A new radiographic building is scheduled for completion in 2024. The facility will be used for inspection and radiological evaluation of energetics and energetic components. (Artist rendering)

Cutting-edge energetics facility emerges from earthquake rubble

As 2023 comes to an end, many at Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake are reflecting on the progress made since two earthquakes caused billions of dollars in damage to the base. Construction at the China Lake Propulsion Laboratory (CLPL) is giving the Navy and the rest of the Department of Defense a glimpse into the future of military energetics research, development, design, testing, and evaluation.

The CLPL is located near the epicenter of the 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes that rocked NAWS China Lake and the nearby community of Ridgecrest on July 4 and 5, 2019. Those earthquakes and their aftershocks caused significant damage to the facilities at the CLPL and the rest of NAWS China Lake. As part of the nearly $3.9 billion earthquake recovery program, the CLPL is rebuilding and modernizing its facilities. This will turn a resource the Navy has relied on since WWII into its military energetics research, development, test and evaluation facility of the future to meet the needs of the modern warfighter.

“As the CLPL has grown since its inception, each new facility has added or has enhanced capabilities to our mission,” said Scott Fuller, director for Energetics, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. “While the recovery program doesn’t create new capabilities for the CLPL, it modernizes our facilities and allows us to increase throughput by maximizing efficiency. We were able to look at the location and layout of pre-earthquake facilities and make some logical decisions that will improve what we can accomplish for our customers.”

Rebuild and modernization efforts will transform the CLPL into a world-class testing facility for hypersonics, provide facilities for state-of-the-art energetics material processing, increase energetics materials throughput by more than 400 % through facility efficiency improvements, and provide state-of-the-art firing bays for fleet and developmental rocket motors.

“Our new, cutting-edge laboratories and other facilities combined with our location as the largest military energetics facility in the United States means that our partners will have access to a unique resource that meets the needs of today and tomorrow’s warfighter,” added Fuller.

The CLPL rebuild is only one component of a larger effort underway at NAWS China Lake. Construction efforts encompass all of NAWS China Lake, a facility covering more than 1.1 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. By the end of the earthquake recovery program in 2025, the effort will have built more than 55 new facilities, advancing the development of the next generation of weapons, communications, and surveillance systems.



The new Ordnance Test Support and Technical Services Laboratory will consist of over 64,000 square feet of laboratories, workshops, meeting spaces, storage, administrative areas and a warehouse. The future tenants will provide unique ordnance and standardized test support for operations throughout the China Lake Propulsion Laboratory/Salt Wells Complex. (Artist rendering)

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