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E*Warfare reaches its golden year at China Lake

EW 50th anniversary
Electronic Combat Range alumni list their name and the date they began working on the South Range during the 50-year anniversary of electronic warfare at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake on Oct. 13. (U.S. Navy photo by Paul Kakert)
NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER WEAPONS DIVISION, China Lake, Calif. - Former and current Electronic Combat Range employees at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of electronic warfare at China Lake during a ceremony Oct. 13.     

The term ‘ECR’ has been used to describe both the range’s electronic warfare capability as well as the physical location of the South Range. To date, however, ECR as a capability is being performed in various areas across NAWCWD. ECR has a rich history with roots beginning with the establishment of the Electronic Warfare Branch within the Range Operations Division in the summer of 1967; its location on the South Range is often referred to as “Echo.”       

“We are building the Echo of tomorrow, but we couldn’t have done it without all the people here and the Echo that they left us as a legacy,” said Robert Jensen, head of the Electronic Warfare Systems Division, addressing the retired and current ECR employees in attendance. “We’re happy to have you here.”    

More than 100 guests listened intently as a letter from Dr. James Colvard, former Operations Division head for the Ranges, was read out loud. Colvard, who was instrumental in the creation of the Electronic Warfare Threat Environment Simulation facility at China Lake, was unable to attend the ceremony.       

“At the time Echo Range was established, we were losing a high percentage of Navy aircraft to Vietnamese [surface-to-air missiles],” he wrote, “the Echo Range became a combat-solving site and remains so today in an even larger scale. I am proud to be part of the original Echo team.”       

Andy Corzine, director of China Lake Ranges, acknowledged “the shoulders of giants” on which the current ECR employees stand.       

“Thank you to our current team for not only maintaining, but growing the legacy of Echo Range,” Corzine said. “The work that you do and the capabilities that you provide electronic combat are phenomenal, they are equally as impressive as they are important because the work that you do every day saves lives. I’m extremely proud of our team.”       

Tom Dowd, director of Naval Air Systems Command Ranges, also spoke at the ceremony.       

“The capability that’s been established here that continues to evolve and grow has an enormous impact for our warfighter,” Dowd added. “I am pleased to be here today to celebrate with you and I am really looking forward to seeing what we will accomplish even in just the next few years.”       

A timeline of ECR’s history hung on the wall and alumni were encouraged to record the month or year they began working at the range. Those who worked at the range in its early days in 1967 were given 50-year anniversary coins. Grover Bradley, whose son now works at ECR, was one of three in attendance who held that honor.       

“I came out for the 40-year anniversary,” Bradley began, “I started working out here in1967 in the Labor Shop when they started building the range. My boss at the time promoted me to electronic technician and I worked as a technician for many years until about six or seven years before retirement when I became the service manager at the range. That was pretty neat. It feels pretty good being back; there’s a lot of people I haven’t seen in 30 years. It’s been quite an experience.”    

Tears welled up in Bradley’s eyes as he explained why working in electronic warfare was important to him.         

“Back in the Vietnam war time, we helped a lot of pilots that were over there with all that was going on and I thought we had a very important job. It’s been a long road. Getting them home safe was the main thing.”