China Lake of Critical Importance
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the high quality of scientific and engineering work going on at China Lake is one reason he was visiting Tuesday.
“The reason I came here, other than to take a look at some of these very important programs that we’re doing, is that it’s a reflection of one of the themes that you’ll see again and again and again when we release our budget,” he said during a brief press conference with local and national media at Armitage Field aboard Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. “An emphasis on high end capabilities and making sure that sure that we once again, as we reach this inflection point strategically as a country, that we’re making the investment in keeping ahead of our principal potential antagonists who have high end capabilities, that we maintain that American edge.”
For the Navy, Carter said that means making sure that ships and their aircraft are the most technologically advanced.
“That means making sure that their ships and their aircraft are lethal, that they have the very best weapons,” he said. “That they have the very most sophisticated sensors and the very most survivable designs in their sensors.”
Carter was at NAWS China Lake for an in-person look at advanced technology and advanced weapons currently in use or under development with NAWSCL and Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.
“I can’t talk about everything I saw here, but they all are in that same direction of high end capability and increasing and, really, multiplying the capabilities of our individual ships, aircraft and actually submarines for that matter,” he said. “So that we have not only the best platforms, but they have the highest end capability.”
The proposed budget to be released next week calls for an increase in research and development spending, according to Carter.
“This place signifies the critical importance of our science and technology bases,” he said.
Carter said the Department of Defense is determined to remain innovative and China Lake is key to that innovation.
“Again, I can’t describe everything we saw today, but that’s actually a good sign,” he said. “We like to surprise people. Some of our opponents will find themselves very surprised when this stuff gets into the field, which is going to be very soon.”
Carter said he was impressed to see so many people of different generations working toward the common goal of providing defense.
“The incredible appeal of the mission of being part of national security, being part of defense,” he said. “That’s something that I think is incredibly important to our future and it’s a great magnet for young people to feel that there doing something of great consequence.”
While there are many parts to the proposed budget, Carter did call out a couple of expenditures that have a direct link to work at China Lake.
“Again, in the spirit making everything we have lethal. Tomahawk (cruise missile) is an example - this place has been part of that program from the very beginning, that’s a program that’s constantly evolving in every way,” he said. “We need to make sure that we fill the tubes on our submarines and our surface ships with the very best and newest and lots of tomahawks, because we expend them over time. We want to diversify the kinds of targets they can hit, from land attack to an anti ship version.”
The proposed budget calls for $2 billion in spending for the Tomahawk program. Carter said that amount will provide for some 4,000 missiles.
“Plus, that will fund the development of these advanced capabilities which adds life to them as well as adds capability,” he said.
The budget also provides for nearly $1 billion in funding for LRASM - Long Range Anti-Ship Missile.
“Same deal, lethality,” he said. “That’s some big money for munitions.”
Another $428 million is budgeted for anti radiation homing missiles used to strike enemy air defenses.
“These are large investments in the strategic future at the high end,” said Carter. “Aimed at making sure that our systems have the greatest capability, the greatest lethality.”
He said those capabilities and lethality are going to be important as defense focuses on a full spectrum of potential threats.
“ISIL, which we need to defeat and we will, all the way up to those who we hope never become antagonists to the United States, but are clearly competitors,” he said. “Therefore in the spirit of deterrence, we need to make sure we have capability against them as well.”
Carter ended his remarks on a high note, before taking questions from the assembled members of the press.
“This is a wonderful place to be,” he said. “I want to thank the leadership here. It’s heartening to see so many great scientist and engineers working on something so important and so many very successful programs.”
The second article on Carter’s visit will focus on the question and answer portion of the press conference, including some China Lake-specific details.