NTWP Commodore’s Corner
Naval Test Wing Pacific (NTWP), a component of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, enables delivery of integrated air warfare capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps warfighters through capabilities-based test and evaluation. NTWP provides safe, effective and efficient ground and flight test, airborne flight test support, and experimental operations of manned and unmanned aircraft, weapons, and weapons systems for the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Missile Defense Agency, and foreign government programs.
Formally established May 8, 1995, NTWP is comprised of two Developmental Test Squadrons: Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 30, located in Point Mugu, California, and VX-31, located in China Lake, California.
VX-30 provides research, development, test, and evaluation of manned and unmanned fixed and rotary wing aircraft and weapons systems. The Bloodhounds operate a diverse inventory of manned aircraft, including the P-3C Orion, NP-3D Orion, a modified P-3A unique in the fleet and a national asset and KC-130T Hercules. Additionally, VX-30 is the Navy’s premier West Coast test facility for unmanned air systems (UAS) and currently operates the RQ-23A TigerShark.
The Bloodhounds’ highly instrumented aircraft conduct range surveillance, photometric support, area clearance, and airborne telemetry primarily on the 36,000 square mile Point Mugu Sea Range. Their operational specialists are responsible for safety of flight and range clearance operations, and the Airborne Threat Simulation Department routinely deploys worldwide supporting the Fleet with unique airborne threat simulations at remote ranges.
VX-30 Test Support Highlights
Over the last year, VX-30 has flown in support of hundreds of events conducted by a wide range of customers utilizing the Point Mugu Sea Range and other ranges all across the globe. VX-30 customers include the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Missile Defense Agency (MDA), Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Navy Strategic Systems Program, as well as Program Executive Office (PEO) Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS), PEO Unmanned Systems and Weapons (U&W), PEO Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and various other programs across the Department of Defense. VX-30’s execution of the range surveillance and clearance mission enabled high-profile programs to conduct live-fire weapons testing safely and effectively, ensuring the safety of all non-participating vessels or assets during hazardous testing operations. Photometric data collection enabled by VX-30 aircraft and aircrew provided high-fidelity multi-spectral imagery for post-flight mission reconstruction and data analysis in support of dynamic systems under test. The squadron’s support of the telemetry relay and recording mission also was a key enabler for the execution of high-profile mission events conducted from remote worldwide locations. VX-30 continues to be the mainstay for the safe and efficient operation of one-of-a-kind national airborne test assets operating worldwide.
VX-31 “Dust Devils”
VX-31 delivers effective and lethal capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps warfighters through thorough but efficient conduct of developmental and integrated flight test of aircraft and weapon systems on the China Lake Land Ranges and worldwide. Their search and rescue element preserves and protects life and property by maintaining a constant state of readiness for search, rescue, and incident response in the R-2508 Complex and the surrounding high desert and mountains.
The Dust Devils operate a variety of aircraft, including the F/A-18C/D Hornet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler, the AV-8B Harrier, and the MH-60S Knighthawk. VX-31 ensures the continued lethality and survivability of the Hornet, Super Hornet, Growler, and Harrier platforms in current and future conflicts through the developmental test and evaluation (DT&E) of a multitude of software configurations sets (SCS), aircraft sensors, and weapons.
VX-31 Test Support Highlights
VX-31 concluded the Operational Test Readiness Review for the H14 SCS, the most extensive software upgrade to the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G in history. The H14 SCS brought vital combat capabilities to fleet operators including the capability to integrate the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile on the F/A-18E/F, enhancements to Naval Integrated Fire Control and Net Enabled Weapons, and fielding Time Difference of Arrival Block 1 in the EA-18G. These capabilities are simply game changing in the Air-to-Air Warfare, Strike Warfare, and Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare missions. VX-31 provided a critical warfighting to the USMC through the DT&E of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System for the F/A-18C/D and AV-8B, initiation of the Advanced Electronically Scanned Array RADAR Acquisition program for F/A-18C/D, incorporation of the Joint Stand Off Weapon into the AV-8B’s arsenal, and developing enhancements into auto-terrain avoidance and EO/IR/IRST technologies.
The accomplishments above would not be possible without the seamless cooperation of the military members, government civilians, and flight test engineers. In every step of the way the project officers and leaders of VX-31 work hand in hand with their civilian counterparts and engineering experts to plan and execute safe, effective, and relevant testing to identify and correct deficiencies early in the acquisition process. This synergistic pairing of expertise and perspectives saves the US government a vast amount of financial assets and time and enables the on time delivery of crucial warfighting capabilities to the fleet.
Capt. A.J. McFarland is the commodore of Naval Test Wing Pacific, the U.S. Navy’s principal Pacific Test Activity. He graduated from MIT with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics, and he earned his “wings of gold” in July 1997. He subsequently flew F/A-18 Hornets in California, Japan, and in support of Operation Southern Watch, during which he flew 22 combat missions. McFarland has served as a test pilot and Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer, working in a variety of test and acquisition programs with the Navy and Marine Corps. He was most recently the vice commander of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and was their F-35 Military Director as well. McFarland has flown over 2500 hours in 57 aircraft and has 375 arrested landings on four aircraft carriers.