China Lake has been developing fuzing components and devices for its ordnance products since it began developing rockets during World War II, and the 1967 merging of NOL Corona with NOTS China Lake to form NWC brought to China Lake decades of fuzing, safety-arming device, target-detecting device, and related technology experience and expertise. Guided missile fuzing technologies developed and successfully exploited by Corona and China Lake include edge-detection, developed in the mid-1960s and employed in all Navy antiair missiles; fore-and-aft adaptive-logic, a flexible, adaptive, and effective scheme used in long-range missiles; pseudorandom-noise modulation, which combines the advantages of two other technologies while avoiding their major shortcomings; and active-optical, first investigated in the '50s and now applied to a number of antiair and antisurface missiles. Continuous-slot antenna development has been one of the most significant contributions to fuze-antenna development; based on an earlier French patent, China Lake refinements, developments, and new fabrication techniques have been applied to a variety of missiles. The Mk 45 target-detecting device/shroud assembly (TDD/SA) for Standard Missile is an example of the application of this fuzing expertise. Considered by many to be the world's premier missile fuze, the Mk 45 is a sophisticated device that combines several advanced technologies. Free-fall weapon fuzing, too, has been pursued by China Lake. China Lake has had significant involvement in the development of such devices as the FMU-139/B electronic bomb fuze, FMU-140/B dispenser proximity fuze, and DSU-30/B target-detecting device.
Safety and arming (S-A) devices is another area in which China Lake holds unqualified leadership, with well over 400,000 devices in the Fleet with a perfect safety record. The basic acceleration-driven S-A device was developed in the mid-'50s by Corona, and the pneumatic-driven S-A device was developed in the early-'60s for Walleye.
The maintenance of a technology base program that includes basic and applied research in the physical sciences has been a cornerstone of China Lake's success--and essential to the full-spectrum RDT&E of weapon systems for the Navy.
China Lake has been for a large part of its 50 years a world leader in the synthesis, formulation, process development, scale-up, and evaluation of new and improved energetic materials for use in advanced weapons and propulsion systems. Explosives RDT&E has included the development of explosives, warheads, shaped charges, and castable explosives; ordnance safety; ordnance-pollution abatement; and characterization of metals under explosive loading. Further, the majority of plastic-bonded explosives (PBXs) in service use were formulated at China Lake. Propellant RDT&E began with a concentration on double-base propellants and expanded into work on liquid, smokeless, ramjet, and alternative solid propellants; combustion instability; manufacturing and storage applications; material and system safety; and liquid, solid, ramjet, and hybrid propulsion systems. China Lake propellant work has also found application in space programs, weather modification, and ejection systems. Thrust-vector-control technology developments by China Lake have provided the foundations for numerous applications, including vertical-launching systems.
Beginning with independent and exploratory development work in 1962, China Lake developed the technology and hardware to provide the Fleet with an effective night-attack capability using forward-looking infrared (FLIR) devices. An early success was the development of the ADAM search set and ADAM FLIR display system, which demonstrated the first real-time IR night display of targets; the technology evolving from this early effort lead to China Lake involvement in the development of the Night-Attack System, the Night Observation Gunship (NOGS), and the A-6E TRAM and A-7E FLIR targeting systems. Early work in IR target detection also lead to China Lake's development of the FOCUS series of air-to-ground missiles using modified Sidewinder components.
Laser and optical components technology is another area of significant accomplishment. China Lake has been a leader in the development of new optical-component polishing and coating techniques, optics evaluation and instrumentation, surface-absorption measurement, and surface-damage characterization; accomplishments in laser research range from early development of a night search-and-rescue system that grew out of dye-laser research to the development of the diode laser. China Lake developments also include the interferometric surface scanner; bowl-feed polishing, ultrahigh-vacuum deposition, and ultra-clean sputter deposition optical-film-production techniques; and a portable CO2 laser. China Lake has also provided invaluable support to a variety of high-energy-laser research and development programs.
Weather modification was another area of China Lake preeminence. Between 1949 and 1978 China Lake developed concepts, techniques, and hardware that were successfully used in hurricane abatement, fog control, and drought relief. Military application of this technology was demonstrated in 1966 when Project Popeye was conducted to enhance rainfall to help interdict traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. China Lake developments and improvements in chemiluminescent (chemical-light) compounds and devices have seen widespread application for military and civilian uses. Manufacturing and related technologies are also areas of unparalleled China Lake accomplishment. China Lake established itself as the Government and industry leader in soldering technology with the development of state-of-the-art systems and techniques through its experience in full-spectrum weapon systems development and support. Success in this area is well illustrated by the phenomenally successful Soldering Technology Seminars and soldering training programs and by the establishment of the DOD Electronics Manufacturing Productivity Facility at China Lake.
China Lake has applied its technological and developmental expertise over the years to a wider variety of projects and products than weapon systems. For example, in the wake of the Soviet Sputnik launch, China Lake developed the quick-response NOTS Project, also known as "NOTSNIK," and built a vehicle to put a satellite in orbit from a tactical aircraft--which may have launched one of the first U.S. satellites. Outgrowths from this work included the Caleb airborne satellite/probe launching system; the Microlock portable satellite-tracking stations, which were deployed around the world; and the early-'60s demonstration of concept and hardware for SIP, a developmental satellite-killer. China Lake also participated in early strategic-defense and space-research projects with the development of probes, propulsion systems, and sensors in projects such as HITAB and TERASCA. Drawing upon its propulsion expertise, China Lake built and demonstrated the Soft-Landing Vehicle, a prototype Moon lander.
China Lake undersea research ranged from the development of submarines to research into the nature of the sea itself. Submarines developed by China Lake and the Pasadena Annex during the 1960s included Moray, a two-man deep-diving submarine that was the research prototype for a sort of underwater fighter plane; Deep Jeep, the first U.S. manned submersible to descend over 2,000 feet; and CURV, a remote-controlled diving vehicle designed to recover torpedoes and used in 1966 to recover a lost nuclear weapon in deep water off the coast of Spain. NOTS was also talking to dolphins in those days--"Notty" was the first of these--and studying the way fish swim.