Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the high desert home of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, is where the Navy and Marine Corps have developed or tested nearly every significant airborne weapon system in the past five decades. China Lake is located 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles on the western edge of California's Mojave Desert. If you are arriving by air, you may fly from Los Angeles International Airport to the Inyokern Airport, about 10 miles from the main gate. There is no public transportation between the airport and China Lake.
The men and women of the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake are assigned the mission of operating and maintaining base facilities and providing base support services, including airfields, for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, assigned tenants and activities and transient units. China Lake supports the primary research and development, test and evaluation work for air warfare and missile weapons systems. Missiles such as Sidewinder, Shrike and Walleye are just a few of the many products at China Lake which have been developed for the fleet.
China Lake carries out the complete weapon-development process--from basic and applied research through prototype hardware fabrication, test and evaluation, documentation, and Fleet and production support. China Lake is home to approximately 4,400 civilian employees and about 1,000 military personnel (including tenant Operation Test and Evaluation Force squadron VX-9) and is supported by over 1,500 contractor employees.
The Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), China Lake, encompases 1.1 million acres of land in California's upper Mojave Desert, accounting for approximately one-third of the Navy's total land holdings. The land, ranging in altitude from 2,100 to 8,900 feet, varies from flat dry lake beds to rugged piñon pine covered mountains. The majority of the land is undeveloped and provides habitat for more than 340 species of wildlife and 650 plant types. The area was once also home to Native Americans, whose presence here is marked by thousands of archaeological sites, and to early miners and settlers whose cabins and mining structures are still found scattered throughout the Station.
The California Desert Protection Act (the Act) of 1994 reauthorized the Navy's continued use of public withdrawn lands to support China Lake's research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) and training mission. The Act requires the development of a land use management plan for these withdrawn lands, in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, by October 1997. Additionally, in response to military downsizing initiatives and potential influences of evolving technologies on weapons systems RDT&E and training requirements, the Navy recognizes the need to implement a comprehensive management system that integrates operational and environmental planning processes.
The Navy's proposed action is the implementation of a comprehensive land use management plan (LUMP) at NAWS China Lake for managing existing and proposed land uses authorized under the California Desert Protection Act. Proposed land uses include, but are not limited to, ongoing and future military operations, public health and safety practices, and ongoing and future environmental resources management and conservation at NAWS China Lake. The LUMP will be developed in conformance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA, 1976).
In the midst of World War II, adequate facilities were needed for test and evaluation of rockets being developed for the Navy by the California Institutes of Technology (Cal Tech). At the same time, the Navy needed a new proving ground for all aviation ordnance. CalTech's Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen and then Cdr. Sherman E. Burroughs met and formed a pact to find a site meeting both their needs.
In the summer of 1943, while searching for the needed site, Dr. Lauritsen, in a small plane flown by Cdr. Jack Renard spotted a two-way landing strip near Inyokern. It was in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but empty desert for miles around, but not too far removed from CalTech's Pasadena base.
The Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) was established on November 8, 1943 and its mission defined in a letter by the Secretary of the Navy, "...a station having for its primary function the research, development and testing of weapons, and having additional function of furnishing primary training in the use of such weapons."
Testing began at China Lake within a month of the Station's formal establishment. The vast sparsely populated desert around China Lake and Inyokern, with near perfect flying weather and practically unlimited visibility, proved and ideal location not only for T&E activities, but also for a complete R&D establishment. The early Navy-CalTech partnership established a pattern of cooperation and interaction between civilian scientists and engineers and experienced military personnel that, in the ensuing five decades, has made China lake one of the preeminent RDT&E institutions in the world.
The Naval Ordnance Test Station had an "annex" at Pasadena staffed by professors from the California Institute of Technology who had left their classrooms to support the war effort. The group was tasked with improving performance of the Navy's airdropped Mark 13 torpedo. The result of their efforts was a highly reliable torpedo that figured prominently in the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf, where naval aviators launching Mark 13s accounted for the majority of the 60 Japanese ships sunk.
In the years following WW II, China Lake projects included development of the famed Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the Shrike anti-radiation missile, the Zuni rocket, a series of aircraft rockets, an entire family of free fall weapons, torpedoes and the TV-guided Walleye glide bomb. Additionally, the Polaris missile concepts were developed by NOTS weapons-planning teams, and the first submarine-launched ballistic missile motors were tested at China Lake.
NOTS and its successors were technical direction agents on all the Navy's lightweight torpedoes-Mark 32, Mark 43, Mark 44, Mark 46 and Mark 50. Each torpedo ran deeper and farther and had more sophisticated guidance and control systems to keep step with the increasing speed and sophistication of their potential targets-Soviet submarines. NOTS also developed the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) to launch a Mark 46 or a depth charge at a distance submarine target.
NOTS played a major role in the Navy's ballistic missile program. The Navy portion of the nation's strategic deterrence program was a fleet of submarines equipped with long-range ballistic missiles, hidden in millions of cubic miles of ocean. The strategy was excellent, but execution seemed impossible-how to get a missile to the surface before its ignition engine was fired. NOTS set up a "pop-up" range at San Clemente Island to determine how to do that. Tests were conducted with redwood logs and steel cylinders filled with concrete to determine the best mechanism to get a missile out of a submarine tube, through the water column and far enough into the air to allow engine ignition. Success came with the first live launch of a Polaris, conducted by the Center April 4, 1960, just a few months before the first Polaris submarine was commissioned. NOTS later performed major testing on the Poseidon and Trident missiles.
In July 1967, NOTS China lake and the Naval Ordnance Laboratory, Corona, Calif., became the Naval Weapons Center. The Corona facilities were closed and their functions transferred to China lake in 1971. In July 1979, the mission and functions of the National Parachute Test Range in El Centro were transferred to China Lake.
In January 1992, the Naval Weapons Center China Lake and the Pacific Missile Test Center Point Mugu were disestablished and combined as a single command, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWPNS). Each of the two major sites of NAWCWPNS is designated a Naval Air Weapons Station and is a NAWCWPNS host, performing the base-keeping functions.
The NAWCWPNS tenants at NAWS China Lake are today involved in programs that range from the Tomahawk Cruise Missile to the new Joint Stand-Off Weapons System (JSWO) and from the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) to the new F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
The Weapons Survivability Laboratory (WSL), at China Lake, conducts survivability testing for all three major services and industry to provide empirical data on the vulnerability of aircraft to actual threats. In addition, a complete machine shop is on site for fast repair and modification of aircraft and test articles. Full-scale aircraft, propulsion system, ballistic impact, hydraulic ram effects on fuel systems, fire detection and extinguishing, fuel ingestion, engines under simulated full-operating conditions, warhead detonations, thermal and structural tests, infrared (IR) signature tests, static and simulated in-flight crew ejections, pool fire, communication link payout studies, aerodynamic studies. Susceptibility and vulnerability reduction are used to improve existing platforms. Testing is performed under rigidly controlled and highly realistic conditions. NAWCWD is the Navy's field activity for weapon system non-nuclear survivability, weapons lethality, and live fire testing.
The Missile Engagement Simulation Arena [MESA] is China Lake's newest and most sophisticated simulation facility. Missile fuzes can be tested in a secure, controlled environment. Full intercept engagement conditions are simulated and tested - independent of weather or other environmental conditions. MESA is the most cost effective alternative to expensive and often uncontrollable field tests. Hundreds of runs can be made each day in a controllable and repeatable fashion. MESA and its predecessor, the Encounter Simulation Laboratory (ESL), have been serving the United States Armed Forces and their contractors for over 25 years. MESA is unique. It consists of a test range and secure office and vault spaces. High-bay simulation arena is 150 feet wide, 405 feet long and 90 feet high. Interior surfaces are designed to minimize and control background clutter. Hardware includes: instrumentation radar, three-axis sensor positioner, sensor transporter, mid-range target support, down-range target support, and two controllers which can position calibration spheres in two dimensions. MESA has two overhead target supports (OTS). Each OTS has six control lines, six encoder lines, a main hoist and two dedicated computers. MESA's flexibility in target positioning permits large-scale variations in target and sensor geometry. In most cases, geometry changes can happen in less than one minute.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended relocate the following functions to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake: all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except gun/ammo, combat system security, and energetic materials from Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, IN; all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except gun/ammo, underwater weapons, and energetic materials from Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head, MD; all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except the Program Executive Office and Program Management Offices in Naval Air Systems Command from NAS Patuxent River, MD; all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation from Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, CA; all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except underwater weapons and energetic materials, from Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, CA; all Weapons and Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except weapon system integration from Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme, CA; all Weapons & Armaments Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test & Evaluation, except guns/ammo and weapon systems integration from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, VA.
All actions would relocate technical facilities with lower overall quantitative Military Value (across Research, Development & Acquisition and Test & Evaluation) into the Integrated RDAT&E center and other receiver sites with greater quantitative Military Value. Consolidating the Navy's air-to-air, air-to-ground, and surface launched missile RD&A, and T&E activities at China Lake, CA, would create an efficient integrated RDAT&E center. China Lake would be able to accommodate with minor modification/addition both mission and lifecycle/ sustainment functions to create synergies between these traditionally independent communities. This recommendation would enable technical synergy, and position the Department of Defense to exploit center-of-mass scientific, technical and acquisition expertise with weapons and armament Research, Development & Acquisition that resided at 10 locations into the one Integrated RDAT&E site, one specialty site, and an energetics site.
This recommendation would realign and consolidate facilities working in Weapons & Armaments (W&A) Research, Development & Acquisition, and Test and Evaluation (RDAT&E) into a Naval Integrated RDAT&E center at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, CA. This construct would create an integrated W&A RDAT&E center in China Lake. The Integrated RDAT&E Center at China Lake would provide a diverse set of open-air range and test environments (desert, mountain, forest) for W&A RDAT&E functions. Synergy would be realized in air-to-air, air-to-ground, and surface launched mission areas. Environmentally, this recommendation would have the potential to impact air quality at China Lake. This recommendation would have the potential to impact land use constraints or sensitive resource areas at China Lake.
DoD also recommended to realign Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, CA, by relocating gun and ammunition Research and Development & Acquisition to Picatinny Arsenal, NJ. This recommendation would realign and consolidate those gun and ammunition facilities working in Weapons and Armaments (W&A) Research (R), Development & Acquisition (D&A). This realignment would result in a more robust joint center for gun and ammunition Research, Development & Acquisition at Picatinny Arsenal. This location was already the greatest concentration of military value in gun and ammunition W&A RD&A. This recommendation would include Research, Development & Acquisition activities in the Army and Navy. It would promote jointness, enable technical synergy, and position the Department of Defense to exploit center-of-mass scientific, technical, and acquisition expertise within the weapons and armament Research, Development & Acquisition community that resided at this DoD specialty location. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 11 jobs (5 direct jobs and 6 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in Bakersfield, CA, Metropolitan Statistical Area (less than 0.1 percent).
DoD would also realign Wright Patterson AFB, OH, by relocating fixed wing related Live Fire Test and Evaluation to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. This recommendation would complete the consolidation of all Fixed Wing Air Platform RDAT&E, begun during the previous BRAC rounds, at two principal sites: Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, MD, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB), OH, while retaining several specialty sites. Research and Development & Acquisition would be performed at NAS Patuxent River and Wright-Patterson AFB. This recommendation included Research, Development & Acquisition and Test & Evaluation activities in Fixed Wing Air Platforms across the Navy and Air Force. The planned component moves would enhance synergy by consolidating to major sites, preserve healthy competition, leverage existing infrastructure, minimize environmental impact, and effect reasonable homeland security risk dispersal. The relocation of Fixed Wing Air Platform Research was previously accomplished in response to the S&T Reliance Agreements resulting in the consolidation at Wright Patterson AFB with the maritime related Fixed Wing Air Platform Research consolidated at NAS Patuxent River. The consolidation of all Fixed Wing Air Platform Survivability Live Fire T&E at China Lake was driven by the inefficiencies that currently exist between the two sites (Wright Patterson AFB and China Lake), and the potential savings afforded by establishing a single live fire test range for fixed wing air platforms. China Lake had this capability and had been doing similar work related to weapons lethality for many years. This action would increase efficiency by reducing overall manpower requirements while also reducing redundancies that exist across the Live Fire Testing domain.
In another recommendation, DoD would realign Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, Point Mugu, CA by relocating the Sensors, Electronic Warfare (EW), and Electronics Research, Development, Acquisition, Test & Evaluation (RDAT&E) functions to Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, China Lake, CA. Consolidating the Sensors, EW, and Electronics RDAT&E functions at China Lake would eliminate redundant infrastructure between Point Mugu and China Lake and provide for the more efficient use of the remaining assets including the Electronic Combat Range and other integration laboratories at China Lake.
The total estimated one-time cost to implement this recommendation would be $72.7M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department of Defense during the implementation period would be a cost of $50.9M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $6.7M with a payback expected in 12 years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings to the Department of $16.9M. Environmentally, industrial waste management permits might need to be amended and additional water resources might be necessary at China Lake to accommodate the new mission. This recommendation would require spending approximately less than $0.04M for waste management and environmental compliance activities.