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North American X-10

Unmanned Cruise Missile Technology Demonstrator Aircraft

United States | 1953

"At the time of its development, the unmanned North American X-10 was the fastest turbojet-powered aircraft ever flown - only one survived testing."

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the North American X-10 Unmanned Cruise Missile Technology Demonstrator Aircraft.
2 x Westinghouse XJ40-WE-1 turbojet engines developing 10,900 lb of thrust each.
1,299 mph
2,090 kph | 1,129 kts
Max Speed
45,013 ft
13,720 m | 9 miles
Service Ceiling
818 miles
1,316 km | 711 nm
Operational Range
5,224 ft/min
1,592 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the North American X-10 Unmanned Cruise Missile Technology Demonstrator Aircraft.
66.1 ft
20.15 m
O/A Length
28.2 ft
(8.59 m)
O/A Width
14.4 ft
(4.40 m)
O/A Height
25,801 lb
(11,703 kg)
Empty Weight
42,300 lb
(19,187 kg)
Notable series variants as part of the North American X-10 family line.
X-10 - Base Series Designation; thirteen examples completed, only one surviving the test regime.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/04/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

North American constructed thirteen of its experimental X-10 aircraft for the United States Air Force (USAF). The product was intended to test out various functions of unmanned flight as it related to the upcoming SM-64 "Navaho" nuclear-capable cruise missile series. A first-flight was had on October 14th, 1953 and the series recorded speeds in excess of Mach 2.0 at altitudes nearing 50,000 feet. However, of the thirteen examples completed, only one aircraft survived - this sole unit on display today at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

The X-10 was given a basic aerodynamically-refined shape, mimicking that of a missile with a very slender body, pointed nosecone assembly and twin-finned tail unit. Power was from a pair of Westinghouse XJ40-WE-1 turbojet engines providing 10,900 lb of thrust each, these aspirated through semi-circular intakes along the fuselage sides. Structurally the aircraft exhibited a length of 77 feet, a wingspan of 28.1 feet and a height of 14.4 feet. Empty weight was 25,800lb against a MTOW of 42,300lb. The X-10 was fitted with a complete, retractable wheeled undercarriage configuration. Canards were fitted at the nose and were all-moving surface planes while the wing mainplanes were delta in their general shape. The tail fins were slight cranked outwards. An early-form computer-based processing system provided the necessary corrections to the inherently unstable design during flight.

The X-10 was known under the "RTV-A-5" designation to North American and saw initial design work begin in 1951. For May of 1953, the reusable air vehicle was handed over to the USAF at Edwards AFB which led to its first flight in October of that year. The X-10 quickly proved itself a sleek and fast aircraft, the fastest to be powered by turbojets at the time, and at least five X-10 examples were used in the test regime at Edwards AFB (four were lost during this phase). The program was then moved to the clear skies over Cape Canaveral, Florida where six more vehicles joined the project (with N-6 INS equipment now in place). These managed to push the program limits all the more but, again, suffered from accidents - two were lost on landing attempts. Three were deliberately crashed in dive testing.

From 1958 on, the remaining X-10 units were used in testing the tracking and engagement capabilities of the Boeing CIM-10 "BOMARC" supersonic long-range Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM). However, none were successful in this venture as two were, again, lost in landing accidents and a third expended over the Atlantic when trouble arose in flight.

During its time in the air, the X-10 managed a recorded maximum speed of 1,300 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 45,000 feet. Its rate-of-climb was 5,224 feet-per-minute. Despite the many losses incurred by the program throughout its life, the data collected proved instrumental in design of future unmanned and manned concepts - particularly fighter design where today digitally-controlled Fly-by-Wire (FBW) systems are commonplace for inherently unstable designs.

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Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the North American X-10. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 13 Units

Contractor(s): North American Aviation - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (retired) ]
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Image of the North American X-10
Front left side view of the North American X-10 on display
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Image of the North American X-10
Left side view of the North American X-10 at rest

Going Further...
The North American X-10 Unmanned Cruise Missile Technology Demonstrator Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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