As Convair’s military contracts evaporated at the end of the war, North American Aviation, headquartered in nearby Inglewood shifted its focus to jet aircraft, and in need of more manufacturing capacity, began to lease Convair’s assembly plant. North American produced the AJ-1 Navy bomber, a post-war T-28 trainer, and the AT-6 wartime trainer in Downey, as well as conducting research and development on a number of other projects for the government.
Among the most significant of these R & D projects was the Navaho missile program, designed to produce a surface-to-surface guided missile capable of carrying an atomic warhead 5,500 nautical miles at a speed of at least Mach 2.75. Although the program was ultimately cancelled in the late 1950s, the technical discoveries that came out of the program were abundant in the areas of rocket guidance and propulsion, and these technologies were transferred into the new generation of weapons (ballistic missiles).
In 1958, North American’s Downey Missile Division took on the contract to produce the Hound Dog Air-to-Ground Missile, designed to be launched from the B-52 bomber in order to destroy heavily defended enemy targets. The missile continued to be produced at the Downey plant through the early 1960s. Also in 1958, North American won the contract to produce the Little Joe Launch Vehicle to test the Mercury program.