1.  Mission and Geographical Location.


A.  Mission.  The mission of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Land Range is to be the principle Navy RDT&E center for air warfare systems (except anti-submarine warfare systems) and missile weapons systems, and is the National range/facility for parachute test and evaluation.  The Geophysics Operations Section China Lake weather mission is to provide detailed meteorological and related services to the host Command and tenant activities in support of their mission as well as such other functions or tasks as may be directed.


B.  Geographic location.  Armitage Field is located upon the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, at 35 41'N, 117 41'W and at an altitude of 2283 feet above mean sea level.  The range lies in the interior of south central California, on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert.  To the west and northwest are the Sierra Nevada Mountains with peaks to the west above 6,000 feet and rising gradually to a point 75 miles northwest at Mount Whitney where peaks exceed 14,000 feet.  The northern boundary of the center is the Coso Range with elevations above 8,000 feet. 


North and farther East are the Slate and Panamint Ranges with peaks exceeding 11,000 feet.  South of China Lake is the El Paso Range with heights above 5,000 feet.  The terrain upon which the administration area and ranges are located is nearly level throughout an area extending north-south for 30 miles and east-west for 15 miles.  The floor of the valley is desert, and consists of sandy soil sparsely covered with sagebrush, creosote bush, and other small desert plants.  Within this desert regime are salt beds of several dry lakes, the largest of which is China Lake.


Airflow into the valley at low levels is through four main passes in the surrounding mountains.  The prevailing flow is Walker Pass and Tehachapi Pass, southwest of Armitage Field.  Air from the north must pass through the Little Lake gap, to the north-northwest.  The other pass is southeast, separating the Argus and El Paso Mountains.  Figures' I-1, I-2, and I-3 show the terrain surrounding the Indian Wells Valley.  Figure I-4 shows points of interest in the surrounding area.



Figure I-1.  Topographic Map of North Ranges of NWC and Surrounding Area.



Figure I-2.  Topographic Map of South Ranges of NWC and Surrounding Area.



   Figure I-3.  A color topographical map of the Southern California.

Figure I-4.  NWC and Surrounding Areas of Interest.



2.  History.  In November 1943 Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, established the Naval Ordinance Test Station (NOTS), China Lake in the Indian Wells Valley in this sparsely populated stretch of the Mojave Desert.  The site selected was a vast expanse of mountainous desert near the city of Inyokern.  This virtually uninhabited area had clear skies, good flying weather, and an ample water supply.  It was accessible by highways and railroads, and it was close to the Los Angeles manufacturing area.  The Navy knew from the start that this site was close enough for convenience, yet isolated enough to carry out a vital year-round ordinance-testing mission.


In the years following World War II, NOTS has grown into a large center with modern facilities and instrumented test ranges covering more than 1,700 square miles of California's upper Mojave desert.  This is an area greater than the state of Rhode Island.  NOTS projects included the development of the Sidewinder missile, the Zuni rocket, the Shrike anti-radiation missile, the TV guided Walleye glide bomb, Rockeye and APAM, and the Tomahawk cruise missile.


In July 1967 NOTS, China Lake, became the Naval Weapons Center (NWC) when the naval laboratories were reorganized.  The Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Corona was made part of NWC and the NOTS Pasadena Annex, where work on the Polaris had taken place, became part of the Naval Undersea Center.  In December 1976, the Naval Air Facility at NWC was disestablished and Armitage Airfield became an administrative of NWC.  In July 1979, the mission and functions of the National Parachute Test Range in El Centro, Calif., were transferred to NWC.


Throughout this period, it has fallen upon the Naval Weather Service to provide support for the flight operations as well as the critical test support mission.  On 1 October 1978, the Naval Oceanography and Meteorology Command (NOMC) replaced the Naval Weather Service.  This new command retained all of the responsibilities of the former Naval Weather Service and the Navy Oceanographic Program.  In 1992 the NWC was disestablished and the RDT&E functions were combined with the T&E functions of White Sands Missile Range and the Point Mugu Sea Range.  This combination resulted in the formation of the Naval air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWPNSDIV).  The facilities, military administration, and airfield functions were consolidated into the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.  In October 1994, the Naval Oceanography Command was disestablished and was replaced by the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMOC).  NMOC established a detachment named the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography at China Lake.  On 1 October 1996, the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment China Lake was disestablished and weather services were taken over by personnel contracted to the Geophysics Branch (521400E) of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. 


Figure I-5.  NWC’s Armitage Field. 


Airfield Description.  The airfield consists of three asphalt surfaced runways (Figure I-5) oriented NE/SW (03/21), East/West (8/26), and SE/NW (14/32).  Runway 03/21 is 10,000 feet in length, 8/26 is 7,700 feet and 14/32 is 9,000 feet.  All are 200 feet in width.  The magnetic variation is 15 degrees East.  The only instrument approach available is TACAN.  The field elevation is 2283 feet.


Automatic Surface Weather Station (ASOS).  The remote sensor site for the ASOS is located on the desert floor approximately 800 feet south of the intersection of runways 03/21 and 14/32 as indicated on Figure I-5. 

C.  Environmental Support Services.


1.  General.  Environmental Support Services that are available with the NAWCWPNSDIV contracts are defined in the Meteorology Statement Of Work.  The following paragraphs highlight the most frequently used environmental services.  The primary areas of local concern are with the requirements for aviation operations, research and development (R&D) short range (48 hours or less) forecast requirements, R&D medium range (3 to 5 days).  Along with extended range (several days to several months) planning requirements, fleet operating areas along the California coast in support of R&D, upper air soundings, NAWCWPNSDIV range support, and specialized support services as requested.  The duty observer encodes the upper air sounding with the Station Identifier of 74612.


2.  Support for Aviation Operations.  In support of aviation operations, surface observations are recorded during all field-operating hours (0600 to 2230 daily).  Forecast and observation services are provided from 0500 to 2230 Monday through Friday.  These forecasting services include the usual "across the counter" and telephone briefs, frequently requiring very specific details due to the RDT&E aspect of their flights.  Foreign government agencies also test at China Lake utilizing a great variety of aircraft needing forecasting support.  Unmanned high performance aircraft and missiles used by the Naval Weapons Center also require unique forecasting environmental parameters for testing.


The Weapons Test Squadron, Operational Test & Evaluation make up the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.  Other flight test pilots from the fleet, as well as shore commands including various non-Navy (e.g., USAF, USCG, U.S. Army, civilian and foreign government) pilots also train at China Lake.  All pilots mentioned above receive basic flight forecasting services in accordance with NATOPS Manual (OPNAVINST 3710.7) and applicable NAVOCEANCOM Instructions.


A Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF) is issued at 0300Z, 1500Z, and 2100Z.  These forecasts cover a twenty-four hour period and are amended when conditions warrant.  This forecast is issued primarily in support of NAVY operations utilizing this range.


3.  Range and Local Area Advisories and Warnings.  This office provides local area wind and storm warnings for the entire land range.  There are many RDT&E areas over a vast land area encompassing an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.  Operations include electronic and visual tracing of flight tests, explosive detonations, airborne weapons launches, and parachute flight tests from low and high altitudes.


Advisories/Warnings include wind, thunderstorm and flash flooding.  Due to the RDT&E functions performed, these parameters are of vital importance.  Blowing sand and dust diminishing visibility, and electrical discharges create a hazard during refueling and ordnance handling.  Flooding can effect remote test sites and tracking stations, often causing shorting of electrical and telephone systems.


NOTE:  Unrestricted visibility here at the Naval Weapons Center is 50 NM or more 95 percent of the time.  The most common restrictions to visibility are light haze and dust.  Occasionally, radiation fog will take the airfield down Instrument Meteorological Conditions the morning after a heavy rain or snow period.


4.  Environmental Requirements for Planning (Climatology).  In addition to the above forecasts, medium and long range planning for RDT&E often requires climatological data for the air mass at the surface and/or aloft.  These requirements are not restricted to local data.  Planning for distant areas and foreign nations are frequently involved.


5.  Specialized Support Services.  Support services tailored for specific operations are available upon request.  Due to the nature of RDT&E, virtually the entire spectrums of services that are available in the weather community are requested at one time or another.  These services comprise more than fifty percent of all services provided at this station.


A.  Back-up Support:  During periods when a forecaster is not available, primarily Flex Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays, the Pt Mugu forecaster will provide flight briefing services via fax and/or telephone as required.



a.)  Geophysics Operations Section Pt Mugu

Forecaster:  (M-F) 0500-2400 (phone # 88-351-8508)

Observer:     (S-S) 0600-2400 (phone # 88-351-8509)


b.)  Geophysics Operations Section China Lake

Forecaster:  (M-F) 0500-2200


D.  Communication Facilities.


1.  Weather Office Communications.


(a).  COMEDS, DIFAX, and GOES-TAP products are available via the Internet.


(b).  Meteorology and Oceanography Integrated Data Display System (MIDDS).  The MIDDS system collects all weather charts, satellite, radar, and other pertinent weather information.  Associated with the MIDDS is the “Wall of Thunder”, is for pilots to receive current weather information.  The “Wall of Thunder” is made up a plasma display, which can display four different types of weather information that is useful for aviational planning purposes.


(c.)  Telephone Recording.  An automatic telephone answering service is available.  The recording gives a 36 hour forecast with an extended outlook for 72 hours.  The tape is prepared daily by 0800, 1300, and 2000 LST Monday through Friday with updates as necessary.  The general public of the Naval Weapons Center can call 939-3435 to receive this recorded weather forecast for weather awareness and recreational planning. 


(d.)  Web page.  The weather office also maintains a web page.  This page is updated at 0800 LST Monday through Friday.  The general public can view this at


2.  Weather Office Equipment:


(a.)  Automatic Station Observation Site (ASOS).  The ASOS sensors located on the Armitage Airfield include temperature, dew point, surface pressure, surface winds, visibility, sky condition, and rain gage (tipping bucket type).  The ASOS terminal display unit is located in the weather office in room 3230 of hanger three.  Continuous automatic digital readouts display time for all sensors.


(b.)  Hand Electric Psychrometer (MIL-450AUM), and Portable Wind Measuring Set (AN/PMQ-3).  These units are maintained in the weather office and provide a backup when the ASOS is down for maintenance.


(c.)  Aerovane (AN/UMQ-5).  Double faced wind indicators are located in the detachments operation space, and the control tower.  See figure I-5 for location of measuring device.


(d.)  Rain Gauge.  A four-inch plastic rain gauge is located on the north side of Hangar Three on the roof observation platform.  This is used to backup  the ASOS.


(e).  NEXt generation RADar (NEXRAD).  The NEXRAD is located near Boron California.  This radar detects weather systems reflectivity strength to determine speed, reflectivity strength and location of potential convective activity, precipitation or other weather phenomenon. 


(f).  HANDAR data.  HANDAR weather equipment is located in several areas around the range.  This equipment gathers weather data and sends the data to a data ingest computer.  The weather data is then relayed via video display to the Range Command Center and the weather office.