North American Navaho


North American



The Navaho was North 
American's response to the 
1950's U.S. Military
establishment request 
for a spiffy,
zippy, and oh-so sexy 
cruise missile.

- hubba hubba -

Begun as an X program vehic le, the X-10, the Navaho was mated to a liquid booster and fitted with ramjets to help wing its nuclear gift to distant and exotic locale across the globe. 

Called by some the "Know-How Missile of American Rocketry" and by others the "Never-go Navaho" it remains today one of the more ungainly attempts at cruise missiledom. 


Beautiful in it's lines alone yet somehow awkward when matched with its booster, the Navaho was incredibly ahead of its time.  Sleek, chic, and unbelievably finicky the Navaho tested the limits of her creators patience and prowess. 

13 each X-10 vehicles were built in the original NASA test program.  The X-10 then became the G26 and 9 were flown in this booster/cruise missile configuration. 2 were flown in Project RISE (Research Into Supersonic Environment).  The final 3 Navahos in flying condition were flown as target drones for the BoMarc (that must have really gotten North Americans goat) The cruise missile portion was reworked and outfitted with turbojets and flown for many years as the "Hound Dog" hung from the wings of B-52s. 

The rocket motor designed and built for the booster stage went on to become the engine for the famous Redstone missile of Project Mercury fame and lofted Shepard, Carpenter, and Glenn skyward on a booster originally intended to lob nukes into the Red Square.  Click here to see the genesis of the V-2, Redstone, and Navaho engines.

One missile and booster still remain at Cape Canaveral.  This page details that final Navaho in existence today.



G26 Restoration photos at Cape Canaveral Hanger 3

Captions and photos by Tim Wilson

Click on image for larger version
 Overall view from aft.  Shiny metal standing on floor behind missile is sheet metal being formed for replacement engine nozzles.
 View looking into the missile from the aft.  This  is an engine bay.
 View from the aft.  Vertical stabilizers look like  they're canted about 45 degrees.
Overall view from front.
Another view from front, slightly different angle.  The whole body of the missile is "bent" just  ahead of the engine nacelles.  It's not a single straight fuselage as the drawings imply.

Air intake.  The dark tube is not part of the missile.  :)
 Another view from front.
Vertical Stabilizer
Overall view of the wing.
Vertical stabilizer
Another view of the vertical stabilizers.
Wing tip.  Notice the attention to detail in these control surfaces.
Overall view of the booster from the front looking aft.
Another view of the booster, looking in the same direction but a little further down the fuselage.

View looking down the "raceway" on top of the booster from the front towards the aft.
Another view looking aft, taken on the side  opposite that of #413 and further down the fuselage.  Very dark . . . so much for my photographic talents.
Pieces of missile stacked neatly on the floor.
Another photo of missile pieces, included just for kicks.  I don't think the table was part of the original design.
That's all for now
There may be more later!

2012 Update: Here's a nice update to this page from a gentleman named Earl Ratliff who worked on the project back in the day.


 I really appreciate your NAVAHO page. Brings back old memories. A couple of years ago I visited the Cape with my son who is an engineering consultant there. We took pictures of me beside the restored NAVAHO on display there. That also brought back memories. I was a part of the NAVAHO program from 1956 through November of 1058 as a flight test engineer at the Cape and Down Range. 

 Navaho was a complex missile sustem that was overcome by advances in the ballistic missile technology which was, as a paradox, was aided in part by NAA Rocketdyne's progress in rocket engines developed for the Navaho. These engines were the power used for; Thor, Jupiter, Jupiter C, Redstone, and in the three chamber version for Atlas and further expanded for Saturn. 

 Navaho was jump off platform for the Space Shuttle contract that NAA won. The X-10 test vehicle was the first to achieve sustained supersonic flight. The supersonic flight experience as well as the guidance platform (the first all transistor digital guidance system) was used for X-15. This was also the guidance system used on our first nuclear submarines which allowed the first undersea trip to the North Pole. The Navaho set the stage for many missile advances and when we first flew it at Mach 2.75, it was with baited breath. No one was sure the engines would work. It was impossible to test a supersonic ramjet as no wind tunnel existed that could do it. That it would actually fly was a question until it was boosted into the sky and accelerated to Mach 2.8. It lit off as the GE engineers predicted and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. As a Flight Test Engineer I participated in every launch (or attempted launch) of Navaho except the last one in late November of '58 when I moved to the Pershing program at Martin Orlando. This last flight was the last flight of the three birds designated for RISE. The information gathered there was to be used for the B-70 Valkyrie and the A5 Vigilante among other programs. We, that worked on NAVAHO are proud of NAVAHO and its significant legacy for the Space and Missile programs. Although it was not very successful in total launches and flights, it probably contributed more to Aerospace advancement than any other single program.

 I also participated in X-10 flights out of the Cape including the very last one. I would just like to clarify a point. NAVAHO was not flown as a drone against BOMARC. It was the X-10. If my memory serves me correctly there were only two (or maybe three) X-10s flyable at that time (late mid 1958) and two were supposed to fly as BOMARC drones. (BOMARC was programmed for a near miss so it wouldn't destroy the X-10.) I was in the Flight Control Building, (a control tower like structure beside the skid strip) for that flight. My position was just behind Wendell Garten, who was test pilot for that flight (and Chief Test Pilot for the NAVAHO program). At a certain point in the BORMAC countdown we were told to launch the X-10 from the skid strip. Our F-86D was flying as a chase vehicle. The D took off over the ocean and then turned back so that as X-10 took off the D would come in a fifty feet or so above the and beside the X-10. All went well and X-10 flew out over the ocean and then turned back to make its run for the intercept. At that point something went wrong with the BOMARC countdown. (By the way, the D was supposed to fly to Patrick and land and wait until the mission was over and then fly chase on the landing of X-10., but the test pilot forgot to lower his landing gear and the control tower didn't catch it. F-86D landed on its belly tanks. Scratch one F-86D.) Anyway, BOMARC scrubbed the shot and we had to land X-10 without completing the mission. Wendell made a good approach, a typical (very steep) 19 degree approach at 180 knots with a flare at the bottom, doing it by eyeballing it from Flight Control. (What a pilot!) X-10 only had differential braking to maintain a straight landing run. No brakes to stop it. It was stopped in two ways. First a drogue chute was deployed on landing and second there was a hook as in carrier landings. A cable ran across the skid strip for the hook to catch. The cable was attached on each end to two ship's anchor heavy chains running parallel to the runway. As the X-10 hook caught the cable it would pick up more and more chain as it traveled down the runway which would add more and more drag as it picked up chain and bring the vehicle to a halt. Well, the hook missed the wire or more likely we had a "hook skip". Without that chain the X-10 continued down the skid strip. No one in Flight Control breathed as we watched the X-10, only slowed by the drogue, approach the end of the runway. It was barely moving at it ran out of runway into the sand, we thought we had dodged a bullet but there was a small concrete camera pedestal on the centerline just off the end. The nose wheel hit it and collapsed, the X-10 nosed over and caught fire. I will never forget Windell's words. With tears in his eyes he announced very quietly over Test Conductor One line. "Gentlemen, we have a small fire at the end of the runway." He knew that this was the last X-10 flight after more than five years of breaking records and plowing new ground in avionics. 

 One more point. Although Hound Dog was an offshoot of X-10 it did not use X-10 airframe. It was a different and smaller airframe and a single jet engine instead of two. However, is forbearer was surely X-10, using the X-10/NAVAHO canard configuration and flight control system amother features. 

 Although I have almost fifty years of experience in the Aerospace industry, and have been involved in everything from missiles to Space Shuttle to Navy aircraft aboard Enterprise and from Electronic Warfare aircraft to Fighters, I cut my teeth on NAVAHO and I learned more on this program that all the rest put together. Anyway Bob, I just thought you might like this information. 

 Earl Ratliff 

eratliff1 "at"

From 1999:

Last year I posted a help wanted ad to Rec. Models.Rockets.  It detailed an excursion to Cape Canaveral to check out and measure the North American Navaho cruise missile and booster.  At the Cape museum stands the only existing copy of this ungainly creation in the world.  The Navaho is the Holy Grail of rockets for me, I spent much time researching it and chasing leads.  I found out that the rocket was down for refurbishment, I had the name of the contractor, I was ready to pack my camera and ditty bag and hop a flight. 

However, business got in the way so I sought help locally by posting a "help wanted" ad in the Usenet newsgroup Rec.Models.Rockets:

Help Wanted - Cape Canaveral - Inquire Within

Have tape measure - Will travel

I'm desperately looking for someone to go to Cape Canaveral and tape off a missile. Measurements are not currently in the public record.  They would need to take station measurements and diameters, take some photos and just nose around in general.

The thing is currently down off display, in a hanger, on cradles being corrosion-proofed and repainted in it's flight colors.  The work is being done in this historic hanger which has an upstairs office used by Herr Doktor Werner Von Braun while he was working on projects at the Cape.

I have made contact with the contractor doing the project for the museum and he is more than happy to let a couple of people crawl all over and through the thing for a day.  It's a really cool missile and the gentleman doing the restoration does it for a living as an independent contractor so he knows a lot about rockets and the like.  Sounded like a great guy on the phone.

A video tape of the adventure would be outstanding.  The bird goes back on display May 26 (16 days) so time is of the essence.

If you are interested email me or post here and I'll give you more details. This is an experience
not to be missed.

Bob Fortune

A gentleman named Tim Wilson was kind enough to answer my plea for help.  Tim is a shuttle propulsion engineer for NASA at KSC so Canaveral was not much of a drive for him plus he knew from rockets which was a big boon and he had a digital camera.  A couple of phone calls to the museum curator, a woman whose name escpaes me but a wonderful help, to arrange a pass for Tim and a another phone call to the contractor doing the restoration to get clearance into the hanger and everything was set:

Hi Bob --

I made it over to hangar C yesterday and took some measurements and pictures (one is attached to whet your appetite).  If you can really model this thing, you've got way more skill than I -- it's nothing but compound curves and bizarre angles.  Keith and Co. have it pretty-well stripped down, as you can see.

I'll get these dimensions on paper somehow and forward them on to you.  I know I didn't get everything, but maybe you'll have enough here to work with.  While the missile was pretty accessible, the guys were working on the booster and it was hard to get to -- all those curves were tough to measure, too.  Keith said he would have it in the hangar until the end of the month, so maybe I can take another shot at it if you find you're missing something critical.


-- Tim  : )

Tim's photos were great and his drawings even better.  Along with some of the pictures you are seeing he included some wonderful measurements of the bird while down.  Hopefully here soon will be pictures and a restoration log from the contractor who did the work for Johnson Controls at Cape Canaveral.  This persons name is Keith Davidson and does restoration projects like this one up and down the Florida coast.  Keith mentioned to me in a phone call that the entire bird was titanium!  Originally it was thought to be mostly aluminum but North American must have gotten a good deal on a supply on the magical metal.  Either that or the Air Force tossed a lot of money at them.



G26 Navaho Drawings

Original onsite measurements by Tim Wilson
Clarifications (to come) by Jim Ball
Genesis Line Art of Navaho to left by Mark Wade

Currently, the below drawings are Mark Wade's line art with Tim Wilson's measurements.  This was a faxed copy so things aren't perfect but they are close. 

Best way to view drawings one through three below is to download and print.

Drawing One - Cruise Missile

Full Size Drawing 8 1/2" x 11"

Drawing Two - Booster

Full Size Drawing 8 1/2" x 11"

Drawing Three - Fin Planform and details

Full Size Drawing 8 1/2" x 11"

Famous North American Rocket Scientist

Early Prototype Designed to carry a 10 micromilligram Thermonuclear Warhead over 435 feet using Model Missiles Inc. Hellfire C motor staging to twin MMI Damnation A motors

Links to some very nice photos of the X-10 and Navaho G26 in prelaunch, launch and flight configurations

Tim Johnson's excellent Navaho site:

Mark Wade's terrific Navaho page within his "Encyclopaedia Astronautica":

X Planes, X-10 - the precursor to the Navaho:

The Navaho At Patrick AFB, a short history from the military perspective:

From the "Virtual Tour" of Cape Canaveral

Bob Fortune 1999 - 2012  © All Rights Reserved