Alumni and retirees learn ’State of the Lake’

By JAMES SIMMONS, News Review Correspondent

“The military value of the Weapons Division is now at its highest in my 41 years of service here at China Lake,” said Scott O’Neil, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. O’Neil offered this singularly emphatic declaration to 120 retired China Lakers attending the annual Alumni-Retiree Appreciation Day briefing Nov. 1 in the Dr. William B. McLean Laboratory at China Lake.

Weapons Division senior managers presented an intense workload, a robust science and technology agenda, full-time use of ranges, spectacular growth in emerging capabilities and systems and some “first ever” developments as hard evidence of China Lake’s superior military value today in supporting national defense missions and exacting requirements for warfighters.

While maintaining a skilled workforce is a stiff challenge in a world of soft budgets and furloughs, WD nonetheless achieved one of its biggest years in bringing aboard 90 new scientists and engineers.

“New skills are just very important,” noted O’Neil, “critical to our doing $1.3 billion worth of business last year.”

Programs and research meriting mention at the briefing included advancements in image processing, real-time updating and work in rapid-response capabilities, particularly focused on needs of special operations forces.

Moreover, for the first time, unmanned systems work surpassed the time allocated for any other air test work.

Dr. Bob Smith described advancements in “synthetic guidance,” which to the layperson might appear to be the inverse of the famous Sidewinder approach pioneered by former Technical Director Bill McLean.

Dr. Ben Harvey detailed new developments in the field of renewable fuels and raw materials feedstock that have incredible potential for cheap, made-on-the-spot jet fuel. China Lake has just received its first royalty payment for its licensing of proprietary technology to a partner in the private sector now producing fuel based on the base’s patent.

Among others presenting remarks were Capt. Karl Andina, USN, NAWCWD vice commander; Andy Corzine, associate director for China Lake ranges; Greg Wheelock, covering the exciting and emerging field of miniature munitions; and Therese Atienzamoore and colleagues, who re-energized for the group a China Lake legacy activity centered around what has historically been known as “the pilot plant.”

Clearly a big piece of the present, and especially of the future, the entire world of what Elijah Soto, unmanned systems director, has called “UXS” (an ever-evolving descriptor from UAV to UAS to now UXS) which encompasses uninhabited, uncrewed, or unoccupied platforms for systems aloft, afloat, aboard, ashore, submerged or even underground, all of which are of interest at China Lake.

Mallory Boyd, NAWCWD deputy director for research and engineering, served as official host, moderator and stage manager.

Appreciation Day also featured a buffet luncheon served in a location many old-timers will recall as the site of the base’s first chapel and continued on into the afternoon at the China Lake Museum with the 50-year commemoration of a China Lake signature product, Walleye, the first television-guided weapon.

Story First Published: 2013-11-06