Ridgecrest is home to many interesting places. One of the most notable is the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) in China Lake. The NAWS China Lake’s mission is to support the Navy’s research, testing and evaluation, and is THE high desert home of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.
The Weapons Division is where the Navy and Marine Corps have developed or tested nearly every significant airborne weapon system in the past five decades. According to Wikipedia 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.
Many products have been developed for the fleet at China Lake, including missiles such as Sidewinder, Shrike and Walleye, just to name a few. It has been estimated that nearly 900 military and civilians passed through Armitage Field.
All aircraft operations at NAWS China Lake are conducted at Armitage Field, which has three runways with more than 26,000 feet of taxiway. And each year US Armed Forces conduct more than 20,000 manned and un-manned military sorties at China Lake’s NAWS. Also, foreign military personnel use the airfield and range to conduct more than 1,000 test and evaluation operations each year.
In 2014, California representative Kevin McCarthy introduced a bill to permanently designate Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake property for military use, arguing it would save taxpayer money and enhance the base’s mission. This bill would add 25,000 acres, including about 7,500
acres that were part of a bombing range in San Bernardino County, as well as 19,000 acres along the station’s southwest boundary.
From an environmental standpoint most of the land is undeveloped and provides habitat for more than 340 species of wildlife, including feral horses, feral burros (donkeys), Big Horn Sheep and many endangered animals, such as the desert tortoise, the Mojave ground squirrel and Mojave Tui Chub. The desert on which the installation is built is also home to 650 plant types – which makes sense considering it covers over 1 million acres.
Hopefully this will help you understand more about the remarkable Naval Air Weapons Station located right in our own backyard, which employs thousands from the Ridgecrest community.