Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu or NBVC Point Mugu (IATA: NTD, ICAO:KNTD, FAA LID: NTD) is a military airbase located in Point Mugu, Ventura County, California,United States. Due to realignment actions which occurred in 2000, the base is now part ofNaval Base Ventura County (NBVC), a consolidated organization that also includes Naval Base Ventura County Port Hueneme and San Nicolas Island. The facility also shares runways with the California Air National Guard at the Channel Islands Air National Guard station.
The facility adjacent to Point Mugu, California was developed in the late 1940s as the U.S. Navy's major missile development and test facility. This facility was the site where most of the Navy's missiles were developed and tested during the 1950/1960 era, including the AIM-7 Sparrow family and the AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air, Bullpup air-to-surface, and Regulus surface-to-surface missiles.
NBVC Pt. Mugu has dominated the area since the 1940s, and is one of the few places in the area that is not agricultural. The base has been home to many ordnance testing programs, and the test range extends offshore to the Navy-owned San Nicolas Island in the Channel Islands.
In 1963 the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program was established on a sand spit between Mugu Lagoon and the ocean. The facility was relocated in 1967 to Point Loma in San Diego, California.
Point Mugu was the airfield used by former President Ronald Reagan during his presidency on visits to his Santa Barbara ranch. The airfield was also used during the state funeral honoring him in 2004, as the place where the former President's body was flown to Washington, D.C. tolie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. The body was flown back to Point Mugu aboard presidential aircraft SAM 28000 two days later. Until the late 1990s, the base hosted Antarctic Development Squadron SIX (VXE-6), the squadron of LC-130s equipped to land on ice in Antarctica, to supply the science stations there. Now, the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing has assumed that responsibility.
Outside of the air station there is also Point Mugu State Park, a popular site for viewing birds, marine mammals, and wildflowers and provides about 15,000 acres (61 km²) of protected land including beaches, riparian areas, and coastal hills and canyons. Between the park and the naval base, Mugu Lagoon provides one of the largest coastal wetlands in Southern California that has not been largely developed.
The most valued relationship in my naval career was with Admiral Del Fahrney, the "father of naval guided missiles" (if anyone can be so named) and probably well known to all of you. At the end of World War II he relieved me as Director of BUAER's Pilot less Aircraft Division. In the turnover process he asked if I had kept a history of the Division's work and was obviously disappointed when I replied "no", followed by the usual excuses. Then he said, with understanding, "You fellows have been so busy making history that you've not had time to record it." I've never forgotten those words and their meaning has become more and more clear down through the years.
Probably most of us here tonight gave lip service, as students, to the notion that history is a valuable teacher. We memorized enough dates and causes of wars to get a passing grade and then rushed into the professional world to gain fame and fortune and reinvent the wheel. Most of us were also compartmentalized in bureaus, test stations, or companies involved in guided missile development. We must have done well, all-in-all, or our country today would not be in the forefront of missile technology. But now we have the time and maturity to look back and ask, "What the hell happened?"
If our Association can help answer this earthy question we can then turn to our youth and say, "Here's the real story of guided missiles in our Navy. You can learn very valuable lessons from it; how they were conceived, designed, tested, produced and used in the Fleet. These are the province of technology and operations. But of equal importance is how they were sometimes oversold, mismanaged and victimized by political in-fighting. These are the province of politics and bureaucracy.”
It is only in recent years that historians have been able to crack the security barrier, with help from the Freedom of Information Act, and cull from government documents enough facts to give us a broad-based and accurate statement of what really happened.
in 1936 when Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William F. Standley, on a visit to Great Britain, witnessed the use of remotely-controlled unmanned aircraft as anti-aircraft targets. Intrigued by the Royal Navy's concept, he immediately initiated action for development of similar targets for U.S. Navy gunners. Lieutenant Commander Delmer S. Fahrney was assigned to carry out Admiral Standley's request. Under his leadership, the first U.S. fully-successful flight of a remotely-controlled unmanned aircraft occurred in November 1937. Limited production of these aircraft began, and Fahrney, along with Dr. Hoyt Taylor (head of the Naval Research Laboratory), coined the term "Drone" for them.
During 1938-39 Fleet exercises, the maneuverable drone targets showed a high measure of success in evading attacks by the latest Navy anti-aircraft batteries.
Such shocking results forced the Navy into a crash effort to improve anti-aircraft weapon design and operations. These improvements came on line just in time for the start of World War II, when our gunners had to face real enemy targets. Equally as important, the results brought about a high-level recognition that drones could be used as offensive weapons. Shortly before our involvement in the Second World War, Captain Fahrney's plan to convert obsolescent aircraft to offensive drones was adopted. Soon afterwards the Navy authorized the production of Fahrney's other proposal: the non-pilotable ASSAULT DRONE, the first U. S. guided missile. In October 1944 the ASSAULT DRONE, became the first U. S. missile to be used against enemy forces in combat. This occurred in the South Pacific when a total of 46 of them were launched against Japanese strongholds at Bougainville and Rabaul. Other missile programs started during the war by Fahrney, and his successor, Commander Grayson Merrill, included the air-to-surface GARGOYLE, the anti-Kamikaze LITTLE JOE,the family of GORGON missiles, the surface-to-air LARK, and the LOON (a Navy adaptation of the German V-1 missile).
With the expansion of the U. S. Navy's guided missile program, it became evident to Commander Grayson Merrill that an over-water test range was needed. In 1944, he requested the Chief of Naval Operations to appoint a site survey board to identify the best location for such a facility.
The Site Survey Board evaluated 26 potential sites on the east, west, and gulf coasts. They recommended that Point Mugu be selected because of its broad beach front, nearby deep water port, and the potential instrumentation sites onLaguna Peak and the outlying chain of Channel Islands.
The Board's recommendation, prepared by Commander Merrill, was endorsed successively by the Navy Secretary, James Forrestal, and President Truman.
Military non-missile-related activity had come to Point Mugu early in World War II. Seabee's used the beaches for simulated combat landings and airstrip construction exercises. The Combat Aircraft Service Unit (CASU) used the area to repair carrier aircraft. Left behind after the war was a 5,000 foot Marston mat airstrip, a group of Quonset huts, a wooden airplane hangar and control tower.
Bringing together all the Bureau of Aeronautics guided missile specialists and their programs to Point Mugu was hindered by insufficient buildings for housing, laboratories, and offices. A decision was made to temporarily stage these resources as the Pilotless Aircraft Unit (PAU) at the Naval Air Station (NAS), Mojave, California, which replaced a deactivated Marine Corps Air Station there. The PAU was headed by Captain Albert B. Scoles and the NAS was headed by Captain Albert N. Perkins.
Limited missile testing and laboratory work started at the PAU early in 1946. Captain Scoles was very much concerned with the Mugu housing situation. He found a solution at nearby Port Hueneme, in a storage area where hundreds of long, one-story, wooden barracks had been stored since the end of WWII.
By cutting them in two, they were made transportable for reassembly at Point Mugu for housing, offices, and other purposes. An orderly movement to Point Mugu was then possible, and by January 1947 the NAS at Mojave was shut down. Some of the converted barracks were used for offices and classrooms until the mid 1990's.
Even before the Site Survey Board delivered their recommendation, Point Mugu was already engaged in testing of the Navy's adaptation of the German V-1 "Buzz-Bomb" called the LOON. Over 20 launches of the LOON missiles had taken place when Captain Albert Perkins, as Commanding Officer, read his orders to men and officers directing the establishment of the Naval Air Missile Test Center on October 1, 1946.
There was no lacking of missile and drone experience in the contingent that Captain Perkins faced on that day. At Mojave, and on the East Coast, they had tested the GORGON, GARGOYLE, LARK and LITTLE JOE as well as the liquid rocket motor that powered the LARK. Among them were others who had maintained and flown the ASSAULT DRONE in combat.
They were a "can do" crew, and even with the barest of facilities they proceeded to get on with further testing of the LOON, LARK, GORGON and a number of new small target drones. On February 12, 1947, just off the Mugu coast, a LOON became the first missile to be launched from a submarine, USS CUSK.
Like the LOON, in 1947 the LARK also made a significant guided missile first on September 18, 1951 when one launched from Point Mugu used it's semi-active radar guidance to score a direct hit on a drone version of an F6F World War Two fighter.
The LOON, LARK, and all the World War II missiles were phased out by 1953. They had long since been dropped from consideration as operational weapons, but they did serve the Mugu engineers well as learning tools in the arts and science of missile testing and evaluation.
When Congress approved construction funds in January 1948, the transformation of Point Mugu into a well-equipped facility for laboratory and flight testing began. The rapid progress was monitored by many dignitaries including Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chief of Naval Operations.
The first building completed was the command and administration structure which permitted the commanding officer and staff to move from the old converted barracks that had served as their offices. By 1951, the transformation was essentially complete.
The asphalt covered Marston Mat airstrip was replaced by a standard concrete runway with taxi strips and extended emergency over run spaces.
Security personnel also moved out of converted barracks and into the new Security Building next to the new Main Gate. Operations personnel stopped using the old wooden hangar and Quonset huts, and moved into the large new operations hangar. Enlisted personnel left the clustered Quonset huts for their new enlisted barracks.
Also moving out of converted barracks and into the new Test and Evaluation Building were personnel of the Technical Service and Laboratory Departments, while Range Instrumentation personnel occupied their new Instrumentation Building. Personnel of the Missile Test Department moved from their barracks-type offices and into the new Missile Test Building. Other new structures were the recreation building and enlisted mess hall.
However, it was not until 1953 that the Range Operations building and the Launch Control Center were completed, thereby permitting the secession launchings from the edge of the beach.
While the buildings were going up and asphalt roads were being put in, the work of instrumenting the sea test range proceeded in the same time frame. A short range with a 15 mile radius from Point Mugu was quickly instrumented to support the early test work.
Optical tracking and recording were made with Askania cine-theodolites that were taken from the German missile test site at Peenemunde after the war. Radar tracking was done using a number of surplus SCR-584 automatic tracking units built in the U. S. during the war for anti-aircraft work.
Early telemetry transmitters were being installed in the missiles and contractor-built telemetry receiving and recording stations were acquired. At first data reduction was laboriously done by hand, but by the early 1950's semi-automatic equipment was acquired.
By the end of the 1950's, the full-size range reaching out to 150 miles was in place. There was a new complex of telemetry receiving stations, upgraded cinetheodolite stations, Mobile Tracking Units, and a modernized timing facility for live data coordination.
Also in place were digital computing facilities, and a data reduction facility for reading and plotting optical and telemetered outputs. AN/FPS-16 C-band automatic tracking instrumentation radars were in the process of replacing the older SCR-584 units.
Concurrent with the buildup of the range was the buildup of laboratories for missile performance simulation, aerodynamic model testing, shock simulation, vibration and centrifuge testing, infrared testing, and acoustic and atmospheric environment simulation.
An early gain in rocket and missile technology for the Naval Air Missile Test Center came about as a result of "Operation Paper Clip." This was the importation by the United States of a large group of German civilian scientists, principally aircraft, rocket and missile specialists, who had fled capture by the Russians during the spring of 1945. Having learned of the scientists' arrival in the United States, Commander Grayson Merrill interviewed them early in 1946 and selected 12 who volunteered to come to the new Naval Air Missile Test Center.
The selected scientists arrived at Point Mugu during 1947-48, and Merrill "salted" them throughout the technical organizations so as to effect a broad and rapid transfer of their expertise to his newly-acquired civilian staff. The German's contributions came quickly and were numerous. Working with the Marine Guided Missile Unit, Dr. Herbert A. Wagner helped them develop a close air support bombing system that became the predecessor of the system still in use. Robert Lusser provided impetus to the DoD's concern with reliability in 1950 when he published the first report (NAMTC Technical Report No. 75) on the theory of that subject. Willy Fiedler produced many valuable mechanical designs including a low-cost Regulus launcher replacing an inoperable contractor-developed unit. Dr. Otto Schwede became Technical Director for the Range Instrumentation department, while Theodore Sturm headed the Guidance Division. Eleven of the twelve became American citizens. However, by1960 all had left Point Mugu to start their own companies or take positions in industry. Still, they left behind a considerable legacy of valuable technology.
Displacing the old World War II missile programs were the SPARROW family of air-to-air missiles and the REGULUS submarine launched bombardment missiles. These high priority programs made the bulk of workload and excitement at the Naval Air Missile Test Center during the 1950's.
There were three models of SPARROW missiles labeled I, II and III. They were produced by separate, highly-competitive contractors each determined their model would be the one selected for operational use. While the three missiles had similar airframes and rocket motors, each used different subsystems for radar guidance. The tests and evaluation performed at Point Mugu were to determine which would be the most accurate, reliable, and cost effective.
SPARROW I, developed by Sperry Gyroscope Company, had the simplest guidance system, a radar-beam rider. Testing started in 1949, and in 1956 was declared operational. However deficiencies showed up in early operational tests and the program was terminated in 1957.
The fully-active-radar guided Douglas/Bendix SPARROW II was theoretically the most accurate of the three, but also the most complex because it used the greatest number of vacuum tubes. Since the era of solid state electronics had not arrived, the reliability of the SPARROW II was compromised. It was also terminated in 1957
SPARROW III, developed by Raytheon Corporation had a semi-active radar guidance system that was a happy compromise; more accurate than the SPARROW I and more reliable than the SPARROW II, it was the "winner" and became operational in 1958. Since then, Point Mugu has evaluated seven models of successively improved performance, the latest being capable of being ship as well as air launched. Still in operational use, over 50,000 Sparrow III units have been produced.
Born of the Navy's need for a submarine-launched, long-range bombardment weapon, the 500-mile range, subsonic REGULUS I came to Point Mugu for test and evaluation in January 1947. Equipped with retractable landing gear, the first test flights of experimental units were conducted on the long runways of Edwards Air Force Base. Short-length launchings were started at Point Mugu in January 1952, and the first submarine launch was made from the USS TUNNY in July 1953.
Spurred by Korean War defense spending, the command-guided REGULUS I program was expanded. By the end of 1955, after over 200 test flights, the REGULUS I was made operational for use on submarines and cruisers as the REGULUS ASSAULT MISSILE (RAM), harking back to its World War II ancestor, Rear Admiral Delmer Fahrney's ASSAULT DRONE.
When the RIGEL, the intended supersonic follow-on to REGULUS I, was canceled, a quick redesign by the prime contractor, Chance Vaought Corporation, produced the longer-range, inertial-guided, supersonic REGULUS II in 1956. It immediately went into developmental testing at Point Mugu.
The REGULUS period at Point Mugu ended in December 1958 when the Department of Defense decided that the POLARIS Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile would be successful, and both REGULUS I and II were canceled. However, both missiles were to carry on at Point Mugu for the next few years to be used as targets for air launched missiles.
The sudden cancellation of the REGULUS programs brought about much consternation at the Naval Air Missile Test Center. The large REGULUS Project Office had been staffed with personnel for technical, analytical, fiscal, test operations, fleet liaison and support functions. These people were now without assignments.
An organizational re-examination was taken up by management as those displaced were laboriously reassigned. A matrix-type of organization for the Center was soon put in place that used minimally-staffed project management offices supported by the line technical, operational and support departments. By these changes, future program cancellations would have much less effect the individual workers.
The BULLPUP air-to-surface missile was developed because of a need for a standoff weapon to destroy bridges near the China border during the Korean war. After launching, the missile was radio-controlled along a line-of-sight to the target by the pilot.
Contractor developmental testing by the Martin Company of the BULLPUP at Point Mugu began in 1955, and evaluation tests by the Naval Air Missile Test Center took place in 1956 to determine the missile's accuracy, reliability and serviceability. In 1959, the missile was deployed with the FJ4B as the launch aircraft.
BULLPUP's successors, the longer range BULLPUP A and the nuclear BULLPUP B, were also evaluated at Point Mugu during the 1960's and 1970's.
The need to test new missiles while in the developmental stage for susceptibility and resistance to electronic countermeasures became apparent to Commander Clifton Evans, Jr. at Point Mugu. In 1951 he started the first permanent, on-going program to do just that at the Naval Air Missile Test Center.
The growth of expertise by Point Mugu personnel in developing countermeasures systems for evaluating missile guidance systems soon had them being requested to develop actual electronic countermeasures for operational use.
Recognition of this capability led to Naval Missile Center being chartered to develop airborne electronic warfare systems in the 1960's, and to the approval and construction of the Point Mugu modern Electronic Warfare Laboratory in the late 1980's. In 1996, the laboratory was dedicated and renamed after Commander Evans.
A leader since its inception in the test, evaluation, and operational use of airborne targets, the Naval Air Missile Test Center led the way in turning the newer target drones into systems that more realistically simulated actual threats.
The primary targets used during the 1950's for evaluation flight tests of the SPARROW missiles were F6F-5Ks. These were World War II fighter aircraft modified to drone configuration. They were equipped with wing-tip camera pods to record miss distances between the missile and target. Of course, if a direct hit was made, there would be no need to be told that the miss distance was zero. In addition, chaff and electronic devices were carried by the drones to evaluate the resistance to such countermeasures by the missile guidance system and warhead fuse.
There were other modified aircraft used as missile evaluation targets. These included the F9J jet fighter, the P2V two-engine patrol aircraft and the PB4Y four engine bomber. These, however, saw limited use. And as noted, drone versions of the REGULUS missiles were also used as high speed targets following the cancellation of those programs.
In addition to providing targets to test developmental missiles, the Naval Air Missile Test Center had a heavy load of testing and evaluating sub-scale, low-cost drones to be used by the Fleet for anti-aircraft training. These small craft were mostly propeller-driven, although a few used pulse jet engines. During the period of 1946 to 1958 there were over 3,000 test flights made on more than 30 different models of these developmental drones.
The breakthrough toward modern target drones at Point Mugu came in 1952 with the assignment of the first Ryan turbojet Firebee for test and evaluation. By 1956, it was being used as an operational target for evaluation of SPARROW missiles.
By the mid 1950's the need for longer-range missile and test facilities was apparent to the government, and a special committee on the adequacy of national ranges was formed to determine where one should be established.
The Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu was already a national leader in range development and operation. They had helped birth the Air Force's Atlantic Missile Range, providing advice and personnel transfers, and had initiated formation of the National Range Commanders Council.
Point Mugu was selected to be the hub for the new Pacific Missile Range which would take, as its core, the Naval Air Missile Test Center's personnel and facilities of the Range Instrumentation and Technical Support Departments.
Officially established June 1958, the new Pacific Missile Range would serve all U. S. military services, NASA and other federal agencies. It extended 5,000 miles out to the Mariana Islands and covered the length of the U. S. Pacific coastline.
Rear Admiral Jack P. Monroe, who had Served as the last commander of the Naval Air Missile Test Center, became commander of the new range while Robert H. Helmholty was named technical Director.
There was an imperative to put the Pacific Missile Range in operation quickly. This was the era of the Cold War and the "Space Race" with the Soviet Union. Thus the rapid buildup of the Pacific Missile Range had high national priority.
Personnel hiring was accelerated, new facilities were acquired and existing ones were upgraded. Instrumentation was installed at 17 land sites from the U. S. Pacific coast to the islands of Hawaii, Eniwetok, Midway, Johnson and Wake. Far-off ocean impact measuring systems were developed, and a fleet of ten converted wartime Liberty ships and five four-engine aircraft were equipped for instrumentation and ocean recovery over the broad Pacific area.
Major weapons systems using the Pacific Missile Range included POLARIS, TITAN THOR, MINUTEMAN, TRANSIT and NIKE-ZEUS. NASA weighed in with their MERCURY, GEMINI, TIROS and TELSTAR programs, while the Defense Atomic Support Agency brought in such highly-classified programs dubbed SAIL, SKIP, DOMINIC and CLEANSWEEP II.
In the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy, who had cited the "missile gap" and the need for preparedness during his 1960 presidential campaign, visited the Pacific Missile Range for a first-hand inspection.
The Pacific Missile Range Facility, on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, was established as a sub-command of the Pacific Missile Range. Since 1958 this facility had operated as a fully instrumented two-dimensional range that supported Fleet air and surface tactical and training exercises. Here battle forces could engage in free-play exercises that were tracked, recorded, analyzed and evaluated. An underwater dimension to include submarines was added in 1967 with completion of the 120 square mile Barking Sands Tactical Underwater Range.
Seemingly left behind in the formation of the Pacific Missile Range was the rump Naval Air Missile Test Center, shorn of its Range Instrumentation and Technical Support Departments, and reduced in size by personnel transfers to the more glamorous National Range.
Under Captain C. H. S. Murphy as Commanding Officer and Donald F. Sullivan as Technical Director, turnaround was not long in coming. Re-christened January 1958 as the Naval Missile Center, and retaining the basic Point Mugu mission of test and evaluation of Navy air weapons, the outlook brightened much sooner than expected.
Concentrating on the emerging, critical technologies of solid state, simulation, software, electronic warfare and hardware-in-the-loop testing, the Naval Missile Center technical base grew to match a growing need for sophisticated tactical weapons during the Vietnan War.
Superseding the SPARROW and REGULUS as the dominant test and evaluation programs at the Naval Missile Center in the mid 1960's was the F-14/PHOENIX weapon system. The PHOENIX, under development by Hughes Aircraft, was a long-range supersonic air-to-air missile with multi-guidance and multi-propulsion modes, and was the most complex weapon to come to Point Mugu at the time. It could acquire, track, and engage multiple targets simultaneously. The supersonic F-14 had a two man crew. It was the Navy's most advanced fighter, designed to carry six PHOENIX missiles while performing Combat Air Patrol missions to protect the Fleet.
Because the multitude of flight tests required to evaluate the F-14/PHOENIX weapon system would have been excessive, two simulations were developed to minimize both the time and costs to obtain the needed data. The F-14 System Integration Test Station, called SITS, consisting of an F-14 fuselage containing the hardware and software for avionics, fire-control, and electronic warfare, was built on the third floor of a building overlooking the ocean. The pilot and a radar operator, occupying the fuselage, could then operate the total system, up to the missile launch signal. Such test operations were made against attack aircraft flying toward the large open garage-type door of the building. This concept and type of equipment was later replicated by other test bases for other aircraft.
The other simulation was totally computer-generated. It covered the simulated flight of the PHOENIX toward the target from launch signal to target kill.
As a result of software experience gained during the development and operation of the SITS, the Naval Missile Center was designated as the F-14 Software Support Agency in 1973. This changed the Center's role from passive monitoring of the contractor's efforts to management of all the system software including that in trainers and ground support equipment.
The ability of the F-14/PHOENIX to acquire, track ,and launch multiple missiles against individual targets was demonstrated in 1973. The exercise was called "six on six" when six missiles were launched in ripple fire against six separate targets. It was considered successful as four of the missiles made direct kills.
Other missiles that started test and evaluation at the Naval Missile Center were:
The McDonell Douglas HARPOON came in 1970. It is an anti-ship missile launched from aircraft, ships or submarines. Flying at subsonic speed it uses both mid-course and terminal guidance. The approach to target is first made at sea level. Then the missile enters a climb to altitude before executing a terminal dive attack. It became operational in 1977.
The SEASPARROW, first proposed in 1955, as the use of the air-to-air SPARROW as a surface-to-air weapon was finally accepted and in 1965 when its test phase began. The system became operational early in 1970.
The WALLEYE was a television-guided air-to-surface missile that was designed for use against high-priority targets. Assigned to the Naval Missile Center in 1966, the evaluation phase was completed in four years and approved for Fleet operation.
The air-to-air SIDEWINDER family of missiles, a development of the Naval Ordnance Test Station at China Lake, were frequently flight tested over the Point Mugu Sea Range.
NIKE-ZEUS, the early anti-ballistic missile was tested by the Army at the Naval Missile Center, making use of the Pacific Missile Range instrumentation. Nineteen missiles were fired from the Point Mugu beach between 1960 and 1962. The first stage booster of almost one half million pounds thrust was the most powerful rocket ever fired at Point Mugu, and each test rattled a wide radius of desks, cabinets, and Mugu personnel.
During the 1970's the PMTC developed CAST GLANCE, a unique in-flight system for long-range, high-altitude instrumentation photography that was capable of stabilizing subject images on film. Featuring a focal length of up to 120-inches and low-light level video technology, the system has been used to support tests of HARPOON, TOMAHAWK and SEASPARROW as well Air Force ICBM and satellite launches. The primary CAST GLANCE airborne platform is a Point Mugu P-3 aircraft. It has also been employed aboard an Air Force C-135 transport. Used aboard an EP-3A Point Mugu aircraft, it photographed the recovery of Space Shuttle booster over the Atlantic from a distance of 150 miles.
With the first Fleet introduction of missiles in the late 1950's, the need became evident for engineering support to correct deficiencies found during missile handling, storage, and operation. A small Ship Suitability Office was formed by the Naval Missile Center in 1959 to handle a number of these problems. Workload for this office grew as more weapons entered the Fleet. In 1970, the Naval Missile Center established the Fleet Weapons Engineering Department with responsibility for in-service engineering and integrated logistics support for air launched missiles, targets, bombs, rockets, and aircraft guns.
With a small civilian complement, augmented by sub-contracts to other field and commercial activities, the department was able to provide world-wide engineering service covering failure analysis, design corrections, updating, and logistics and maintenance evaluations.
The capabilities and sophistication of Point Mugu's targets continued to keep pace with the advances being made by the latest Soviet threats. At the start of the 1970's the Naval Missile Center had a stable of drone versions of supersonic fighters, several missile-size targets in both the sub and supersonic ranges, as well as high-performance tow targets. The use of augmentation, electronic countermeasures and scoring devices was also prevalent with most of these targets. In the following decades advanced targets were added including the MQM-8G (VANDAL) which was developed from the obsolete TALOS Fleet Missile which provides a realisitic threat representation od an attackingsupersonic anti-cruise missile.
A special target division was established at Vandenberg Air Force Base to launch target versions of the BOMARC (picture right) surface-to-air missile. These simulated the performance of Soviet MIG-17s reaching Mach 2.65 at 65,000 feet altitude.
To test surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles, a surface target division had been established with vessels of speeds up to 40 knots. One AVR boat had been configured as Soviet KOMARattack vessel while another was capable of launching its own remotely-controlled missile-size target. An ex-destroyer was another surface target fitted with instrumentation, telemetry, miss-distance and damage control systems. The sinking of environmentally damaging obsolete ship hulks such as these was discontinued in the 1990's with the development of Mobile Ship Target (MST) which was designed as a survivable combatant ship target and to be operable without a crew.
During the early sixties, the Naval Missile Center was active with several space related and life science projects funded by the Navy's Bureau of Weapons. These projects were mostly aimed at developing capabilities to launch high-altitude probes and satellites from land and the open sea. There also was the "Porpoise Project" Tanks were built close to the entrance of the lagoon and the animals were brought in to train for such tasks as deep water recovery, explosive placement and other high-risk missions. All of these projects were phased out by the end of the decade.
JFK Summer 1963
Arial view of Makaha Ridge Instrumentation near Barking Sands. Taken 4/21/70
By the end of the 1960's, the national defense focus was shifting from strategic to tactical warfare. The "space race" with the Soviets was won and the U. S. ballistic missile systems were now in place. A presidential blue ribbon commission was established in1969 to determine causes and corrections for weapons failures in the Vietnam war theater. One of the recommendations of the commission was that greater emphasis needed to be placed in the field of weapon test and evaluation. These factors, along with the potential of overhead cost reductions, were evident in the decision to consolidate the Naval Missile Center and the Pacific Missile Range as one organization.
It was sort of a remarriage of divorcees, but not without difficulties because of the different cultures that had evolved over the fifteen years of separation, and the two distinctly different financial systems used . The Pacific Missile Range had been funded directly from the DOD Major Range and Test Facility Budget, while the Naval Missile Center had been operating under the Naval Industrial Funding system whereby their income was derived directly from customers who used their services and facilities.
Nevertheless, on April 25, 1975, both the Pacific Missile Range and the Naval Missile Center went out of existence and the Pacific Missile Test Center of Point Mugu was established. Rear Admiral John M. Thomas was named Commander and Winston "Mike" Miller as acting Technical Director to be succeeded the following year by Thad Perry.
The Pacific Missile Test Center had a slow start over the next 30 months because of readjustments attendant to a 23 percent civilian personnel reduction from the combined 4,850 total of the two former commands, and a prolonged, rigorous classification review by the Office of Personnel Management.
However, by the fall of 1977, with Captain John C. Weaver as Commander, the organization had righted itself using a stronger version of the Naval Missile Center's matrix management system that brought together the activities of the range people and the missile people, and resolved the problem of working with the two diverse funding systems.
Through it all, the command's on-going programs and new ones were prosecuted as were advances in modernization of the range and the laboratories. The modernization of the laboratories was reflected by the completion of the Clifton Evans, Jr. Electronic Warfare Systems Laboratory in 1988 and the Grayson Merrill Missile Systems Evaluation Laboratory in 1991. It was Commander Evans' expertise and diligence during the early 1950's that was to propel Point Mugu to the forefront of airborne electronic warfare art. It was Commander Grayson Merrill's foresight and leadership that in 1946 led to the establishment of the Navy's first missile test and evluation facility at Point Mugu.
By 1980, the fifth anniversary of the consolidation, the Pacific Missile Test Center had a stable workforce of 3,650 civilians and 1,000 military, while the Center's budget had grown from $160 million to $260 million.
Standing out among the new programs assigned to the Pacific Missile Test Center for Test and Evaluation was the TOMAHAWK, originally developed by General Dynamics Corporation. This subsonic very-low altitude, low-radar profile weapon is perhaps the most versatile of Navy missiles ever. Initially it was to be a torpedo-tube launched anti-ship weapon, but its evident potential brought about numerous other configurations and missions: land attack, air and ground launching, vertical launching, armored box launching and nuclear and submunitions warheads.
Developmental flight tests, laboratory simulations and evaluations were conducted at Point Mugu starting in the mid 1970's, and in 1978 the first submarine launch of a Land Attack TOMAHAWK was made off Point Mugu. The Inland range, extending from Point Mugu to Dugway Utah, was used for sub-launched TOMAHAWKS. Approved in 1983 for Initial Operating Capability, the TOMAHAWK was credited with numerous successful strikes during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), was unique among major programs at the Pacific Missile Test Center in that it originated not with the naval community, but rather with the Air Force. Having had to use the Navy's SPARROWs and SIDEWINDERs for a generation, the Air Force initiated development of the AMRAAM to exceed those two weapons in all facets of operational usage. The Department of Defense soon directed that it be multi-service weapon compatible with both Air Force and Navy fighters.
Under this arrangement, the Pacific Missile Test Center shared the Test and Evaluation program with Eglin Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, and the China Lake land range. A successful "four-on-four" missiles-versus-targets flight test was conducted at Point Mugu in 1989. Other AMRAAM tasks assigned to the Pacific Missile Test Center included flight test simulation, hardware-in-the-loop laboratory testing, environmental testing, and acquisition of Navy support equipment.
HARM, the Navy's current high-performance, Anti-Radiation Missile, represents the culmination of a series of like weapons that have been tested at Point Mugu. Starting in 1950, several World War Two BAT missiles were modified to use homing-on-radar seekers as developmental devices. The improved long-range CORVUS ARM tested in the late 1950's had several deficiencies and was not made operational. The SHRIKE, which came to Point Mugu in the 1964, was a further improvement, and in 1969 became the first Navy anti-radiation missile to go into service. STANDARD ARM, carrying a larger warhead and more sophisticated than the SHRIKE, became operational late in the 1970's. The HARM, still larger and carrying a terminal homing device that permits a launch and leave capability, was effective against Libyan targets in 1986 and saw extensive use in 1991 by the Air Force and Navy during the Persian Gulf War.
The Mobile Sea Range (MSR), developed during the 1970's, carries much of range capability comparable to that at Point Mugu, to wide open ocean areas. This permits the Fleet to engage in operational testing and safe training in realistic combat situations around the globe. Housed in a large transportable trailer and placed aboard Fleet ships the system contains equipment for multilateration tracking, operational displays, data recording and a master intergrater to monitor all friendly and simulated enemy participants. The MSR operator controls drones simulating hostile missiles, and monitors all enemy actions including jamming. The system can reconstruct an exercise for later study and evaluation.
The Extended Area Test System (EATS) came into being after it became evident with the inception of HARPOON and TOMAHAWK programs that testing beyond the nominal 150 miles radius of the Sea Test Range would be required. A greater volume of space was also going to be needed to accommodate and track the missile firing AEGIS cruisers in combined operations with aircraft. Started in 1972, and completed in the early 80's, the EATS is a multilateration tracking system operating over the horizon in an area covered by a 250-mile radius from San Nicholas Island. It can track up to 60 ships, aircraft and targets from sea level to 100,000 feet, relay drone control messages, and transfer telemetry data from up to 15 remotely-controlled vehicles. It does all this with three instrumentation stations carried in EP-3A aircraft, instrumentation packages in drones, aircraft and ships, and 16 ground reference stations.
Selected in 1975 to build an operational test range in the Pacific for the TRIDENT submarine-launched ballistic missile, the Pacific Missile Test Center designed and put in place theTRIDENT Missile Test Instrumentation System. This was the most complex and extensive range system ever assembled at Point Mugu.
Completed in 1983, the system was able to provide the operational test forces underwater launch submarine tracking, range safety display, tracking of up to four missiles - launched two at a time, instantaneous impact predictions, and recording and display of missile telemetry. The recovery of optical, telemetric and acoustical scoring data in the impact area was also provided.
The art and science of electronic warfare fully matured during the Pacific Missile Test Center era in support of the Center's weapon test and evaluation work, complex electronic threat environments development continued at a pace to match the advancing Soviet capabilities. The were also major advances in the development of offensive electronic warfare systems for Fleet aircraft as PMTC became the lead agency for several EW systems and technologies:
- PMTC was the lead agency for T&E of advanced developmental models of tactical-air, active ECM such as the AN/ALQ-126B, the first reprogrammable, active, self-protection jammer that is now carried by most of the Navy's combat aircraft. T&E work that followed involved the AN/ALQ-162A Deceptive Electronic Countermeasur (DCEM) System which now supplements the AN/ALQ-126B as does the AN/ALQ-165, Advanced Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ).These systems were effectively employed during the Persian Gulf War.
- PMTC was also the lead agency for the T&E of the Navy's airborne open-loop infrared countermeasures systems. This involved flight tests on the AN/ALQ-157 system which provides protection of large helicopters against infrared missiles.
- Other EW lead activity Navy assignments held by PMTC included: development of the EA-6B aircraft EW systems; for operation of the EA-6B Software Support Activity and other airborn platforms; and for EW support equipment.
Recently I had the privilege of reviewing the manuscript of a scholar ly work by Dr. Derek Bruins on naval bombardment missile development through 1958. It is thoroughly researched and lucidly written with uncommon insight on both the scientific and political decisions of those years. For me, it refreshed many dormant memories and made me realize what a broad scenario governed such programs as the rise and fall of REGULUS and the build-up of Point Mugu. I read it avidly, like a gripping novel, and I would guess that most of you will do likewise when it is published.
Tonight, however, I want to tread lightly and relate some of the events I remember about the birth and boyhood of Point Mugu. Please bear with occasional embellishment of a sea story and lack of accuracy due to a fading memory. There are many in the audience whose experiences overlap my own. Therefore I plan to take some of our allotted time for a floor discussion. So please line up some comments as I go along.
The need for a post-World War II naval guided missile range evolved from the wartime testing headaches of the Bureaus of Aeronautics and Ordnance. BAT was flight tested by a small unit based at Philadelphia against targets in New Jersey. NOTS Inyokern tested the ballistic rockets of those days and graduated to limited range guided missiles. The Assault Drone Program involved tests in Michigan, the Chesapeake and the South Pacific and finally vested in a Special Weapons Test and Evaluation Unit which became the nucleus for staffing Point Mugu.
In October of 1944 I drafted a letter which the Chief of Buaer signed out to CNO. It made a case for a naval missile test range and asked that a committee be established to survey possible sites and recommend the best. In January, 1945 it was approved and I found myself on tour with Chairman Bowser Vieweg and ten or so other members from other services. We visited and turned down such sites as Wallops Island, Roosevelt Roads and NAS Banana River (which later became the Atlantic Missile Range). Emphasizing technical requirements, we first chose a site at the northern apex of the Gulf of California--firing down the Gulf. Sensing the political impracticability of this we nominated Point Mugu as a strong alternate. This, of course, was CNO's final choice.
Shortly after this I was detailed to witness some V-2 firings at Cuxhaven staged by the British and executed by Germans from Peenemunde. It reinforced, in my mind, the correctness of choosing Point Mugu. After the firings a small group of American observers gathered in a Bremen rathskeller to quaff beer and discuss what we had seen. A rumpled fake Army Colonel named Theodor von Karman summed up our feelings, "You young fellows must now go home and arrange to put these Germans to work. In the meantime build a test range for the missiles to come."
Almost 20 years later it can be said that Point Mugu has borne out the committee's judgments. The test range uses the beach or a nearby ship for launching; the trajectory is monitored by instrumentation on Laguna Peak and the Channel Islands. San Nicholas is useful for recovery. Port Hueneme has become a harbor for participating ships and the proximity of California industry has proven to be a great boon.
What we did not foresee was the advent of Vandenberg Air Force Base and the escalation of Point Mugu to be the Pacific Missile Range. We vaguely envisioned a long range trajectory southerly to such islands as Guadalupe and Clipperton, but it took the ICBMs to set up Kwajalein as a target and space flight to demand polar orbits.
Perhaps the first cruise missile to fly from the sea range over California terrain was a LOON which transited the Santa Barbara Peninsula about 1947. (This discounts an earlier LARK which circled the airstrip and plowed up some mud on base.) The LOON lost radio control soon after launch and turned slowly north over Santa Cruz Island where the escort fighter exhausted its ammunition in a futile effort to shoot it down. The horrified pilot reported the bird over the peninsula and entering a fog bank at about 2000 feet. Captain Hatcher called to remind me that the plan to acquire land for the permanent test center was then under attack in Washington by local citizens. We agreed that our best option was to prepare a well thought out press release. When last seen on radar the LOON had miraculously straightened out and was headed out to sea but we wondered how many farmers had heard the pulse jet engine and were calling the local newspapers. We were ready. The key phrase in the press release was, "The missile was, at all times, under surveillance by a fast jet fighter." The dreaded call never came.
If CNO's go-ahead decision marked Point Mugu's conception, its gesta tion began with the establishment of the Pilotless Aircraft Unit in 1945 at the nearly deserted and somewhat decrepit NAS Mojave with a rocket and LOON detachment at Point Mugu. Around 250 naval and civilian personnel were involved, mostly from units in Traverse City, Michigan and Annapolis. The key people and their organization are well covered in NAMTC's 1956 book "Ten Years of Progress" and, I'm told, in an updated history now in progress. So I'll stick to some personal experiences subsequent to my reporting aboard as Technical Director in early 1946.
Our test projects, in those days, involved the missiles left over from World War II. One example was a GLOMB or glider bomb that was towed to the target, released and guided by TV and radio control to impact on the target. One Gene Harris was charged with instrumenting the tests. He spray-painted a sand dune for a target and dug out a bunker some 100 yards away. From there he used a movie camera to film the incoming missile and a tape measure to get miss distance. I was somewhat shook up by this technique but he showed me calculations proving that he had a probability of less than 1 in 1000 of being hit so I let him continue. On the assault drones, however, I asked him to move his bunker farther away since each impact featured a large gasoline fireball.
Telemetry was not available to us, except for TV scanning of a missile's instrument panel, so we scrounged hungrily for ballistic camer as to correlate trajectories with radio commands. BuAer got us a few Askania Phototheodolites from a batch captured from the Germans. They arrived badly in need of overhaul. Having no optical facilities we turned to our colleagues at Inyokern for help. We should have realized that they were as hungry for Askanias as we were. Several months later we got them back in time to install them at Point Mugu. Meanwhile, at Point Mugu, Ali Baba (Bob Truax) and his forty thieves were liberating cement and steel from Seabees too busy mustering out to notice. Their liquid rockets appeared later in Gorgon missiles. Jack Schoenhair's gang was emplacing LOON launchers on the beach, together with a very tempera mental powder catapult.
Another scrounging operation, which later paid big dividends, was the location and liberation of several SCR-584 radars. I'm vague on some of the details but I recollect they came one-by-one by truck from an Army depot near Sacramento driven by a heroic civilian engineer who masterminded the caper. He deserves a citation from the Historical Association. Maybe someone here tonight can furnish his name.
Scrounging World War II material was a vital factor in Point Mugu's boyhood. Shipboard search radars sprouted on Laguna Peak and on the islands and boilers from the Bikini-survivor carrier INDEPENDENCE powered a wind tunnel. Whatever became of the predecessor tunnel powered by some 16 Allison engines?
In retrospect, the work done by the people at Mojave and Point Mugu in the gestation period, that is the 9 months prior to commissioning NAMTC, was more in learning-by-doing and the emergence of a skilled technical and operating team than in the test results themselves. On October 1, 1946 the Center was commissioned and the hegira of parboiled workers and their families from Mojave to Point Mugu commenced. The boyhood era had arrived.
It was about this time that serious planning got underway on the facilities needed to expand the range for testing post World War II missiles, especially those in BuAer's program. A backward look at this program is timely. Del Fahrney and I shared some convictions about what BuAer should do after the war:
1. Neither Allied nor Axis guided missiles had a decisive impact on the war's outcome.
2. There was a strong consensus, however, that guided missiles could greatly augment the Fleet's fighting capabilities.
3. The defense industry serving the Navy and our own personnel needed education on missile technology, especially the more advanced German concepts.
4. The advent of nuclear warheads gave missiles a destructive power which offset their complexity and expense; a marriage was inevitable.
5. Prospective tight budgets and a world-wide yearning for peace suggested that we had time to pause and think about missile specifications prior to their development.
We agreed that a broadly-based industrial study of missiles having potential to augment ship or aircraft firepower was the way to go. He nominated me to chair a BuAer committee to draft preliminary requirements for such missiles. In December of 1945 we submitted our "Study of the Requirements for Pilotless Aircraft for Fleet Use in 1950"; as I recall, it described some 16 missiles. After its approval by CNO and SECNAV three months later, Del launched a vigorous program involving many industrial contracts which, over the years, evolved into development of such missiles as REGULUS, RIGEL, BULLPUP and the SPARROW family.
The concurrency of the study contracts was a great help to us here at Point Mugu in formulating the test requirements of missiles to come and guiding Parsons-Aerojet in laying out the instrumentation sites and facilities of NAMTC. In retrospect, I believe the post-war study program was highly successful but boy were we wrong on the phrase "for Fleet Use in 1950"!
The year 1946 featured bitter inter-service cognizance battles in Washington. We were largely unaware of these and certainly did not realize that the very existence of Point Mugu was at stake. To quote from Dr. Bruins' manuscript, " . . . it seemed evident that the AAF was delaying action on JCS 1620 in an attempt to obtain primary and overall cognizance regarding guided missiles. At this very same time, General LeMay was leading the opposition to the GMC-JCS (Guided Missile Committee of the Joint Chief of Staff) recommendation that the Navy be permitted to build a missile test facility at Point Mugu, California."
Unaware of this hassle, I was detailed one day to brief Dr. Vannevar Bush on our operations and forward planning. As wartime Chief of the Joint Research and Development Board his voice was neutral but powerful in Washington but, to this day, I don't know whether he was evaluating us or just intellectually curious. Certainly he was close-mouthed, except for some penetrating questions. At the end of the briefing he remarked, "You people are doing lots of useful things with very little. After all these planned facilities are built, rigor mortis will set in. I've seen it happen before."
I concede his reference to one of the "Peter Principles" but I don't think it has happened at Point Mugu. In any case, Navy plans were not thwarted. The facilities came into being and obviously have contributed to the successes achieved here. Let me synopsize some of these.
As soon as the Air force was able to recover enough V-1 debris from the rubble of London, it hired Republic Aircraft to make some 1500 copies. A long war against Japan seemed inevitable and the V-1s were to be an Air Force contribution. Meantime our submariners were thinking about their role in the next war--with you know who.
One answer seemed to be submarine-launched SSMs for use against "Shore targets of naval interest." BuAer and CNO hatched up the LOON project as a learn-by-doing program, designed to bring submarines and missiles together. This it did, with the help of NAMTC. Over 100 missiles were fired from the beach or from CUSK, CARBONERO or NORTON SOUND at sea. The original unguided V-1s supplied by the AAF were equipped with aircraft beacons for radar tracking and radio control. Later refinements included control through radar signals and an automatic command computer. These evolved into the TROUNCE guidance system as applied to REGULUS.
Despite its inherent lack of reliability, LOON achieved some spectac ular operational successes which reinforced the submariners' determina tion to get into the missile business. It also alarmed Fleet gunnery officers about their ability to defend against penetrations by cruise missiles and, finally, fended off Washington cost-cutters who wanted to emasculate REGULUS in the name of balancing the budget oy substituting MATADOR as a cheaper missile. Examples were a 400 yard miss on Begg Rock by a CUSK to CARBONERO hand-off in September, 1948 and a LOON penetration of the First Fleet's air defense in November, 1948.
Many of the LOON technical successes are traceable to the "German Scientists" who migrated to Point Mugu. These included Willy Fiedler, Robert Lusser and Otto Schwede. But Dr. Herbert A. Wagner, now deceased, deserves special mention.
One day a young Marine pilot, well known as "Dirty" Dalby, came into my office and complained mildly about the lack of projects of potential benefit to the Marines. I knew he was flying F6Fs as a LOON simulator for Herbert Wagner who was then developing the command control "computer". The next day I sat down with both of them and asked if the LOON system could be modified to yield an all-weather fighter close-air support system. In his methodical way Herbert ticked off the technical problems while Dirty chafed with eagerness to get started. Finally Herbert reached a can-do point and we worked up an in-house project to get it started.
In a few weeks they were getting 30 yard CEPs on a buoy off shore. As I recall, the system used an SCR-584 radar for tracking the F6F, a Reeves Plotting Board and command computer and the aircraft's regular voice radio and ordnance payload. The Marines got justifiably excited about this and soon arranged a contract out of Washington to General Electric for a militarized system named APQ-42 (?). Meantime the Korean War came along and Dirty Dalby's team, with the prototype system, went overseas and acquitted themselves nobly. Today, all-weather close-air support systems are a vital element in front-line combat.
This seems to be a good time to examine the notion that test facilities should be denied the opportunity to develop weapon hardware on the grounds that it interferes with their primary mission and competes with the defense industry. I have always felt that innovation will rise up in the ranks of engineers wherever they are found and that it is too valuable a commodity to be prohibited. The innovations which evolved from the LOON program and the development of SIDEWINDER at NOTS Inyokern bear this out. Dr. Royal Weller, longtime Chief Scientist at NAMTC, and Ralph Peterson are to be commended for their championing of innova tion over the years.
So much for the boyhood of Point Mugu. I left in 1949 but nevertheless watched with pride as the range expanded in support of such missiles as LARK, SPARROW, REGULUS, RIGEL, POLARIS and TOMAHAWK. Looking forward, the range will surely be an essential facility in the current revitalization of the Navy and I'm sure this audience joins me in the hope that it will not be too busy making history to take the time to record it.
“Good evening Friends, Jack Broome, Plank Owners and all workers at Point Mugu. I greet you wearing the uniform I last wore on retiring in 1957 as Technical Director of the Special Projects Office - developer of the Polaris nuclear ballistic missile.
It still fits but I must ask your patience as I read this brief talk. I am legally blind and hard of hearing as I approach my 95th birthday - next New Years Day.
Ten years ago I was honored at Point Mugu’s 50th Anniversary to be named the “Father of Point Mugu”. What I said then is now posted as a “Sea Story”, entitled “The Birth and Boyhood of Point Mugu”. It is on the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s web site. What I say tonight probably will be similarly posted. History buffs should know that this Sea Story feature is an ever growing (50 essays) library of Alumni personal experiences. Log on at www.usna.com and click on "ABOUT US>History & Tradition>Sea Stories”.
Probably most of you did not attend the 50th Anniversary so I will synopsize some Sea Stories that cover the milestones of my own experience:
In a 1944 letter I composed and RAM Towers sent to COMINCH (ADM King) a letter explaining the need for a Sea Test Range to speed up the development and evaluation of new weapons such as Project Option’s TDR -1. It asked that a Site Selection Board be established as a first step. It was quickly approved and a group of members from the Army, Navy and various R & D organizations rode a DC -3 around the US coastlines for a week or so. The Board’s report was approved by President Truman in late 1944 - it selected Point Mugu.
I never dreamed the impact this would have on many people, Ventura County’s economy and, most of all, the Navy’s role in our WW II victory. The DVD to come will give you some idea.
In retrospect, I wonder about the role of pure chance in this selection. For example, we had not planned to visit Port Hueneme until an alert Captain Marshall Gurney (USNA ’26) heard of us, called me and so put Point Mugu on our agenda. Thereafter we appreciated how Mother Nature has tailored the area and its Pacific geography to our needs.
I wanted to visit Laguna Peak as a possible instrumented site. But the President of the Board had been coached not to discuss our mission with local civilians. Marshall Gurney was disappointed. Somehow he arranged a jeep for us to go to the top. He pointed out Jack Broome’s home enroute!
Before I left BUAER in 1945 I wrote a report, “Pilotless Aircraft (18) for Fleet Use in 1950”. Its impudent timeline was offset by its foresight. It was used by my mentor, then Captain Del Fahrney, to pursue post WW II technical feasibility study contracts. These served to educate the engineers in several aircraft companies on the emerging technologies of guided missiles and provided specs for development contracts. Of the 18, Regulus, Sparrows I and III, Lark III and Bull Pup survived testing at Mugu and deployed to the Fleet. This process saved time while we competed with the Soviets.
Somehow I found the time to edit and co-author a prize - winning 13 book series called “Principles of Guided Missile and Space Flight Design”. It helped the educational process in the weapons community.
In 1945 I moved to NAS Mojave and joined the remnants of Project Option and other units working on WW II developments. While the Sea Bees closed down their training we phased into their assets at Point Mugu.
Loons were being fired off subs and rockets from the beach. Temporary buildings became Headquarters for Captain Hatcher, the Director of Tests and the Engineering Support Department. A pioneering spirit smoothed out the difficulties we faced and made a team of us. It was time to celebrate a birth after a hard labor.
Something like one hundred plank owners were mustered on October 6th, 1946 to attend the commissioning ceremony. Thereafter little effort was devoted to recording local history. So again I will just tell some of my memories of Point Mugu’s “Boyhood”, knowing that you will see and hear more in the program to come.
One day a retired CPO returned from Sacramento after liberating two British SCR–584 radars. One of these guided Loons and their escorting Marine fighters to Begg Rock, 50 miles away. After Hiroshima, Marine pilot “Dirty” Dalby and I conceived the idea of converting our system into the Navy’s first Close Air Support System. Doing it without BUAER’s OK was risky but a phone call to Del Fahrney took care of that and the paper work to follow. Its descendents gave the Navy its all-weather precision air strike capability - a vital step in war-making power.
At the end of WW II the Navy emerged with NAVAIR’s TPQ- 2 Close Air Support System as developed by Marine LCOL Dalby and Dr. Herbert Wagner at Point Mugu. Ultimately it was essential in precision air strikes during the Korean War. Verify and enjoy this by reading “Innovation Wins Wars” on the Naval Academy Alumni Association’s web site.
In the Vietnam War it positioned Marine fighters armed with Bull Pup missiles to wipe out the heavy artillery in Ko Roc cave tunnels. This restored US ground advance near the border between the two Vietnams.
In October, 1962 a Soviet convoy of ships carrying nuclear missiles and support materials for launch sites in Cuba was detected by spy planes. President Jack Kennedy declared an immediate ship embargo that halted its progress until diplomatic discussions could resolve the issue. The penalty was described in words clearly covering nuclear responses from deployed US submarines – Polaris in the Atlantic and Regulus in the North Pacific. Both graduated from Point Mugu.
The Soviet convoy headed home and the alliance between Cuba and the USSR faded away. FBM Submarines had become the epitome of “deterrence” in International Politics and Nuclear weapons have not been used since Hiroshima in 1945.
How times have changed since the Mugu Fish Camp and pier at Point Mugu was a serene recreational destination for Ventura County residents and people from the inland areas of Southern California. To be sure, the drone of propeller-driven airplanes probably prompted a quick look from visitors, but the thunderous roar of supersonic jets was still well beyond their imagination.
So, no doubt, was the thought that the area would one day be called a historic site. That designation will come this afternoon.
Built about 1929-30 on a sand spit between the ocean and Mugu Lagoon, the camp offered local fishing from the pier and deep-water fishing from chartered boats.
Eventually, the area grew to include tent cabins, small houses, a store and cafe. Movies such as "The Real Glory" with Gary Cooper and "A Yank in the RAF" with Tyrone Power were shot near the lagoon.
And then, on Dec. 7, 1941, America was pulled into World War II. The military cocked its covetous eye at the land and coastal possibilities offered by Mugu and, slowly, everything began to change.
By 1942, a military camp was taking shape on some 4,000 acres of beach and tidal marshlands around the lagoon. Army anti-aircraft batteries and Seabees began training there, the Seabees building the first runway, 5,000 feet long, with metal Marsden mats.
Loons, American versions of the German V-1 rockets, were test-fired at the base. A dirt knoll was built on the beach that had a Loon launch pad, catapult and operations building.
In 1946, President Truman approved the building of the Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu. Three years later, the Naval Air Station was established to provide the test center with logistical and operational support. Since then, the base has undergone several organizational overhauls and testing has evolved with developing technology, but the mission has been steadfast: to put the best weapons possible in the Navy's arsenal.
This afternoon, NAVAIR Point Mugu Weapons Division, which tests and evaluates the latest technology for various naval aircraft, and the rest of Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu will be designated a historic site by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a society of 30,000 aerospace engineers and scientists.
During ceremonies, a plaque will be installed recognizing more than 55 years of the Navy's weapons systems at Point Mugu. That includes the first missile launched from a submarine, a Loon fired by the USS Cusk off the coast in 1947; the first guided missile to destroy an airborne target, a Lark fired from the base in 1950; and the testing of other missiles over the years, including the Sparrow, Regulus, Bullpup, Polaris, Trident, Harpoon, Tomahawk, SLAM and Sidewinder.
The Weapons Division also develops electronic warfare capabilities and software systems for the carrier-based aircraft T/A-14 Tomcat and EA-6B Prowler.
In addition to Tom Smith, a director of AIAA, speakers at the ceremony will include Rear Adm. David Venlet, commander of NAVAIR Weapons Division, and Capt. Paul Grossgold, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County. The Weapons Division has two locations, Point Mugu and China Lake; Venlet's headquarters is at China Lake.
Immediately after the ceremony, there will be a ribbon-cutting for a new archival building just outside the base's main entrance. Inside will be historic displays that include Sparrow, Phoenix and Harpoon missiles and many photographic exhibits. The archives will be available to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, said John Hart, temporary archivist.
Assisting with the exhibit is Bill Cuneen, a retired Navy captain. He recalls what it was like when he came on board the base as vice commander of the Pacific Missile Test Center almost 30 years ago and he compares those years with today.
"When I came here in 1975, the organizations on the base had just become the Pacific Missile Test Center," said Cuneen, who retired from the Navy in 1979. Now, the organization that was the test center is just a tenant on the base, confined to a few buildings and the 250-mile range, which is a critical part of the Weapons Division.
"Again in 1975, there were many more people on the base then there are now," he said. "And we were doing a lot of testing of a lot of missiles. But that's died down. There aren't as many tactical missiles being developed, but we have very good missiles now."
Cuneen, who has been president of the Missile Technology Historical Association since 1982, said the evaluation process of missiles has changed in recent years. In the past, it was mainly concerned with how the missile performed after firing.
"Now they're looking at what happens before it's fired," he said. "They want to know how the operator made the decision to fire the missile; what kind of information does the operator get; and how was it decided to launch the right missile at any specific target. Aircraft today have a variety of weapons and, in Iraq, for instance, other people call on aircraft to fire on targets.
"They're building a new extension on the range operations building at Mugu to provide more of an ability to operate these network concepts during combat situations. It used to be called the Battle Management Center and now it's called the Network Centric Warfare Center."
With the slowdown of the cold war and then the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, there was a clear case for reduction of U.S. military forces and bases. The Naval Air Systems Command responded with a proposal to consolidate most of its field activities for research, development, test and evaluation into a sub command called the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) with headquarters in Washington, D.C. The overall objective was to remove overlap of duplicative functions and achieve reductions in billets and expenditures while maintaining critical areas of expertise.
The NAWC organization, which was finalized in 1992, has two major divisions: The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) on the east coast, and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) on the west coast. The latter division was formed by consolidation of the Pacific Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, California and the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California, along with the smaller Naval Ordnance Missile Test Station at White Sands, New Mexico, and the Naval Weapons Evaluation Facility at Albuquerque, New Mexico. NAWCWD operates under a single commander with responsibility for engineering centered at China Lake and responsibility for test and evaluation at Point Mugu. Base support for each location is provided by separate Naval Air Weapons Stations.
In 1993, when Point Mugu was considered for Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), support was forthcoming from representatives of Ventura County, the surrounding business and organizations, our congressional representatives as well as the Commander Naval Air Systems Command and the Secretary of the Navy who declared before the BRAC Board that Point Mugu was a "national treasure." Apparently overwhelmed, the Board unanimously reversed itself declaring, "We Goofed!" Unquestionably, additional changes at Point Mugu will be made in the future as dictated by the nation's changing priorities in the post-cold war era. However, as a major component of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, it is most unlikely that the military and civilians of Point Mugu's future will cease to test and evaluate Navy weapons, provide advanced electronic warfare systems as well as complex training exercises for the Fleet as their forebears have done for the past 50 years.
NAWCWD test and evaluation programs as Point Mugu started its second half century in October 1996 with a continuation of work on the long-lived SPARROW as well as TOMAHAWK, AMRAAM and the HARPOON in its Standoff Land Attack (SLAM) version. Among the newer programs are the Tactical Automated Mission Planning System (TAMPS) that develops mission planning modules, and the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW). This is an air-launched, lifting-body glide vehicle that uses both inertial and the Global Positioning System for guidance. Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) being tested include the Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE) vehicle and the Tactical Air-Launched Decoy (TALD).