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Press Release Number:  ECL200303101 10-Mar-03


NAVAIR China Lake/Point Mugu Weapons Division--
By Carolanne Sacry

The facts are clear. We live in a changing world in uncertain times.
Our freedom and security are threatened. Sept. 11 tore at the fabric of the protective mantle we had wrapped about ourselves. We rely on our military forces to successfully prevent further attacks.

The ability to develop and test winning weapons systems, and to train our people under realistic, challenging conditions, is essential. Combat readiness is achieved with high-quality, realistic training and modernization of weapons and equipment which saves lives. NAVAIR Vice Commander RADM Bert Johnston recently said, "Testing is the last gateway that keeps our warfighter safe."

Although simulations are used to enhance training and testing, they cannot present the real-world factors. Everything needed for modern combat is tested within the boundaries of the NAVAIR Pacific Range Complex in California. These ranges form a single complex battlespace - including ocean, littoral, desert and mountain environments. Major exercises involve ships, aircraft, ground troops and the full arsenal of fleet, joint service and allied weapons. This extensive testing requires huge, highly secure, well-instrumented air, land and sea ranges - specifically 36,000 square miles of sea range, 1,700 square miles of land range and 20,000 square miles of R2508 restricted air space.

Long-range precision-guided weapons are launched and navigate to air, land, or sea targets. Low-flying aircraft fly against actual threat radar systems. New warheads are tested for penetration capabilities and lethality. Cruise missiles are tested for their ability to navigate through a wide variety of real-world topographies under all types of weather and temperature conditions. Modifications for naval ships and aircraft are tested to see that they meet rigid specifications. Bombs and missiles are subjected to weeks of environmental testing including heat, cold, salt spray, shaking, drop-testing, and bullet and fragment impact. Ultra-sophisticated sensors are used to test specialized monitoring equipment for communications, detection and surveillance. Full-sized aircraft are mounted on pylons and subjected to high-power microwave radiation.

Large buffer zones surround test grounds to ensure public safety. Restricted air space allows real-world maneuvering room for high-speed military aircraft while protecting civilian aircraft and populated areas. Communication among ship, aircraft and ground personnel is vital. Protection of data transmission bands in the RF (radio frequency) spectrum is a requirement.

These ranges, so vital to our national security, are under threat - not from external sources, but from within our own country. Population growth, urban expansion and environmental concerns are converging and threatening encroachment of essential space. Encroachment pressures, such as urban growth, growing airspace congestion, reduced access to RF spectrum and unintended consequences of environmental laws reduce the flexibility of our military's ability to train - a mission critical to national security requirements. NAVAIR has an active range sustainability program and is meeting these challenges with our can-do attitude.

Live testing is the final proof of system abilities under operational live combat conditions. Instruments - radars, cameras, communication networks, telemetry - must be capable of monitoring every aspect of a weapon's performance at speeds up to Mach 7 and across distances of hundreds of miles. Weapons and equipment are monitored these ranges for performance and effectiveness in real-world conditions.

Along with testing weapons and equipment, force-personnel warfighting skills are also learned and sharpened on NAVAIR's ranges and operating areas. Combatants master a complex set of skills and tasks built on teamwork, technical proficiency, communication and a thorough understanding of combat tactics learned under realistic training conditions.

NAVAIR recognizes its responsibility of environmental stewardship for future generations. Safety and security require large buffer zones surrounding the relatively small, specific, limited areas of weapon testing. Vast areas confined by NAVAIR remain in pristine condition. More than 95 percent of the 1.1 million acres at China Lake remains undisturbed by testing and training operations.

Protected areas contain ancient petroglyphs, Native American archeological sites, historic structures and protected plant and animal species. These untouched land, air and sea preserves allow nature and wildlife to thrive. NAVAIR protects threatened and endangered species including Northern elephant seals, island night lizard, Mojave Tui Chum plus insects, reptiles, birds, amphibians, land and marine mammals, fish, mollusks, and flowering plants.

NAVAIR ensures the long-term health of these species through data collection, geographical information system analysis, habitat improvements and species recovery efforts. Natural resources specialists (archaeologists, biologists, foresters, agronomists and land managers) balance the conservation of wildlife habitat and our national defense mission. A comprehensive environmental review process minimizes any environmental impacts.

The sometimes delicate balance between the conservation of natural and cultural resources and our national defense mission is not always easy, but is accomplished. Our military readiness must bear equal consideration with economic development and environmental stewardship.

Sustaining NAVAIR's test and training ranges meets America's military needs and expectations for fully trained, interoperable, combat-ready, joint forces of the 21st century.

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