Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake or NAWS China Lake is an airborne weapons testing and training range operated by the United States Navy and its contractors. It is located in the northeast of California's Mojave Desert in northwestern San Bernardino County, southwestern Inyo County, and northeastern Kern County.


The main airfield, Armitage Field, is situated several miles from China Lake itself, an endorheic basin from which the range takes its name. It is the home base of several tenant commands, including the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). NAWS China Lake is the US Navy's largest single holding of land, comprised of 1.1 million acres (4500 km²), approximately one-third (1/3) of the US Navy's total land holdings in the world, and the airspace controlled jointly by the NAWS, Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin is the largest in the Department of Defense known as the R-2508 Special Use Airspace Complex.

According to the California State Military Museum Web site, the land, ranging in altitude from 2,100 to 8,900 feet (640 to 2700 m), 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.

Geographical history

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. Among the notable archaeological sites is the National Park Service's Coso Rock Art District, an area of some 99 square miles which contains more than 20,000 documented petroglyphs. The rock art district was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.

Historically rich, NAWS traces its heritage to the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) established at nearby Inyokern in 1943 as a joint navy/civilian facility, and the first civilian director was L.T.E. Thompson ("Dr. Tommy"). Since then it has been one of the US Navy's premier weapons development facilities and continues to support the US fleet. A number of preserved B-29 bombers in museums were reclaimed from target airframes stored on the ranges here in the 1950s.

Inventions tested and refined at China Lake include the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, the AGM-62 Walleye TV-guided glide bomb, the AGM-45 Shrike antiradar missile, the AIM-95 Agile missile, the AGM-122 Sidearm antiradar missile, the AGM-123 Skipper II laser-guided missile, the lightstick, and the continuous-rod warhead.

One of the world's largest geothermal power plants is located at China Lake at the Coso Geothermal Field. The installation currently produce 270 megawatts from four geothermal power plants. 166 wells have been drilled throughout the field, with production depths from 2,000 to 12,000 feet (610 to 3,700 m), and temperatures from 200° to 350°C. Coso began generating electricity in 1987.

External links

Official sites


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