China Lake has throughout its history been involved with the complete weapon system, which includes the necessary fire-control, interfaces, launchers, and (more recently) software. Beginning in the '40s, China Lake developed bomb directors such as the Mk 6 Mod 3, Mk 10, and the EX-1--the most accurate of its day for single-seat attack aircraft; the bomb-director set AN/ASB-8; and fire-control systems Mk 8, Mk 16, and EX-16--a high-performance system using a revolutionary computing technique. China Lake was involved in the early development of TV-based avionics, and following its early work on FLIR technology, China Lake was the lead in integrating FLIR systems into aircraft. China Lake targeting and fire-control projects also include the CP-741/841 weapons computer, Navy Pave Knife laser designator, and the Angle-Rate Bombing System (ARBS).
As an outgrowth of its fire-control work, China Lake became involved with avionics and software development and weapons integration for the A-7 aircraft, and as a result of the great success of the A-7 project China Lake was designated the Weapon System Support Activity (WSSA) for the AH-1, A-4M, A-6E, A-7E, AV-8B, and F/A-18 aircraft and has performed integration and avionics tasks for a variety of other Fleet and developmental aircraft. Aircraft weapons integration and avionics, including the development and testing of operational flight programs (OFPs) has become one of the major areas of endeavor at China Lake. The Weapon System Support Facility at Armitage Field houses simulation and development laboratories that support every aspect of avionics hardware and software integration, development, and T&E.
Outgrowths of China Lake's work in aircraft systems have included such support devices as the Memory Loader/Verifier and the development of the Versatile Training System/Versatile Computing System, which became the standard readiness-squadron training-support system and the basis for other training systems.
China Lake has been significantly involved in aircrew safety RDT&E since the 1950s when it developed the Rocket-Assisted Personnel Ejection Catapult (RAPEC). RAPEC was developed as an outgrowth of China Lake expertise in propulsion systems and was widely fielded. Another ejection seat based on China Lake propulsion-system expertise was the Vertical-Seeking Subsystem (VSS) for the Maximum-Performance Ejection Seat; although the overall program was cancelled in 1982, China Lake had developed and demonstrated the thrust-vector-control and MICRAD attitude-reference systems that allowed safe ejection at low altitude and in adverse attitude--even upside-down. Realistic, high-speed testing of ejection systems has also been a major area of T&E work at China Lake, especially using the SNORT dual-rail supersonic track, which was the test facility for most of the Navy's aircraft-ejection systems, as well as for several Air Force aircraft and the Gemini spacecraft.
The 1979 incorporation of the National Parachute Test Range mission into NWC brought long experience and unparalleled expertise in parachute systems RDT&E to China Lake. Recent projects in aircrew safety and parachute systems have included the Seawater-Activated Release System (SEAWARS); the Space Shuttle Emergency Egress System; and T&E programs for special-forces parachutes, the Galileo Jupiter probe parachute system, and the recovery system for the Shuttle boosters.
Operations analysis in support of the weapons-development program has been a significant and very productive area of endeavor at China Lake since shortly after its establishment. R&D requirements, weapon system requirements, operations, intelligence, foreign-material exploitation, systems effectiveness, aircraft survivability, mission-area analysis, and systems alternatives studies have all been pursued. The Polaris Studies and the Free-Fall Weapon Studies are examples of analyses with significant Navy-wide impact. China Lake has also made extensive contributions to Joint Technical Coordinating Groups, Joint Munitions Effectiveness Manuals, and projects such as the Tactical Air Armament Study (TAAS). For example, as a result of TAAS, China Lake developed the Navy and Marine Corps Ordnance Requirements (NAVMOR) and the Soviet Ship Vulnerability Program for the Navy. One of the more significant pieces of analysis conducted by China Lake was the investigation of the 1973 munitions-train explosions at Roseville, Calif., and Benson, Ariz.; the Roseville-Benson Studies not only saved the Government $50,000,000 to $90,000,000 in damage claims, they established that Navy ordnance was, indeed, safe to ship by rail.
Throughout the Vietnam war, China Lake supported the operators through the Vietnam Laboratory Assistance Program (VLAP), providing analyses, weapons, support equipment, and operational support--including sending China Lake civilian personnel to provide immediate, on-sight consulting and liaison. China Lake provided customized direct support for the Special Forces community with special-warfare systems and swimmer weapons--everything from non-irritating face-paint sticks to plastic wrap to specialized weapon systems, night-vision devices, and liquid explosives. China Lake also developed major systems for special warfare, such as the Mk IX swimmer-delivery vehicle, the Underwater Explosive Unit, and the Actuation Mine Simulator.
The quick-response capability of the in-house laboratory has proven to be one of China Lake's most significant contributions to the Navy and to the Nation over the years. Things like Project Ram, which developed, produced, and delivered the 6.5-inch tank-killing rocket to Korea in just 28 days in 1950; the ESE ("Easy") program that produced preproduction Shrikes for possible use during the Cuban Missile Crisis; literally hundreds of rush projects carried out under VLAP; development of a specialized TDD for Standard ARM; deployment of the Sea Chaparral and Shrike-on-Board systems for ship self-protection during Vietnam; development of the ICWD radar-warning device during the Iran crisis; and dozens of projects--large and small--in support of operations in Desert Shield and Storm.