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North American X-10

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File:North American X-10 runway.jpg
The North American X-10 on the runway

The North American X-10 (model RTV-A-5) was an unmanned technology demonstrator for advanced missile technologies during the 1950s. The X-10 was similar to the development of Boeing's X-9 Shrike project.


To facilitate development of the long-range SM-64 Navaho surface-to-surface cruise missile, North American Aviation developed the RTV-A-5, or X-10 in 1951. This vehicle was to prove out critical flight technology for the design of the cruise vehicle of the Navaho missile design. These included proving the basic aerodynamics out to Mach 2, flight testing the inertial guidance unit and flight control avionics to the same speed, and finally validate the recovery system for the next phase in the Navaho program. Preliminary design of the X-10 was completed in February of 1951 and the first vehicle was delivered to Edwards Air Force Base in May of 1953. The first flight occurred on October 14 1953.[1][2]

The X-10 was powered by two Westinghouse J40 turbojet engines with afterburners, and equipped with landing gear for conventional take off and landing. The combination of a delta wing with an all-moving canards gave it extremely good aerodynamics in the trans-sonic and supersonic environments. It also made the vehicle unstable requiring active computer flight control in the form of an autopilot. Thus, the X-10 is similar to modern military fighters which are flown by the onboard computer and not directly by the pilot. In this same regard, though the X-10 was receiving directional commands from a radio-command guidance system, these commands were sent through the on-board computer which in turn implemented the commands. Later X-10s included an N-6 inertial navigation system which completely controlled the vehicle through the cruise portion of the flight.

Service history

At the time it came into service, the X-10 was one of the fastest turbojet-powered aircraft flown. From 1953 to 1955 a total of five X-10s flew 15 flights at Edwards AFB. There it reached a maximum flight speed of Mach 1.84, flew a distance of Template:Convert, and reached an altitude of 41,000 feet. These were performance levels superior to nearly all manned turbojet aircraft (the exception being the YF-104 Starfighter). In 1955 the program moved to Cape Canaveral, Florida to complete the test program. Here a new set of six X-10 vehicles would complete the testing of the N-6 inertial navigation system out to supersonic speeds, reach 49,000 feet altitude, a total flight distance of Template:Convert and a peak speed of Mach 2.05.


Of all the X-10s built, only one survived the test program: serial 51-9307, the first X-10 to ever fly. Of the other four aircraft that flew at Edwards AFB, one blew-up on take-off, one was lost in flight and the remaining two were destroyed in landing accidents. As for the vehicles flown at Cape Canaveral, three were expended in planned dive-in flights against Grand Bahama Island, and two were lost in landing accidents.

In 1958 the remaining three Cape Canaveral X-10s were selected for use as high speed targets for the BOMARC surface-to-air missile. The plan was to recover and reuse the X-10, not to have them shot down by the BOMARC. Unfortunately, none of these vehicles would complete their target flight: two were lost on landing and the third suffered a mechanical problem forcing it to be flown into the Atlantic.

Specifications (X-10)

General characteristics

  • Length: 66 ft 0 in (20.15 m)
  • Wingspan: 28 ft 2 in (8.59 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 5 in (4.40 m)
  • Wing area: 425 ft² ( m²)
  • Empty: '25,800 lb (11,703 kg)
  • Loaded: 35,000 lb (15,876 kg)
  • Maximum takeoff: 42,300 lb (19,187 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2x Westinghouse XJ40-WE-1 turbojets, 10,900 lbf (44.5 kN) thrust each


  • Maximum speed: 1,300 mph (2,090 km/h)
  • Range: 818 miles (1,316 km)
  • Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,720 m)
  • Rate of climb:5,224 ft/min ( m/min)
  • Wing loading: lb/ft² ( kg/m²)
  • Thrust/Weight:


  1. Gibson, James N (1996). The Navaho Missile Project: The Story of the Know-How missile of American Rocketry. Altglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0048-2. 
  2. Miller, Jay (1983). The X-Planes: X-1 to X-29. Marine on St Croix, MN: Specialty Press. ISBN 0-933424-35-3. 

Related content

Related development: SM-64 Navaho

Comparable aircraft: Template:X-planes Template:North American Aviation aircraft

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "North American X-10".