North American Aviation (NAA) was a major American aerospace manufacturer, responsible for a number of historic aircraft, including the T-6 Texan trainer, the P-51 Mustang fighter, the B-25 Mitchell bomber, the F-86 Sabre jet fighter, the X-15 rocket plane, and the XB-70, as well as Apollo command and service module, the second stage of the Saturn V rocket, the Space Shuttle orbiter and the B-1 Lancer.
|North American Aviation|
|Successor||North American Rockwell|
|Parent||General Motors (1933–1948)|
Clement Melville Keys founded North American on December 6, 1928, as a holding company that bought and sold interests in various airlines and aviation-related companies. However, the Air Mail Act of 1934 forced the breakup of such holding companies. North American became a manufacturing company, run by James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger, who had been recruited from Douglas Aircraft Company. NAA did retain ownership of Eastern Air Lines until 1938.
Kindelberger moved the company's operations from Dundalk, Maryland to Los Angeles, California, which allowed flying year-round, and decided to focus on training aircraft, on the theory that it would be easier than trying to compete with established companies on larger projects. Its first planes were the GA-15 observation plane and the GA-16 trainer, followed by the O-47 and BT-9, also called the GA-16.
The BC-1 of 1937 was North American's first combat aircraft; it was based on the GA-16. In 1940, like other manufacturers, North American started gearing up for war, opening factories in Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Texas, and Kansas City, Kansas. North American ranked eleventh among United States corporations in the value of wartime production contracts.
North American's follow-on to the BT-9 was the T-6 Texan trainer, of which 17,000 were built, making it the most widely used trainer ever. The twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber achieved fame in the Doolittle Raid and was used in all combat theaters of operation. The P-51 Mustang was initially produced for Britain as an alternative to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, which North American had declined to produce under licence. The derivative A-36 Apache was developed as a ground attack aircraft and dive bomber. This was done, in part, to keep the airframe in production as the US Army Air Corps had not yet decided to purchase the type as a fighter.
A suggestion by the RAF that North American switch the P-51's powerplant from its original Allison engine to the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine may have been one of the most significant events in World War II aviation, as it transformed the P-51 into what many consider to be the best American fighter of the war.
Post-war, North American's employment dropped from a high of 91,000 to 5,000 in 1946. On V-J Day, North American had orders from the U.S. government for 8,000 aircraft. A few months later, that had dropped to 24.
Two years later in 1948, General Motors divested NAA as a public company. Nevertheless, NAA continued with new designs, including the T-28 Trojan trainer and attack aircraft, the odd-looking F-82 Twin Mustang, B-45 Tornado jet bomber, the FJ Fury fighter, AJ Savage, the revolutionary XB-70 Valkyrie Mach-3 strategic bomber, Shrike Commander, and T-39 Sabreliner business jet.
The Columbus, Ohio division of North American Aviation was instrumental in the exclusive development and production of the A-5 Vigilante, an advanced high speed bomber that would see significant use as a naval reconnaissance aircraft during the Vietnam War, the OV-10 Bronco, the first aircraft specifically designed for forward air control (FAC), and counter-insurgency (COIN) duties, and the T-2 Buckeye Naval trainer, which would serve from the late 1950s until 2008 and be flown in training by virtually every Naval Aviator and Naval Flight Officer in the US Navy and US Marine Corps for four decades. The Buckeye's name would be an acknowledgment to the state tree of Ohio, as well as the mascot of Ohio State University.
The North American F-86 Sabre started out as a redesigned Fury and achieved fame shooting down MiGs in the Korean War. Over 9,000 F-86s were produced. Its successor, the North American F-100 Super Sabre, was also popular.
Some 6,656 F-86s were produced in the United States, the most postwar military aircraft in the West, as well as another 2,500 elsewhere. To accommodate its Sabre production, North American opened facilities in a former Curtiss-Wright plant in Columbus, Ohio. It also moved into a former Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft plant at Downey, California, and in 1948, built a new plant at Downey. By the end of 1952, North American sales topped $315 million. Employment at the Columbus plant grew from 1,600 in 1950 to 18,000 in 1952.
The cancellation of the F-107 and F-108 programs in the late 1950s, as well as the cancellation of the Navaho intercontinental cruise missile program, was a blow to North American from which it never fully recovered.
Atomics International was a division of North American Aviation which began as the Atomic Energy Research Department at the Downey plant in 1948. In 1955, the department was renamed Atomics International and engaged principally in the early development of nuclear technology and nuclear reactors for both commercial and government applications. Atomics International was responsible for a number of accomplishments relating to nuclear energy: design, construction and operation of the first nuclear reactor in California (a small aqueous homogeneous reactor located at the NAA Downey plant), the first nuclear reactor to produce power for a commercial power grid in the United States (the Sodium Reactor Experiment located at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory) and the first nuclear reactor launched into outer space by the United States (the SNAP-10A). As overall interest in nuclear power declined, Atomics International transitioned to non-nuclear energy-related projects such as coal gasification and gradually ceased designing and testing nuclear reactors. Atomics International was eventually merged with the Rocketdyne division in 1978.
Autonetics began in 1945 at North American's Technical Research Laboratory, a small unit in the Los Angeles Division's engineering department based in Downey, California. The evolution of the Navaho missile program resulted in the establishment of Autonetics as a separate division of North American Aviation in 1955, first located in Downey, later moving to Anaheim, California in 1963. The division was involved in the development of guidance systems for the Minuteman ballistic missile system.
In 1955, the rocket engine operations were spun off into a separate division as Rocketdyne. This division furnished engines for the Redstone, Jupiter, Thor, Delta, and Atlas missiles, and for NASA's Saturn family of launch vehicles.
North American designed and built the airframe for the X-15, a rocket-powered aircraft that first flew in 1959.
In 1959, North American built the first of several Little Joe boosters used to test the launch escape system for the Project Mercury spacecraft. In 1960, the new CEO Lee Atwood decided to focus on the space program, and the company became the prime contractor for the Apollo command and service module, a larger Little Joe II rocket to test Apollo's launch escape system, and the S-II second stage of the Saturn V.
The fatal Apollo 1 fire in January 1967 was partly blamed on the company. In March, it merged with Rockwell-Standard, and the merged company became known as North American Rockwell. Within two years the new company was studying concepts for the Space Shuttle, and won the orbiter contract in 1972. In 1973, the company changed its name again to Rockwell International and named its aircraft division North American Aircraft Operations.
Rockwell International's defense and space divisions (including the North American Aviation divisions Autonetics and Rocketdyne) were sold to Boeing in December 1996. Initially called Boeing North American, these groups were integrated with Boeing's Defense division. Rocketdyne was eventually sold by Boeing to UTC Pratt & Whitney in 2005. UTC later sold Rocketdyne to Aerojet (GenCorp) in 2013.
Rockwell and aerospace giant North American Aviation merged in 1967 to form Rockwell North American.
Berliner-Joyce Aircraft was an American aircraft manufacturer. It was founded on 4 February 1929 when Henry Berliner and his 1922 company, Berliner Aircraft Company of Alexandria, Virginia, joined with Maryland Aviation Commission leader Captain Temple Nach Joyce.Berliner-Joyce hired William H. Miller as chief designer, and opened a 58,000 square foot factory in Dundalk, Maryland, near Logan Field. The facility operated one of the largest private wind tunnel operations of the time. The Great Depression ended the civil aircraft production market, so Berliner-Joyce concentrated on designing aircraft for the USAAC and US Navy.In May 1929 the company received its first order, for the Berliner-Joyce XFJ. Other projects, the P-16 and OJ-2, also received orders, but in 1933 North American Aviation bought controlling interest in the company and appointed its own executives. In January 1934 Joyce left the company to join Bellanca Aircraft, and soon after Berliner left for Engineering and Research Corporation. The company became the B/J division of North American Aviation, and was moved from Maryland to Inglewood, California.GM-NAA I/O
The GM-NAA I/O input/output system of General Motors and North American Aviation was the first operating system for the IBM 704 computer.It was created in 1956 by Robert L. Patrick of General Motors Research and Owen Mock of North American Aviation. It was based on a system monitor created in 1955 by programmers of General Motors for its IBM 701.
The main function of GM-NAA I/O was to automatically execute a new program once the one that was being executed had finished (batch processing). It was formed of shared routines to the programs that provided common access to the input/output devices. Some version of the system was used in about forty 704 installations.North American A-27
The North American Aviation A-27 is an attack version of the North American BC-1. Ten aircraft were ordered by Thailand as NA-69 light attack aircraft.Instead of being delivered to Thailand, the aircraft were taken over on October 1940 by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) to keep them out of Japanese hands and redesignated A-27 under the USAAC aircraft designation system. Assigned to Nichols Field in the Philippines and used as a trainer, all A-27s were destroyed within a month during the Japanese invasion of that country during World War II.North American F-86 Sabre
The North American F-86 Sabre, sometimes called the Sabrejet, is a transonic jet fighter aircraft. Produced by North American Aviation, the Sabre is best known as the United States' first swept-wing fighter that could counter the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15 in high-speed dogfights in the skies of the Korean War (1950–1953), fighting some of the earliest jet-to-jet battles in history. Considered one of the best and most important fighter aircraft in that war, the F-86 is also rated highly in comparison with fighters of other eras. Although it was developed in the late 1940s and was outdated by the end of the 1950s, the Sabre proved versatile and adaptable and continued as a front-line fighter in numerous air forces until the last active operational examples were retired by the Bolivian Air Force in 1994.Its success led to an extended production run of more than 7,800 aircraft between 1949 and 1956, in the United States, Japan, and Italy. Variants were built in Canada and Australia. The Canadair Sabre added another 1,815 airframes, and the significantly redesigned CAC Sabre (sometimes known as the Avon Sabre or CAC CA-27), had a production run of 112. The Sabre is by far the most-produced Western jet fighter, with total production of all variants at 9,860 units.North American FJ-1 Fury
The North American FJ-1 Fury was the first operational jet aircraft in United States Navy service, and was developed by North American Aviation as the NA-135. The FJ-1 was an early transitional jet of limited success which carried over similar tail surfaces, wing, and canopy derived from the piston-engined P-51D Mustang. The evolution of the design to incorporate swept wings would become the basis for the land-based XP-86 prototype - itself originally designed with a very similar straight-wing planform to the FJ-1 airframe - of the United States Air Force's enormously influential F-86 Sabre, which in turn formed the basis for the Navy's carrier-based North American FJ-2/-3 Fury.North American MQM-42
The MQM-42 was a supersonic target drone developed by North American Aviation (from 1967 North American Rockwell). Developed in two subvariants, Redhead and Roadrunner, it was used by the United States Army in the 1960s and 1970s.North American P-51 Mustang
The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter. The prototype NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October.The Mustang was designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine (which had limited high-altitude performance in its earlier variants). The aircraft was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). Replacing the Allison with a Rolls-Royce Merlin resulted in the P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III) model and transformed the aircraft's performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (without sacrificing range), allowing it to compete with the Luftwaffe's fighters. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the two-speed two-stage-supercharged Merlin 66, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning machine guns.From late 1943, P-51Bs and P-51Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang, by then redesignated F-51, was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters, including North American's F-86, took over this role; the Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian warbirds and air racing aircraft.North American P-64
The North American P-64 was the designation assigned by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) to the North American Aviation NA-68 fighter, an upgraded variant of the NA-50 developed during the late 1930s. Seven NA-50s were purchased by the Peruvian Air Force, which nicknamed it Torito ("Little Bull").
Six NA-68s ordered by the Royal Thai Air Force were seized before export by the US government in 1941, after the Franco-Thai War and growing ties between Thailand and the Empire of Japan. These aircraft were used by the USAAC as unarmed fighter trainers.
The Peruvian NA-50s subsequently saw action during the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of 1941.North American Sabreliner
The North American Sabreliner, later sold as the Rockwell Sabreliner, is an American mid-sized business jet developed by North American Aviation. It was offered to the United States Air Force (USAF) in response to its Utility Trainer Experimental (UTX) program. It was named "Sabreliner" due to the similarity of the wing and tail to North American's F-86 Sabre jet fighter. Military variants, designated T-39 Sabreliner, were used by the USAF, United States Navy (USN), and United States Marine Corps (USMC) after the USAF placed an initial order in 1959. The Sabreliner was also developed into a commercial variant.North American T-6 Texan
The North American Aviation T-6 Texan is an American single-engined advanced trainer aircraft used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), United States Navy, Royal Air Force, and other air forces of the British Commonwealth during World War II and into the 1970s. Designed by North American Aviation, the T-6 is known by a variety of designations depending on the model and operating air force. The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) and USAAF designated it as the AT-6, the United States Navy the SNJ, and British Commonwealth air forces the Harvard, the name by which it is best known outside the US. Starting in 1948, the new United States Air Force (USAF) designated it the T-6, with the USN following in 1962. It remains a popular warbird aircraft used for airshow demonstrations and static displays. It has also been used many times to simulate various Japanese aircraft, including the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, in movies depicting World War II in the Pacific. A total of 15,495 T-6s of all variants were built.North American X-10
The North American X-10 (model RTV-A-5) was an unmanned technology demonstrator, developed by North American Aviation. It was a subscale reusable design that included many of the design features of the SM-64 Navaho missile. The X-10 was similar to the development of Bell's X-9 Shrike project, which was based on features of the GAM-63 RASCAL.North American X-15
The North American X-15 was a hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as part of the X-plane series of experimental aircraft. The X-15 set speed and altitude records in the 1960s, reaching the edge of outer space and returning with valuable data used in aircraft and spacecraft design. The X-15's official world record for the highest speed ever recorded by a manned, powered aircraft, set in October 1967 when William J. Knight flew at Mach 6.70 at 102,100 feet (31,120 m), a speed of 4,520 miles per hour (7,274 km/h; 2,021 m/s), has remained unbroken as of 2019.During the X-15 program, 12 pilots flew a combined 199 flights. Of these, 8 pilots flew a combined 13 flights which met the Air Force spaceflight criterion by exceeding the altitude of 50 miles (80 km), thus qualifying these pilots as being astronauts. The Air Force pilots qualified for military astronaut wings immediately, while the civilian pilots were eventually awarded NASA astronaut wings in 2005, 35 years after the last X-15 flight.North American XB-21
The North American XB-21, also known by the manufacturer's model designation NA-21, and sometimes referred to by the name "Dragon", was a prototype bomber aircraft developed by North American Aviation in the late 1930s, for evaluation by the United States Army Air Corps. Evaluated against the Douglas B-18 Bolo, it was found to be considerably more expensive than the rival aircraft, and despite the ordering of a small number of evaluation aircraft, only the prototype was ever built.North American XB-28 Dragon
The North American XB-28 (NA-63) Dragon was an aircraft proposed by North American Aviation to fill a strong need in the United States Army Air Corps for a high-altitude medium bomber. It never entered into production, with only two prototypes being built.North American XB-70 Valkyrie
The North American Aviation XB-70 Valkyrie was the prototype version of the planned B-70 nuclear-armed, deep-penetration strategic bomber for the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command. Designed in the late 1950s by North American Aviation (NAA), the six-engined Valkyrie was capable of cruising for thousands of miles at Mach 3+ while flying at 70,000 feet (21,000 m).
At these speeds, it was expected that the B-70 would be almost immune to interceptor aircraft, the only effective weapon against bomber aircraft at the time. The bomber would spend only a few minutes over a particular radar station, flying out of its range before the controllers could position their fighters in a suitable location for an interception. High speed also made the aircraft difficult to see on radar displays and its high-altitude capacity could not be matched by any contemporary Soviet fighter.
The introduction of the first Soviet surface-to-air missiles in the late 1950s put the near-invulnerability of the B-70 in doubt. In response, the United States Air Force (USAF) began flying its missions at low level, where the missile radar's line of sight was limited by terrain. In this low-level penetration role, the B-70 offered little additional performance over the B-52 it was meant to replace, while being far more expensive with shorter range. Other alternate missions were proposed, but these were of limited scope. With the advent of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during the late 1950s, manned bombers were increasingly seen as obsolete.
The USAF eventually gave up fighting for its production and the B-70 program was canceled in 1961. Development was then turned over to a research program to study the effects of long-duration high-speed flight. As such, two prototype aircraft, designated XB-70A, were built; these aircraft were used for supersonic test-flights during 1964–69. In 1966, one prototype crashed after colliding with a smaller aircraft while flying in close formation; the remaining Valkyrie bomber is in the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio.North American XF-108 Rapier
The North American XF-108 Rapier was a proposed long-range, high-speed interceptor aircraft designed by North American Aviation intended to defend the United States from supersonic Soviet strategic bombers. The aircraft would have cruised at speeds around Mach 3 (3,200 km/h; 2,000 mph) with an unrefueled combat radius over 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km; 1,200 mi), and was equipped with radar and missiles offering engagement ranges up to 100 miles (160 km) against bomber-sized targets.
To limit development costs, the program shared engine development with the North American XB-70 Valkyrie strategic bomber program, and used a number of elements of earlier interceptor projects. The program had progressed only as far as the construction of a single wooden mockup when it was cancelled in 1959, due to a shortage of funds and the Soviets' adoption of ballistic missiles as their primary means of nuclear attack. Had it flown, the F-108 would have been the heaviest fighter of its era.
Prior to the project's cancellation, the President of the United States Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower noted that raising the F-108 interceptor force would have cost the U.S. taxpayer $4 billion (equivalent to $34 billion today).North American XSN2J
The North American XSN2J-1, also known by the company designation NA-142, was developed for the United States Navy by North American Aviation as a replacement for the SNJ Texan as an advanced scout-trainer. Designed in competition with the Fairchild XNQ, the XSN2J-1 first flew on 15 February 1947, two aircraft being evaluated by the Navy. Neither aircraft were considered satisfactory in evaluations; in addition, restrictions on the Navy's budget meant that the aircraft could not be ordered at the time, and the program was cancelled in 1948. The similar T-28 Trojan would later be ordered to fill the Navy's requirement for a new trainer.Rocketdyne
Rocketdyne was an American rocket engine design and production company headquartered in Canoga Park, in the western San Fernando Valley of suburban Los Angeles, in southern California.
The Rocketdyne Division was founded by North American Aviation (NAA) in 1955, and was later part of Rockwell International (1967-1996) and Boeing (1996-2005). In 2005, the Rocketdyne Division was sold to United Technologies Corporation, becoming Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne as part of Pratt & Whitney. In 2013, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne was sold to GenCorp, which merged it with Aerojet to form Aerojet Rocketdyne.Rockwell International
Rockwell International was a major American manufacturing conglomerate in the latter half of the 20th century, involved in aircraft, the space industry, both defense-oriented and commercial electronics, automotive and truck components, printing presses, power tools, valves and meters, and industrial automation. Rockwell ultimately became a group of companies founded by Colonel Willard Rockwell. At its peak in the 1990s, Rockwell International was No. 27 on the Fortune 500 list, with assets of over $8 billion, sales of $27 billion and 115,000 employees.
North American and Rockwell International aircraft