About the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, California

Headed for Naws at China Lake? Here Is What You Need to Know

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWS) is a vast weapons testing and training range operated by the U.S. Navy in California's Mojave Desert.

NAWS China Lake is the Navy’s largest single land holding, representing 34 percent of the Navy’s total land worldwide. The restricted airspace is composed of 19,600 square miles of controlled airspace, representing 12 percent of California’s total airspace.

Today, it provides an unparalleled venue for the testing of airborne weapons and training in their use. 


Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake
U.S. Navy

NAWS China Lake is located in northwestern San Bernardino County, Southwestern Inyo County, and northeastern Kern County. More than 95 percent of its 1.1 million acres has remained undisturbed since the Navy took it over in the midst of World War II as a rocket testing site.

It takes about three to four hours to drive to China Lake from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mammoth Valley, and Death Valley.

It's a great location for those that love the outdoors. From May through August, the daytime temperature can be more than 110 degrees with evening temperatures in the 70s, but daytime temperatures are around 60 to 70 degrees the rest of the year, and evening temperatures are in the 20s and 30s.

Getting to China Lake

Driving Directions to China Lake

China Lake is situated next to Ridgecrest, a town with a population of nearly 35,000. It is located near three major highways: U.S. Highway 395 and California State Highways 14 and 178.

Whether you fly or drive to get to China Lake, try to arrive during the daylight hours as the town is very isolated. Your new command may be able to arrange transportation from airports.

The Inyokern Airport is just 10 miles from the base front gate, though it has more cargo flights than passenger services. You're more likely to be flying into Los Angeles International AirportHollywood/Burbank Airport, or Ontario Airport in San Bernardino, Calif., and driving from there. Ontario, at 120 miles, is the closest to China Lake while the others are about 140 miles from it.

Main Phone Numbers

Headquarters Building
U.S. Navy

The base operator can be reached at (760) 939-9011 DSN (312) 437-9011.

A few other important numbers:

  • Fleet and Family Support Center (760) 939-4545
  • Housing Office (760) 446-1320
  • Military Administration (NAWS) (760) 939-1553/2098
  • Morale, Welfare and Recreation (760) 939-3440
  • Navy Gateway Inns & Suites (760) 939-3146
  • Public Affairs Office (760) 939-1683
  • Safety and Occupational Health (760) 939-2315
  • Youth Services (760) 939-3171

Resources/Departments at China Lake

Units flying about California
U.S. Air Force

NWS China Lake is the headquarters of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division. Other tenant commands include Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9) and 31 (VX-31), a Marine Aviation Detachment, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Testing and Evaluation Unit 1, Navy Facilities Engineer Command Southwest Detachment, and Naval Construction Training Center Port Hueneme. 

There's also a Branch Health Clinic, COMPACFLT Ordnance Program Defense Commissary Agency, Defense Printing Service Office, Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, an EOD Detachment, Federal Industrial Supply Center, the Marine Aviation Detachment, Federal Investigation Services, Naval Criminal Investigative Services, NAVFAC Southwest Detachment, Navy Exchange, and Regional Legal Services Offices.

The Navy is Indian Wells Valley's largest employer with more than 4,000 civilians workers and more than 1,700 contractors working on site. On any normal workday, 10,000 people pass through the gates.

Temporary Lodging

Lodging by the water
Steven Doig / Getty Images

Contact the Consolidated Billeting Office at China Lake for government quarters. 

The visitors quarters known as Navy Gateway Inns and Suites is the main stop for temporary duty personnel, military people in transit, and family members of military personnel. 

Reservations are strongly recommended, particularly for any of the limited family-sized units. 

There are no pets allowed in transient quarters.

The maximum length of stay is 30 days.


Bachelor Officer Quarters
U.S. Navy

China Lake has some of the best government housing in the Navy. It is wise to complete an application for on-base housing (DD Form 1746) as early as possible. You can apply in advance to the Family Housing Office at China Lake. As soon as you arrive, contact the office to be placed on the waiting list or for assistance in locating suitable housing in the community.

Assignment to government quarters at China Lake is not mandatory. Single or married military members may request permission to reside off station.

There is often a waiting list of a few weeks to a few months for family housing. All 192 homes on station are single-family unfurnished units with fenced backyards, a garage, heating, and central cooling. All units have three or four bedrooms.  

Single enlisted members and married personnel not accompanied by their families are assigned to one of 222 modular rooms in a three-building complex. Each room has a private bath, desk, locker, and bed. There is a common lounge for each four-room module.

Single officers and senior enlisted personnel not accompanied by dependents are assigned to one-bedroom suites that have a living room, kitchen, bath, and bedroom. 

In order to help China Lake employees acquire housing in the community, the Family Housing Office has established the Rental Partnership Program. The office maintains information about the local housing market and helps military members find available housing in Ridgecrest and the surrounding Indian Wells Valley area.


A school classroom with children listening
Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

The Sierra Sands United School District serves the children of all valley residents, military and civilian. Two are actually on the base while all others are located outside the China Lake gates. 

For detailed information about special education programs visit the Sierra Sands Unified School District website.

For adults, China Lake has an Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Campus located within the Fleet and Family Support Center. The Navy College Office can provide information on military education programs. The community also has two adult education facilities.

Child Care

children painting
Getty Images/Caiaimage/Robert Daly

The on-station Child Development Center (CDC) has the distinction of being the first nationally accredited center in the Department of Defense.

The Child Development Center provides full-time and part-time care for military and Department of Defense family members from the age of six weeks through kindergarten.

In addition, the Child Development Homes Program has about 60 spaces available. The goals of the Child Development Homes Program are as follows:

The Child Development Homes Program has been established Navy-wide
1. To increase the availability of quality, affordable childcare for military families
2. To establish standards of child care for the protection and well being of children while away from their homes
3. To encourage and assist Child Development Homes Providers to operate a quality, nurturing program for children
4. To provide an opportunity for spouses of military and DOD personnel to operate a business in their homes within Navy guidelines
5. To allow parents to perform their duties of work without undue concern about the care their children are receiving

Providers set their own fees and hours within broad guidelines. 

There are also programs for before and after-school care. The services include transportation. Fees are determined by total family income. The programs include:

  • Kinderoos for before- and after-school care for kindergarteners. 
  • The Youth Center of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Department, which provides before- and after-school care for school-aged children. 

Medical Care

Navy Medic Course

China Lake's Branch Health Clinic is open to all active duty and retired military and their dependents.

The closest emergency room is at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital located at 1801 N. China Lake Blvd. 

The Branch Health and Dental Clinic at China Lake on Blandy Avenue provides routine outpatient medical care to all eligible beneficiaries.

Patients with medical problems that require additional treatment are referred to local civilian providers or military treatment facilities on other bases.