporate politics at its finest. (I got my copy at the library though)

pedrocr · 2010-09-20 · Original thread
See "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War" for a more complete description of his life. The article doesn't do it justice.

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