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NAVAIR Today: Weapons Programs

 

 

Since its inception in 1966 as successor to the Bureau of Naval Weapons, NAVAIR has provided full life-cycle support for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, weapons, and systems, including research, design, development and systems engineering; acquisition; test and evaluation; training facilities and equipment; repair and modification; and in-service engineering and logistics support.

Operating under various names and commands since before NAVAIR stood up, the two facilities have played a vital role in the development of Navy missile programs, including Loon, Sparrow, Sea Sparrow, Regulus, Bullpup, Polaris, Trident, Harpoon, Tomahawk, SLAM, Standard Missile, HARM, AMRAAM, and Sidewinder.

Organized into eight “competencies” – program management; contracts; research and engineering; test and evaluation; logistics and industrial operations; corporate operations; comptroller and counsel – NAVAIR provides support to Naval Aviation Program Executive Officers (PEOs) and their assigned program managers. In the past half century, that has involved a wide range of airborne weapons and systems, with increasing levels of complexity, precision, and electronic capability, reflecting the rapid escalation of technology.

Maintaining and operating a weapons development center of excellence falls to NAVAIR’s Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD). Key to NAWCWD is direct support to the fleet through Fleet Weapons Support Teams deployed with naval forces worldwide to provide hands-on assistance, with division senior scientists and engineers serving as on-site science and technology advisers stateside, at sea, and abroad. New weapons capabilities are taken directly to fleet squadrons by NAWCWD teams who train aircrews and maintenance personnel aboard ship.

In times of conflict, the division’s land, sea and electronic combat ranges are made available to the fleet for training and development of urgently needed new weapons and electronic combat equipment is fast-tracked. Prototype systems (such as the NAWCWD-developed Rapid Targeting System) are taken directly into world hot spots by division teams to provide additional capabilities for warfighters.

NAWCWD maintains two primary weapons development and test centers in California. Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, at the southeastern foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is the Navy’s premier land range and weapons development laboratory. Across the state on the Pacific coast, between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, NAWS Point Mugu hosts one of the Navy’s premier sea ranges.

f-35-aim-120-amraam

An F-35 Lightning II launches an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) over a military test range off the California coast. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Paul Weatherman

Operating under various names and commands since before NAVAIR stood up, the two facilities have played a vital role in the development of Navy missile programs, including Loon, Sparrow, Sea Sparrow, Regulus, Bullpup, Polaris, Trident, Harpoon, Tomahawk, SLAM, Standard Missile, HARM, AMRAAM, and Sidewinder.

The Precision Strike Weapons Program Office, PMA-201, is responsible for research, development, acquisition, and sustainment of the Navy’s air-to-ground precision guided weapons, general-purpose bombs, aircraft armament-related equipment, and all cartridge/propellant actuated devices. Organized into nine program areas, PMA-201 teams comprise a multi-disciplinary group of government and contractor personnel collectively responsible for the total life-cycle management of the Navy’s precision strike weapons capabilities. It also has the largest NAVAIR Foreign Military Sales (FMS) portfolio, with 39 coalition partners.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...