CHINA LAKE – Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Officer in Charge of Construction (OICC) China Lake hosted its final groundbreaking ceremony of the $2.7 billion Earthquake Recovery Program on April 20, for a trio of projects aboard Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake.
This trio of projects, under a $137 million contract, awarded to Whiting-Turner Contracting Company of Baltimore, Md., will demolish and build a cast propellant mix building, warhead casing operations facility, and motor assembly compound located within the China Lake Propulsion Laboratory/Salt Wells area. The Salt Wells Pilot Plant was originally built in the mid 1940’s consisting of a 600-acre site with 139 original buildings. The new facilities will restore the capabilities of research, development, testing and evaluation of the next generation of mission platforms by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). Construction is expected to be completed in early 2024.
OICC China Lake Construction Manager, Lt Rixon Fletcher, served as the master of ceremonies and provided welcoming remarks before introducing the speakers for the ceremony OICC China Lake’s Commanding Officer Capt. Laurie Scott, NAWCWD Executive Director Daniel Carreno, NAWS China Lake Commanding Officer Capt. Jeremy Vaughan, Whiting-Turner Senior Vice President for Southern California Steve Likins and City of Ridgecrest Vice Mayor Solomon Rajaratnam.
“This phenomenal NAVFAC, NAWCWD, NAWS China Lake team worked with focus and purpose to build this multi-billion dollar program at a record pace over the past 19 months. Since the establishment of OICC China Lake, we have seen 22 major projects go from concept to concrete,” said OICC China Lake Commanding Officer Capt. Laurie Scott “This trio of projects make up the heart of NAWCWD’s production and experimentation of advanced solid, liquid and hybrid rocket propellants and we are excited to be working with a world-class contractor like Whiting-Turner to restore this diminished capability.”
“This complex represents the heart and soul of the NAWCWD China Lake Propulsion Laboratory’s mission, where the research, development, testing and evaluation all come together. Right here you see a 150-gallon mixing bowl used to mix propellants and explosives for the latest weapons – it’s been our workhorse for decades. Seeing it brings back fond memories of my early days at China Lake and gets me excited about the future capabilities this team is going to have,” said NAWCWD Executive Director Daniel Carreno.
“This is our last groundbreaking in a historic effort to rebuild China Lake. We’ll use these ceremonial shovels for the last time and in a few short months we will be using ribbon cutting scissors to reopen this base to full capacity. I’m thankful for the Navy and our nation for funding this effort. Thank you to Captain Scott and his OICC Team, for all those designers, planners and engineers who have spent countless hours getting this project going. Thank you to the contractors and partners who will work in incredible heat and harsh conditions to get us back in business of supporting our nation’s warfighters. It is the patriots of Whiting-Turner and the OICC who will see this project to completion, helping this team ensure the defense of America,” said Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Commanding Officer Capt. Jeremy Vaughan.
“Whiting-Turner is really excited to extend our relationship with the Navy on this project, “said Whiting-Turner Senior Vice President Steve Likins. “We are excited to execute our portion of this mission to build these facilities to restore operations with are phenomenal group of sub-contractors and tradespeople that will be joining us.”
“I had the privilege of getting to know Capt. Laurie Scott and the OICC team while attending recent ceremonies and during community and civic events. The OICC and its representatives have been involved in Ridgecrest community to ensure the community is aware of current construction efforts and being available to hear our concerns that affect this tight-knit community,” said City of Ridgecrest Vice Mayor Solomon Rajaratnam
To conclude the ceremony, participants gathered around a 150-gallon mixing pot, in use since the 1960’s to create propellants, ceremonially turning over course glass beads used as an inert filler.
OICC China Lake was established in August 2020 to provide engineering, acquisition, and execution oversight for military construction and repair projects caused by the devastating damage from the 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude earthquakes that occurred on July 4 and 5, 2019.