NAWS China Lake provides and maintains land, facilities and other assets that support the Navy's research, development, acquisition, testing and evaluation (RDAT&E) of cutting-edge weapons systems for the warfighter.
NAWS China Lake is located in the Western Mojave Desert region of California, approximately 150 miles north of Los Angeles. The installation is the Navy's largest single landholding, representing 85 percent of the Navy's land for RDAT&E use and 38 percent of the Navy's land holdings worldwide. In total, its two ranges and main site cover more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
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.
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 - currently NAWS - 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.
The pioneering spirit and can-do attitude that helped early residents through China Lake's formative years have not disappeared. The direction and focus have changed during the years, but the China Lake community - military, civilian and contract personnel - remains active, interested and a vital part of the continued success of the United States Navy.
A number of annual and special non-FFR/MWR events take place at NAWS China Lake and within the community that would benefit the personnel aboard China Lake. Information about annual events such as military birthdays and milestones, Combined Federal Campaign, and patriotic observances can be found in the navigation to the left.
Please check this page often for community events and non- Fleet and Family Readiness events that take place at NAWS China Lake and in the community.
None at this time.
None at this time.
Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) is an organization within the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), dedicated to maintaining a center of excellence in weapons development for the Department of the Navy (DoN).
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE (VX-31)
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE (VX-31) provides the resources, expertise and support needed to plan and execute safe and efficient ground and flight tests of developmental weapons and weapons systems.
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron NINE (VX-9)
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron NINE (VX-9) conducts operational test and evaluation of all air-to-ground weapons, air-to-air weapons, sensors, electronic warfare systems and mission software upgrades to aircraft and weapon systems.
Marine Aviation Detachment (MAD)
The Marine Aviation Detachment at China Lake is on the cutting edge of technology for weapons, weapon systems, electronic warfare development, testing and evaluation.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachments
Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal forces are comprised of highly trained, skilled technicians who are experts in explosives, diving, and parachuting. Aboard NAWS China Lake, EOD detachments provide support for weapons tests, explosive hazardous waste treatments, emergency response incidents, and training.
Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southwest China Lake Detachment
NAVFAC Southwest China Lake Detachment is responsible for the public works, planning, engineering/design, construction, real estate, environmental services, and acquisition / disposal of facilities and real estate at NAWS China Lake.
Other Tenant Commands
Smaller, but equally important, tenant commands at NAWS China Lake.