X-10 February 22, 1955

3244 Aerial image of the crash site. CLUI photo

In early 1955, an experimental X-10 jet plane crashed on private land near El Mirage Valley, south of Edwards Air Force Base. It was approaching its designated landing area on Rogers Dry Lake when its braking parachute deployed prematurely, 15 miles short of the runway. The X-10 landed upright, but then burst into flames. Nobody was injured in the incident, as this was an unmanned aircraft. The charred ground is still visible today.

3245 U.S. Air Force photo

The X-10 was one of the most sophisticated jets of its time. It was designed using the most advanced material and propulsion technology available, and was piloted completely by remote control. This early drone aircraft served as a prototype for North American Aviation’s SM-64 Navajo cruise missile. The twin-jet-powered X-10 was 66-feet long, had retractable landing gear, and was capable of flying at 40,000 feet, at speeds up to Mach 2. Five of the prototypes completed a total of 15 flights before the program was moved to Cape Canaveral, Florida. Three others crashed near Edwards, including one near California City in 1954. The only remaining X-10 is on display in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

3394 Chart from North American Aviation via AFFTC History Office

The X-10 prototypes took off and landed from a special runway at the southern end of Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards, remotely controlled from the ground, or from a chase aircraft. This radar track of the X-10 that crashed in 1955 shows the plane heading northeast from Edwards to Harper Dry Lake, then looping over Cuddeback Dry Lake, the Superior Valley Dry Lakes (Three Sisters), then heading back, doing a final loop around El Mirage Dry Lake, and finally crashing 15 miles short of the runway.