Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
China lake.jpg
Airport type Military
Owner U.S. Government
Operator United States Navy
Location China Lake, California
In use 1943 - present
Commander CAPT. Jeffrey A. Dodson
Elevation AMSL 2,283 ft / 696 m
Coordinates 35°41′08″N 117°41′31″W / 35.68556°N 117.69194°W / 35.68556; -117.69194
Direction Length Surface
ft m
3/21 9,993 3,046 PEM
8/26 7,702 2,348 PEM
14/32 9,013 2,747 PEM
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Indian Wells Valley, showing Ridgecrest, California and the China Lake area.
FAA Airport Diagram



Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake is part of Commander, Navy Region Southwest under Commander, Navy Installation Command and is located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, approximately 150 miles (240 km) north of Los Angeles. Occupying three counties – Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo – the installation’s closest neighbors are the cities of Ridgecrest, Inyokern, Trona and Darwin. The main gate of the installation is located at the intersection of Inyokern Road (Highway 178) and China Lake Blvd. in the city of Ridgecrest.

China Lake is the United States Navy's largest single landholding, representing 85 percent of the Navy’s land for weapons and armaments research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation (RDAT&E) use and 38 percent of the Navy’s land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1,100,000 acres (4,500 km2), an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. As of 2010, at least 95 percent of that land has been left undeveloped. The roughly $3 billion infrastructure of the installation consists of 2,132 buildings and facilities, 329 miles (529 km) of paved roads, and 1,801 miles (2,898 km) of unpaved roads.

The 19,600 square miles (51,000 km2) of restricted and controlled airspace at China Lake makes up 12 percent of California’s total airspace and provides an unprecedented venue for integrated testing and training of today’s warfighter. Jointly-controlled by NAWS China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin, this airspace is known as the R-2508 Special Use Airspace Complex.


NAWS China Lake's mission is to support the Navy's research, testing and evaluation missions to provide cutting-edge weapons systems to the warfighter.


To support the Fleet, fighter and family fighting the Global War on Terror with consistent, standardized and reliable performance at China Lake by providing the right service, at the right time, at the right cost, and to be ready to defend the installation should the war come to our gate.

Armitage Field

All aircraft operations at NAWS China Lake are conducted at Armitage Field which has three runways with more than 26,000 feet (7,900 m) of taxiway. More than 20,000 manned and un-manned military sorties are conducted out of Armitage by U.S. Armed Forces each year.

Foreign military personnel also use the airfield and range to conduct more than 1,000 test and evaluation operations each year.

Nearly 900 military and civilians passed through Armitage Field in 2007.

Tenant Commands

The 620 active duty military, 4,166 civilian employees and 1,734 contractors that make up China Lake's workforce are employed across multiple tenant commands, including:


In the midst of World War II, adequate facilities were needed by the California Institute of Technology for test and evaluation of rockets. At the same time, the Navy needed a new proving ground for aviation ordnance. Cal Tech's Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen and then Cmdr. Sherman E. Burroughs met and formed a pact to find a site that would meet both their needs.

The Navy established China Lake as the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) in November 1943. Its mission was 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 within a month of the Station's formal establishment. The vast and sparsely populated desert with near perfect flying weather and practically unlimited visibility, proved an ideal location not only for test and evaluation activities, but also for a complete research and development establishment.

The early Navy-Cal Tech partnership established a pattern of cooperation and interaction between civilian scientists and engineers, experienced military personnel and defense contractors that has made China Lake one of the preeminent research, development, test and evaluation institutions in the world. Dr. L.T.E. Thompson was the first civilian head at the unit.

In 1950, NOTS scientists and engineers developed the air-intercept missile (AIM) 9 Sidewinder, which has become the world’s most used and most copied air-to-air missile. A few of the other rockets and missiles developed or tested at China Lake have included the Mighty Mouse, Zuni, Sidewinder, Shrike, Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW) and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

In July 1967, NOTS China Lake and the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Corona, California, became the Naval Weapons Center. The Corona facilities were closed and their functions transferred to the desert in 1971. In July 1979, the mission and functions of the National Parachute Test Range in El Centro were transferred to China Lake.

The Naval Weapons Center and the Pacific Missile Test Center Point Mugu were disestablished in January 1992 and joined with naval units at Albuquerque and White Sands, N.M. as a single command - the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. At the same time, the physical plant at China Lake was designated as a Naval Air Weapons Station and became host of the Weapons Division, performing the base-keeping functions.

The Station's role in the community has evolved from that of primary landlord and provider of services to that of being primarily a good neighbor. The present NAWS housing area, much smaller than that of the 1960s, is sufficient to support the Station's military. The community area of China Lake was annexed by the City of Ridgecrest in 1982 and today the spirit of community extends to residents both on and off the base.

Weapons Developed at China Lake

Environmental Stewardship

While the Navy’s mission is primarily national defense, they and NAWS China Lake are committed to operating forces and conducting training in a manner compatible with the environment. National defense and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive goals. Part of the Navy's mission is to also prevent pollution, protect the environment and protect natural, historical and cultural resources.


The majority of the land at NAWS China Lake is undeveloped and provides habitat for more than 340 species of wildlife, including wild horses and burros and endangered animals, such as the desert tortoise and Mohave Tui Chub. The installation is also home to 650 plant types.


The area was once also home to the Native American Coso People, whose presence here is marked by thousands of archaeological sites; the Coso traded with other tribes as far away as San Luis Obispo County, California. This locale was also a site used by European miners and settlers whose cabins and mining structures are extant throughout the Station. Among the notable archaeological sites is the National Park Service's

The Coso Range Canyons are home to the Coso Rock Art District, an area of some 99 square miles (260 km2) which contains more than 50,000 documented petroglyphs,[2] the highest concentration of rock art in the Northern Hemisphere.

No one knows for sure how old these petroglyphs are. A broad range of dates can be inferred from archaeological sites in the area and some artifact forms depicted on the rocks. Some of them may be as old as 16,000 years, some as recent as the 1800s. Designs range from animals to abstract to anthropomorphic figures. Opinions vary widely whether the petroglyphs were made for ceremonial purposes, whether they are telling stories to pass along the mythology of their makers, or whether they are records of hunting hopes or successes, clan symbols or maps.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the rock art in Little Petroglyph Canyon provides fascinating insights into the cultural heritage and knowledge of the desert’s past. Everything in the canyon area is fully protected, including the obsidian chips and any artifacts or tools, as well as the petroglyphs and native vegetation and wildlife.

Little Petroglyph Canyon contains 20,000 documented images, which surpasses in number most other collections.

NAWS China Lake firmly believes that the petroglyphs located within the installation are a treasure and should be shared. Little Petroglyph Canyon is open to the public for tours.

Coso Geothermal Field

The Station is also home to the Coso Geothermal Field. The geothermal power plants located there began generating electricity in 1987 and are the Navy’s first foray into producing clean power from the earth’s thermal energy (heat). Total electricity production from the field amounts to 270 megawatt-hours (970 GJ) per year, equivalent to saving over 4 million barrels of oil. Just one megawatt of electricity will meet the needs of approximately 1,400 households.

Origin of name

Chinese men harvested borax from the dry lake bed approximately 1.5 miles south of Paxton Ranch. The operation was known locally as “The Little Chinese Borax Works’’.[3]

See also

  • Big and Little Petroglyph Canyons


  1. ^ FAA Airport Master Record for NID (Form 5010 PDF), effective 2007-07-05
  2. ^ NPS Archeology Program: Coso Rock Art
  3. ^ Panlaqui, Carol, What’s in a Name?, Maturango Museum, Ridgecrest, California (undated single sheet).

External links

Official sites

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake — Photo satellite de China Lake Tir d essai d un missile antiradar AGM 45 par un …   Wikipédia en Français

  • China Lake, Kern County, California — China Lake   Unincorporated community   …   Wikipedia

  • China Lake (disambiguation) — China Lake may refer to: Places China Lake, Kern County, California, unincorporated community China Lake Acres, California, census designated place (CDP) Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, airborne weapons testing and training range located at …   Wikipedia

  • China Lake, California — may refer to: Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, airborne weapons testing and training range operated by the United States Navy China Lake, Kern County, California China Lake Acres, California, census designated place (CDP) in Kern County,… …   Wikipedia

  • China Lake — ist der Name mehrerer Seen in den Vereinigten Staaten: China Lake (Maine) China Lake (Montana) China Lake (Oregon) China Lake (Glasscock County, Texas) China Lake (Knox County, Texas) China Lake (Ward County, Texas) China Lake (Utah) Gemeinde in… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • China Lake — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Cinéma et télévision China Lake est un court métrage américain réalisé par Robert Harmon en 1983. China Lake est un film américain réalisé par Dieter… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • China Lake NATIC — Un lance grenade China Lake. Le China Lake Natic est un lance grenade à pompe, il possède un chargeur de 4 coups avant de recharger. (Avec une grenade dans la chambre, trois dans le chargeur.) Il à était développé par la division des projets… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Naval air station — A Naval Air Station is a military airbase, and consists of a permanent land based operations locations for the military aviation division of the relevant branch of their Navy. Such bases are used to house Naval Aviation Squadrons and their… …   Wikipedia

  • Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach — Seal Beach, California Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach Insignia Type …   Wikipedia

  • Naval Air Station Lemoore — Reeves Field IATA: NLC – ICAO: KNLC FAA: NLC Summary Airport type Naval Air Stat …   Wikipedia