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General Background of the Anaheim Facility

Autonetics originated in North American Aviation's Technical Research Laboratory, a small unit in the Los Angeles Division's engineering department in 1945. In 1946, the laboratory won an Army Air Force contract to develop a 175- to-500-mile-range glide missile. The work and the lab expanded, so that by June 1948, all of the Aerophysics Laboratory was consolidated at Downey, Calif. The evolution of the Navaho missile program then resulted in the establishment of Autonetics as a separate division of North American Aviation in 1955, first located in Anaheim, Calif.

Autonetics included the Navigation Systems division, designing and producing inertial and stellar-inertial navigation systems for ships, submarines, missiles, aircraft and space vehicles. Other products included alignment devices and attitude reference systems for missile launchers, artillery, orientation, land survey, aircraft and missile-range ships.

The Autonetics Data Systems division developed data-processing systems, general-purpose digital computers, ground support equipment, control systems and telemetry systems. The Electro Sensor Systems division built multi-function radar systems, armament control computers, data and information display systems for high performance aircraft, and sensor equipment.

Autonetics built a portable office computer and ranging radar for trainers and fighters and was responsible for the guidance and control system for the Boeing-built Minuteman missiles. The division ultimately produced the Monica family of microcomputers and the D37B Minuteman II computer, in which microminiaturization reduced weight by two-thirds.

Milestones also included the first airplane flight of an inertial autonavigator (XN-1) in 1950 and the first flight of an all-solid-state computer (for the Navaho guidance system) in 1955.

The High and the Mighty

In the Dec. 2009 - Jan. 2010 issue of the Boeing Frontiers magazine, an article entitled "The High and the Mighty" documenting the history of North American Aviation was published. To view this article, click here. Note: To view this article, the Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to be installed on your computer. If you don't have this reader, it can be down loaded at no cost from .

A Rockwell History

Although not specifically about Autonetics, the web site article on Rockwell Automation includes an extensive, well written and referenced history starting at the very earliest days of North American. It's an interesting read. You can find the article by following this link. Once on the web site, click the "Company History" menu item on the left side of the screen.

Anaheim Site History in Logos

Anaheim Site Through The Years  

Below are three congruent aerial photos taken over a period of 1947 to 2005. At it's peak, the Autonetics Complex was spread over approximately 260 acres. For those who may be interested, these aerial photos were obtained from the site Historic Aerials. This site is compiling a data base of overlaid aerial photographs of the US sorted by date. 


Anaheim Site - 1947

Anaheim Site - 1972

Anaheim Site - 2005

Autonetics In Wikipedia

Autonetics has a minimal entry in Wikipedia, the free on-line encyclopedia. Wikipedia entries are generated by user inputs to the site which are vetted and, if meeting Wikipedia's standards are published. If you have a good knowledge of Autonetics history and would like to contribute to an expanded Autonetics entry, go to this location.


History of the Navaho Missile


How the development of the Navaho missile led to greater tech advances 

  By Michael Lombardi   

An X-10 is shown at Edwards AFB, Cal. The X-10, used to evaluate the guidance systems and flight characteristics of the Navaho missile, was the first turbojet vehicle to reach a speed of Mach 2.











The Navaho G-26 (SM-64) pioneered the piggyback launch configuration later used by the space shuttle.

 As World War II came to a close in Eu­rope, Germany introduced a deadly new weapon: the V-2 ballistic missile. There was no defense against the rocket-powered supersonic missile. As a result, destroying its launch sites and capturing advanced rocket technology, as well as the German scientists who created it, became a priority as the allies advanced across Europe.

 Similar research on rocketry and guided missile technology had been largely neglected in the United States during the war. But after seeing the V-2, it became a priority. The U.S. Army initiated a series of postwar guided missile and rocket development programs with a number of U.S. aviation companies.

   One such program was North American Aviation's Navaho, which began with a 1946 Army Air Force contract that called for initial studies of existing rocket technology, including technology collected from Germany, to develop a surface-to-surface guided missile.

    Other than captured German rocket technology, none of the other technologies that were needed to make Navaho existed. Everything from ramjet engines to computer guidance, high-temperature materials and knowledge of the aerodynamics of high-speed flight had to be developed from scratch.  A company report on Navaho stated:  "North American found itself in the position of a composer who is commissioned to write a symphony but must base it on a new tonal scale, a new principle of harmonics and a new set of instruments."

For the next four years, North American and the Air Force studied various concepts.  In 1950, they arrived at a phased program that was to lead to a nuclear-armed, supersonic intercontinental-range surface-to-surface missile designated the SM-64A Navaho.

   The first phase was an evaluation of the guidance systems and flight characteristics of the Navaho missile. To evaluate them, North American built the turbojet-powered X-10 test vehicle. The design of the X-10, with its rear wings, long slender fuselage and canard control surfaces, later influenced the design of the XB-70 Valkyrie, as well as the Boeing Sonic Cruiser. The X-10 was the first turbojet-powered vehicle to reach Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound); it also was the first aircraft to fly a complete mission under inertial (computerized) guidance and the first to use a self-contained automatic landing system.

    The next phase of the Navaho program was the development of the SM-64 ground-to-ground missile, or what North American called the G-26. The G-26 required the development of powerful rocket engines and an autonavigator unit that was small and lightweight. To develop them, North American pioneered precise lightweight electronics through the use of transistors and the development of printed circuit boards.

The 67-foot-long (20.4-meter), ramjet powered missile rode piggyback on a 76-foot (24-meter) booster powered by a pair of 200,000-pound-thrust (890-kilonewton) engines. This powerful combination helped the G-26 become the first jet vehicle to reach Mach 3 and an altitude of 77,000 feet (23,500 meters).

In July 1957, after extensive testing at Cape Canaveral Auxiliary Air Force Base, Fla., the Air Force decided to go forward with ballistic missiles for land-based nuclear deterrence and canceled the Navaho program. While many Navaho delays and teething problems were due to its complexity, the simple reason for its cancellation was the fact that a ballistic missile traveling near Mach 20 would reach its target in a fraction of the time and was (at the time) impossible to intercept.

During its nearly 10 years of development and testing, the Navaho program made key technological breakthroughs .in nearly every discipline of engineering and electronics. The pioneering work in developing the rocket engines led to the formation of North American's Rocketdyne division, still a leader in the development and production of rocket engines. The pioneering work in the development of digital computer technology and modular electronic circuitry as well as inertial guidance systems would lead to the formation of North American's Autonetics Division - now the home of the Boeing site in Anaheim, Calif.- and the development of navigation systems for airplanes, missiles and even the system used on the USS Nautilus to navigate under the polar icecap.

"Even though it was cancelled, Navaho made important contributions to the nation’s aerospace industry,” said Sam F. Iacobellis, retired Rockwell executive vice president and chief operating officer, who worked on the Navaho program early in his career at North American Aviation.  “In many ways the Navaho booster was more powerful than the Atlas or Titan rockets and helped Rocketdyne in its development of the 7.5 million-pound-thrust (33,400-kilonewton) Saturn V rocket engines.  The Navaho is another example of ‘the patient died, but the operation was a success’.

That success thrust North American Aviation into a position of technological leadership that led to the company being selected for the XB-70, X15 and A3J Vigilante programs, as well as two of the most important and prestigious programs in aerospace history: the Apollo spacecraft and the space shuttle.