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roBerT a. fUHrMaN
elected in 1976
“For contributions to the design and develop
roBerT a. fUHrMaN
elected in 1976
“For contributions to the design and development of the
Polaris and Poseidon underwater launch ballistic missile systems.”
By sHerMaN N. MUlliN
sUBMiTTed By THe Nae HoMe secreTary
roBerT alexaNder fUHrMaN, retired vice chairman,
president, and chief operating officer of Lockheed Corporation,
died on November 21, 2009, in Pebble Beach, california. He
was 84 years old.
Bob was born on february 23, 1925, in detroit, Michigan,
and was educated in the detroit public school system. He
enlisted in the U.s. Navy in 1942, which selected him to attend
the University of Michigan. He received a bachelor of science
degree in aeronautical engineering in 1945. Bob never forgot
what the Navy and Michigan did to enable his career. in his
words, “I graduated in a sailor suit, was commissioned, and
sent off to aviation officers school, where I learned how to
analyze a jet engine, take it apart, and put it back together.”
He was then assigned to the Naval air Test center, Patuxent
River, Maryland, as a flight test project engineer, an exciting
assignment for a 21-year-old junior Navy officer. He cherished
this experience for the rest of his life.
discharged from the Navy in 1949, Bob became a civilian
instructor at the Navy Test Pilots school and concurrently
attended the University of Maryland, receiving a master of
science degree in fluid mechanics in 1952.
100 MeMorial TriBUTes
recruited by ryan aeronautical company, Bob, his
wife Nan, and their two children moved to san diego. He
contributed to the design of experimental vertical takeoff
aircraft and other advanced aircraft designs, progressing to
chief technical engineer. However, he did not see the future he
desired and decided to move on.
recruited in 1958, Bob joined the rapidly growing Missile
systems division of lockheed Missiles and space company
in sunnyvale, california, as systems engineer on the Polaris
fleet ballistic missile project, at that time the highest-priority
project in the U.s. Navy. This was a major turning point in
his career, moving from traditional aeronautical engineering
to system design of missile and space systems, initially the
development of pioneering submarine-launched ballistic
missiles. He promptly developed a productive relationship
with the Polaris technical director, captain levering smith,
UsN (1910–1993), later vice admiral. captain smith made their
mutual objective clear: Make decisions, based on system design
trade studies, to deliver Polaris missiles ready for installation
in the first fleet ballistic missile launching submarine, the USS
George Washington, by June 1960. The Navy–lockheed Polaris
program team achieved this. in July 1960 the Navy submarine
USS George Washington successfully launched two Polaris a1
missiles and in November was operational at sea in the U.s.
atlantic fleet. Bob became chief engineer in 1966 and vice
president and general manager in 1969.
in 1970 Bob was abruptly appointed president of lockheed
georgia company in Marietta, where the c-5a galaxy
transport aircraft, being developed for the U.s. air force, had
encountered major problems. Working with the air force,
he restructured the program and it moved successively to
completion. He was proud of taking a c-5a aircraft to the
Paris air show in 1971 and showing it to the world.
He was then given another tough assignment, becoming
president of lockheed california company in Burbank,
where the l-1011 Tristar commercial airliner program was in
deep trouble, primarily due to the sudden 1971 bankruptcy
of jet engine supplier rolls royce. This had led to the l-1011
roBerT a. fUHrMaN 101
production line being shut down and massive layoffs. Under
these conditions Bob took over leading the recovery. With the
British government rehabilitating rolls royce, he contributed
to getting l-1011 Tristar development completed and
initiating production deliveries to several major airlines. He
was also responsible for two major Navy aircraft programs:
development of the s-3a Viking carrier antisubmarine warfare
aircraft and production of the P-3c orion maritime patrol
aircraft. as an inspiring leader of a company under great
pressure, he reached out continuously to recognize talent and
grow the fundamental strength of the company. His humility,
down-to-earth attitude, and broad knowledge gained him
wide respect and restored morale in the company.
in 1973 Bob returned to lockheed Missiles and space
company as executive vice president, becoming president in
1976. over the next decade he was the inspired leader of this
major developer and producer of classified space systems,
missile systems, and a wide range of advanced technologies.
He thrived on competition for new systems development
programs and was pleased when lockheed won the National
aeronautics and space administration’s Hubble space
Telescope program in 1977. He mentored many outstanding
engineers, two of whom ultimately became chief executive
officers of Lockheed and its successor in 1995, Lockheed
Martin. Needless to say, both were systems engineers of the
Bob was elected to lockheed’s board of directors in 1980,
serving to 1990. He became president and chief operating
officer of Lockheed Corporation in 1986, moving to the new
corporate offices in Calabasas, California. He oversaw four
large operating groups: aeronautical systems, missiles and
space systems, electronic systems, and information systems.
He retired in 1990, after 38 years at lockheed. Throughout this
period he made significant contributions to the transformation
of lockheed from an aircraft company to becoming one of the
major aerospace corporations in the world.
like one of his lockheed engineering heroes, Willis
Hawkins (1913–2004), Bob fuhrman never really retired. He
102 MeMorial TriBUTes
was an active senior advisor to lockheed corporation and its
successor, lockheed Martin corporation, to the end of his life.
His extensive work from 1991 to 2009 covered a wide range,
primarily in support of the U.s. department of defense. in
Bob’s view an engineer’s responsibility was unbounded.
He was much sought after as an advisor to the government
because of his ability to look at complex issues objectively. He
was viewed as a true gentleman, strategic thinker, and roll-
up-your-sleeves contributor. some of his major contributions
He was on the defense science Board for several years,
participating in numerous major studies, chairing several
of them. in 1992, commissioned by the director of central
Intelligence, he chaired a classified task force to improve the
functioning of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),
particularly in the area of its direct support of operational U.s.
military forces. He advocated that the existence and purpose
of the Nro be made public, which it was. in the 1990s he
served for six years on the defense science Board Task force
on acquisition reform, where he spoke with authority and
carried much weight with his peers.
for the National research council, Bob organized the air
force studies Board and was its chairman for several years.
later he led a task force on the air force c-17 transport aircraft
program, which made significant contributions to resolving its
technical and program management problems.
He served on the board of directors of the charles stark
draper laboratory (formerly the instrumentation laboratory
of the Massachusetts institute of Technology).
Throughout his career Bob was a dedicated member of the
american institute of aeronautics and astronautics (aiaa).
He was elected a fellow and later an honorary fellow. in 1978
he was the AIAA von Karman Lecturer in Astronautics. He
was the aiaa’s president in 1992. When asked to serve, he said
yes, that it was his duty to serve his profession. as president
he traveled extensively and achieved improved coordination
with the international aeronautical federation and with the
royal aeronautical society, of which he was a fellow. The
roBerT a. fUHrMaN 103
aiaa staff loved him because of his positive attitude and
willingness to cooperate.
Bob fuhrman was one of the foremost aerospace systems
engineers and managers of the 20th century, with major
contributions to the development of missile systems, space
systems, electronic systems, military aircraft, and commercial
aircraft. He pioneered systems engineering as a fundamental
and pragmatic technical and management discipline, essential
to achieving the technical, schedule, and cost objectives of
aerospace programs of high national priority.
He was an optimistic, inspiring leader and a determined
problem solver throughout his career. for over three decades
he nurtured a flock of engineers and managers whose technical
achievements were diverse and significant. For the two decades
that followed, he was continually involved as a trusted advisor
to the U.s. government on defense policy matters, particularly
acquisition of new systems. He was widely respected for his
disciplined contributions. He was much loved by the staff
members who supported these efforts.
a longtime resident of Pebble Beach, california, Bob was
devoted to his growing family. His first wife, Nan McCormick
fuhrman, died in 1988. He is survived by his second wife,
Nancy richards fuhrman; his sister, eloise schmidt; three
children from his first marriage—Lee Ann Kahl, Richard
fuhrman, and William fuhrman; two stepchildren—Michelle
aliotti and scott richards; nine grandchildren—alexis,
Brennan, robert, rebecca, ricky, ryan, ali, Madalynn, and
gaspare; and one great-grandchild, ryder.