Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake evacuated following last week’s earthquakes

Excellent views of the fault rupture from a US Navy Night Hawk helicopter. Up to 6 feet of right-lateral offset was able to be measured on the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. (Photo: geologist Brian Olson)

The facility is not mission capable but there are no details yet on the damage caused by the earthquake.

Following last week’s earthquakes up to 7.1 magnitude in the Ridgecrest area, Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander Navy Region Southwest, has issued an evacuation order for Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake on July 6, 2019. The facility has been declared not mission capable until further notice and is open only for mission essential personnel, while damage to the infrastructures is being assessed.

At this time there aren’t more details about the amount of damage occurred to China Lake. According to the Washington Post, “the earthquake caused multiple structure fires, thousands of power outages, road ruptures and water and gas leaks” but luckily no casualties have been reported. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to “widespread and significant damage”.

As stated in a Facebook post in the official NAWS China Lake page, “NAWS China Lake is not mission capable until further notice; however, security protocols remain in effect. Safety of personnel is currently the highest priority. NON ESSENTIAL active duty, drilling reservists, civilian employees, and dependents are authorized to evacuate to a radius of 100 miles from safe haven Naval Base Ventura County (NVBC).”

Located in the Mojave Desert about 150 miles north of Los Angeles, the main installation and the two weapons ranges cover more than 1.1 million acres, representing the Navy’s largest single landholding. Multiple commands are based in China Lake to support research, testing and evaluation programs, some of which are the Navy Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and the Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons VX-9 and VX-31. One of the most notable weapons developed in China Lake is the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

From July 4 to July 5 a series of earthquakes occurred in the area around Ridgecrest, California, approximatively 180 miles east of the famous San Andreas Fault. The first 6.4 magnitude earthquake occurred in the morning on July 4, followed by more than 1400 aftershocks. The following day, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred near the same location, in what has been defined the most powerful earthquake to occur in California in 20 years.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.