US launches $2.3bn scheme to fix quake-wrecked China Lake weapons testing base

The US Navy says it will start a $2.3bn project to reconstruct its weapons testing facility at China Lake in southern California at the end of this year.

The 445ha base was hit by two earthquakes in July, one of which measured more than seven on the Richter Scale. Power was lost and a number of laboratories and weapons magazines were extensively damaged.

Captain Laurie Scott, who is leading the reconstruction project, told local media that work on the first of 18 projects would begin on the main magazines in November or December.

Repairs will begin on the base’s South Airfield around May or June next year, followed by the  Michelson Lab and community support facilities in the autumn.

The projects are expected to cost about $2.3bn, with another $400m for ancillary work. At its peak, the recovery effort is expected to bring around 1,500 additional workers to the Ridgecrest area.

Among the buildings to be reconstructed are an aircraft and weapons hangars, parking aprons, a control tower and laboratories.

According to Scott, there will be a main construction office and three satellite construction offices to oversee the work. He said the "centre of gravity for fiscal year 2020 is really the South Airfield" and "the centre of gravity for fiscal year 2021 is really the China Lake Propulsion Laboratory".

Captain Michael Oestereicher, commander of Navel Facilities Engineering Southwest, commented: "Keep in mind that these are not going to be just projects that are going to be built. These are projects that are necessary for our national defence. That earthquake damaged some of the most critical facilities that we have in the entire navy."

The weapons developed at China Lake include the cruise missile and the Shrike radar-homing missile.

Image: Work under way to restore power following the earthquakes (US Navy)

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