Navy Region SouthwestCommunity

Navy Region Southwest
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

Major Installations

The Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) was established Nov. 8, 1943 as a partnership between the Navy and the California Institute of Technology for the testing and evaluation of rockets developed by the academic institution as well as other aviation ordnance. This partnership created a pattern of cooperation and interaction between civilian scientists and engineers and experienced military personnel that has made China Lake one of the preeminent research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) institutions in the world.

Located 150 miles north of Los Angeles, NAWS China Lake’s remoteness, near perfect flying weather and practically unlimited visibility proved an ideal location, not only for testing and evaluation activities, but also for a complete research and development establishment.

Since 1943, China Lake civilian and military personnel have developed and/or tested nearly every significant airborne weapon system used by the military today, including the famed Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the Shrike anti- radiation missile, the Zuni rocket, a series of aircraft rockets, an entire family of freefall weapons, torpedoes, the TV- guided Walleye glide bomb, the Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW) and the Joint Direct-Attack Munitions (JDAM), to name a few.


2,132 buildings and facilities

329 miles of paved roads

1,801 miles of unpaved roads

Replacement value for the infrastructure is roughly $3 billion


China Lake represents 85 percent of the Navy’s land for RDT&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. As of 2010, at least 95 percent of that land has been left undisturbed.

Armitage Airfield

More than 18,000 manned and un-manned military sorties are conducted out of Armitage Field by all U.S. services each year.

Foreign military personnel use the airfield and ranges to conduct more than 500 test and evaluation operations each year.


The 19,600 square miles 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 war fighter.



Initiatives Overview

NAWS China Lake is home to one of the largest collections of Native American Rock Art in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. Little Petroglyph Canyon, now part of a 36,000-square mile National Historic Landmark, is open to approved public tours on weekends. Information on the types of available petroglyph tours can be found at

In addition to protecting the cultural resources found onboard NAWS China Lake, NAWS command is committed to recycling, tracking hazardous waste from cradle to grave, following all Federal, State, County and local environmental laws and regulations, and protecting numerous endangered animals, such as the desert tortoise, Mojave Tui Chub and wild horses and burros.

Conservation & Production

NAWS command is committed to saving and producing energy and conserving its most precious resource, water.

In 2010, NAWS China Lake broke ground for four photovoltaic projects which will provide nearly 2 million kWh of electricity annually, enough to provide electricity to up to 1,200 houses using the Southern California Edison grid, and save NAWSCL approximately $557,000 annually in electricity costs.

The Station is also home to Coso Geothermal, 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 megawatts (270,000,000 watts). One megawatt of electricity will meet the needs of approximately 1,400 households.

In the past couple of years, NAWS command has also significantly reduced its water usage with additional plans already underway to reduce water consumption even more. For the past three years, NAWS China Lake has received the Department of the Navy’s Energy and Water Management Gold Level of Achievement award for excellent work in innovative energy and water management, successful use of energy and water efficient equipment, superior awareness and conservation principals.


The employees of NAWS China Lake are its most important asset, making their safety the Command’s highest priority. This is evident in the many messages and programs that NAWS Command implements to remind them of the importance of safety whether at work, on the road or at home.

Annual campaigns that cover motorcycle safety, fireworks and grilling safety, safe traveling and prevention of heat-related illnesses, to name a few, are conducted in addition to reminders about safety in the workplace. Signs advertising year-to-date workplace accidents on base appear at heavily trafficked areas as do safety articles in the base newspaper, The Rocketeer II, providing a constant reminder that working safely is paramount. Educating employees about safety in and out of the workplace using multiple channels for delivery has helped to increase employee awareness about work, travel and home accidents.

Community Relations


NAWS China Lake has a good relationship with the three counties it occupies: Kern, Inyo and San Bernardino. It also partners with its closest neighbor, the City of Ridgecrest, in an effort to improve the quality of life of the men and women, military and civilian, who work onboard the Station and to sustain the missions of all the commands stationed at China Lake.

China Lake Rolls Out Another Major Energy First

NAVAL AIR WEAPONS STATION CHINA LAKE, Calif. – City, County and Navy officials joined forces in celebrating the “Flip the Switch” ceremony for the 118-acre photovoltaic plant onboard the Station, bringing the solar power array on line.

“After years of planning and regulatory hurdles, and nine months of construction, we celebrate completion of a facility capable of producing 13.78 megawatts of renewable energy – enough to power 3,500 homes.

This is the first Navy solar power plant to be executed using a Power Purchase Agreement under Title 10 USC 2922a, allowing a defense agency project to be owned and maintained by a third-party investor rather than through Federal budgets and requires no upfront investment from the U.S. Navy.  The agreement allows the Navy to secure electricity below the rate available through shorter duration agreements and should save the Navy up to $13 million during the 20-year span.

Keynote speaker Natsuhara emphasized the fact that this milestone was a huge step for China Lake, stating the array would provide up to 30 percent of the Station’s energy needs and up to 70 percent of the summer peak daytime electricity requirements.

Natsuhara noted that while this event is a step forward to reach the goal set by Secretary of the Navy Mabus nearly three years ago – meeting half of the Navy’s energy consumption with alternative sources by 2020 – the Navy still needs an additional 900 to 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy from solar and other sources.

“We continue to make good progress.  In 2011, the Department of the Navy tripled the photovoltaic generation from the previous year, going from 5 megawatts to 15 megawatts, and we’re on track to double it again this year,” he said.  ‘Our goal is for half our bases to be net zero by 2020. China Lake is already there, but this region (Navy Region Southwest) has so much potential. I envision even more solar energy generation over the years to come and more wind energy where it is mission-compatible.”


Natsuhara continued, “Here at China Lake, you know better than anyone that the Navy leads the surge when it comes to better technology for succeeding in our missions. As we move from a culture of consumption to one focused on conservation – we will continue to partner with the best in the energy business and employ the best technologies available to meet our goals.”

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