NAWC Weapons Division, China Lake, CA

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division

China Lake, in California’s Mojave Desert, is home to NAVAIR’s Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). Few areas in the world offer such wide variety of geographical features in close proximity...mountains, deserts, canyons, caves and forests. The unencroached air and land ranges at China Lake provide unmatched geographic conditions in which to develop and test weapon systems and explore tactics for desert and mountain environments.

China Lake provides efficient deployment of new weapon systems through its collocated laboratories, ranges, weapons test squadrons and the Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-9). The site supports fleet training and tactics development, including major exercises on the Land Range, Superior Valley Tactical Training Range and Electronic Combat Range.


NAWCWD China Lake’s mission is to support NAVAIR programs in providing unsurpassed products and services to the Sailor and Marine by:

  • Performing research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), logistics, and in-service support for guided missiles, free-fall weapons, targets, support equipment, crew systems and electronic warfare
  • Integrating weapons and avionics on tactical aircraft
  • Operating the Navy’s western land and Sea Range test and evaluation complex
  • Developing and applying new technology to ensure battle space dominance

China Lake is a leader in RDT&E of guided missiles, advanced weapons and weapon systems. This is proven through 50 years of unparalleled products and the following attributes:

  • World leader in complex weapon systems and software integration
  • World leader in energetic materials and subsystems
  • Developed the Sidewinder missile (the world’s premiere dog-fight weapon) used by 31 countries
  • Unique world-class facilities and test ranges
  • Finest weather in the world for testing, with 360 clear days per year

Products and Services

Missiles and Free-Fall Weapons Research and Development
China Lake conducts basic and applied research in science and technology, develops explosives and propellants, and provides developmental and in-service engineering. Weapon systems developed at China Lake include Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), High-Speed Antiradiation Missile (HARM), Hellfire, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), Penguin, Phoenix, Sidewinder, SeaSparrow, Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM), SLAM-ER, Standard Missile, Tomahawk and Vertical Launch Anti-submarine Rocket (VLA).

Aircraft Weapons and Battle Space Integration
China Lake integrates weapons and avionics onto tactical aircraft. Expertise includes systems integration, mission system design, software development and testing, full-up system testing, operator/maintainer handbooks, mission planning system development, fleet support, and foreign military sales. Tactical aircraft currently supported are F/A-18, AV-8B, AH-1W, AH-1Z, EP-3E and the F-22. To support network centric warfare, the concept of weapon/platform integration is being extended to battle space integration. Virtual, real, and hardware-in-the-loop facilities are being interconnected across NAVAIR and at other services to develop and test network interoperability between systems.

Test and Evaluation and Training
China Lake’s extensive, unencroached land ranges support developmental and operational test and evaluation of weapon components and integrated weapon systems in realistic environments. These environments support full-scale, joint-live-fire survivability tests, network centric warfare and interoperability, modeling and simulation, and parachute testing at the National Parachute Test Range. Extensive training of operational forces is carried out on China Lake’s Land Range, Superior Valley Tactical Training Range and Electronic Combat Range.


NAWCWD China Lake employs more than 3,100 civilians (including tenants), and over 840 active-duty military personnel.


  • China Lake encompasses more than 1.1 million acres (larger than Rhode Island)
  • One airfield accessing 17,000 square miles of restricted airspace over land
  • R-2508 restricted airspace, jointly managed with Edwards Air Force Base and Fort Irwin, encompasses 12% of California’s total airspace
  • More than 2,000 buildings