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Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California Military Base Guide

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Introduction

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake is in the Mojave Desert, approximately two and a half hours from Los Angeles. The base is a specialized facility supporting infrastructure and safety for the Research, Development, Acquisition, Test and Evaluation mission.

The site spans over one million acres, providing 38 percent of the Naval global territory and the more than 20,000 miles of airspace under its wing. The acreage at this facility ensures the resources NAWS China Lake needs to fulfill its mission and vision.

Learn more about Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, including check-in procedures, local schools, childcare options, base housing, and more.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake History

Originally known as Naval Ordnance Test Station or NOTS when founded in 1943, the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake reinforces and aids in new developments in research and testing under the United States Navy.

In 1998, thousands of Weapons Division personnel joined forces with Naval Sea Systems Command, changing the structure of the organization. Many specialized weapons have been tested and developed at this site including the Tomahawk Cruise Missile, F Super Hornet, and the Join Stand-Off Weapons System (JSOW).

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Surrounding Area

Bordering the Mojave Desert in California, and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles, the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake offers an affordable area to live in and thrive. It is comprised of land in three counties: San Bernadino, Inyo and Kern Counties.

Within a few hours drive from NAW China Lake, families and friends can visit Victorville, Yermo, Santa Clarita, Oro Grande and Palmdale for recreation. Here are a few of the most popular nearby sites:

  • California Route 66 Museum in Victorville, CA
  • Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, CA
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Clarita, CA
  • Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande, CA
  • Dry Town Water Park, Palmdale, CA

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Mission and Units

China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station includes testing squadrons, weapons divisions, and units that encompass air and sea capabilities.

  • Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine
  • Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Three One
  • Fleet Readiness Command West, China Lake
  • Marine Aviation Detachment
  • Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
  • Navy Munitions Command

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake In-Processing and Check-In

In-processing and check-in are required upon arrival to China Lake to notify sponsors. Check-in is in the main building at Quarterdeck through the main gate. One checked in, you can begin the badge process. If bringing a vehicle, carry your registration, insurance, and official driver’s license with you to register the vehicle. To inquire about badges, call (760) 939-3160.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Child Care

Children of service members, ages six weeks to 18 years of age, can be served by the Child Development Center and related programs. The CDC serves children up to five years old at their accredited facility.

Children old enough to go to school will be referred for School Age Care up to third grade. Older children can attend the Castle X Youth Center where they can enjoy many activities and get help with their homework.

These programs will provide meals and snacks. The Sierra Sands School District offers transportation to these programs for students. Registration ahead of time is required. Fees will change but should be income-based.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Housing

There are plenty of comfortable housing options for service members here. Base housing comes with standard amenities and fenced backyards with multiple floorplan options. Housing should be applied for with advance notice up to several months to reserve one of the nearly 200 family homes. The Navy Family Housing Office can be reached at (760) 939-4450 for questions, assistance and availability.

The military-managed units include:

  • (82) Enlisted three-bedroom units
  • (66) Enlisted four-bedroom units
  • (18) Officer three-bedroom units
  • (6) Officer four-bedroom units
  • (19) Senior officer units
  • (1) Flag unit

Related: Basic Allowance for Housing Calculator

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commissary

The Commissary is available on base to supply various needs for service members, including fresh produce and meat. Meat Power Boxes and special offers are offered regularly as well as discounts through the YES! Program. The commissary holds regular business hours excluding major holidays.

Phone (760) 939-0002

Bldg 02023 E Inyokern Rd
1 Administration Circle
China Lake, CA 93555

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake PCS and TDY Lodging

The Navy Gateway Inn provides temporary housing for Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, featuring rooms with all standard amenities. Some rooms have kitchenettes. No pets are allowed at the temporary lodging, so make special arrangements for pets before arrival. Reservations are required and can extend up to 30 days in duration. Call (760) 939-3146 to reserve.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Transportation

If flying into the area, visitors may use one of several local airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, Burbank Airport, Bakersfield Airport or Ontario Airport. If coming in from Los Angeles International Airport, use 405 to State Route Highway 14 to Highway 178 East, heading toward the main gate.

From Burbank, use State Route Highway 14 and follow a similar route. From Ontario Airport, use Interstate 215 to Highway 395 toward China Lake. From Bakersfield Airport use Highway 99 to Highway 58 to Highway 14 and follow the same route. Shuttle options from the airports should be available for a fee.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Vehicle Registration And Driver’s License

In the state of California, visitors and residents must carry a valid driver’s license and sufficient liability insurance with a registered vehicle. Carry proper paperwork any time you are driving. For new arrivals, vehicles must be registered to the previous base address or the home country or region. The vehicle and driver should be registered with the state for updated licensing as soon as possible.

While driving, avoid cell phone use. Children and adults must be properly secured in seat belts and appropriate car seats. Motorcyclists must use proper safety equipment and helmets. Check areas for security measures that may demand a decal.

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Schools

The Sierra Sands United School District offers quality education to children of service members at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. Composed of six elementary campuses and 2 middle and high campuses, this district educates most area children. Other education options include charter schools and home schooling. For more detailed information and options, refer to the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake School Liaison Officer at (760) 939-7135.

Schools in the area include but are not limited to:

  • Burroughs High School
  • Mesquite Continuation High School
  • James Monroe Middle School
  • Faller Elementary School
  • Gateway Elementary School
  • Inyokern Elementary School
  • Las Flores Elementary School
  • Murray Middle School

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Colleges and Universities

Service members have access to a variety of educational opportunities through Cerro Coso Community Colleges. With degree programs and tech training, Cerro Coso Community College is accredited. The Navy College Program may aid in earning degrees based on previous training and work experience on base. The Navy College Office can be reached at (760) 939-4545.

Cerro Coso Community College
3000 College Heights Blvd. Ridgecrest, CA 93555
(760) 384-6100

Related: Ultimate GI Bill Guide

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Contacts

  • Housing Office (760) 446-1320
  • Family and Bachelor Housing (760) 939-4449
  • Youth Services (760) 939-3171
  • Family Support Center (760) 939-4545
  • Military Administration (760) 939-1553
  • Safety and Occupational Health  (760) 939-2315
  • School Liaison Officer (760) 939-7135

Related: Ultimate Military Benefits Guide


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Kena Sosa is an award-winning author, filmmaker and percussionist. She
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