California’s expansive Mojave Desert serves as a valuable testing and training ground for a number of U.S. military assets. The United States Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, for instance, is the largest installation in the branch — spanning out across a massive 998 square miles, much of which is devoted specifically to field training and live fire ranges. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, also positioned within the Mojave Desert, is a bit different. Instead of training troops as they do in 29 Palms, China Lake takes advantage of the open desert for a wide variety of specialized weapons testing.
According to the Navy, there are more good reasons to use China Lake as a test bed for all sorts of missiles, bombs, and various other things that go boom: it offers a wide variety of geographical features within a fairly small area. According to the Naval Air Systems Command:
Few areas in the world offer such wide variety of geographical features in close proximity…mountains, deserts, canyons, caves and forests. The unencroached air and land ranges at China Lake provide unmatched geographic conditions in which to develop and test weapon systems and explore tactics for desert and mountain environments.
So, as you might imagine, the folks who work at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake get to see some pretty incredible things through the course of their work, firing both fully armed and inert types of ordnance at a wide variety of targets that include old aircraft and even vehicles that are pulled on trailers along a track to simulate moving targets. As you’d suspect, they know it too — and that’s why they put together this insane highlight reel of just some of the weapons testing they conducted on-site last year.
The video includes a wide variety of weapon systems, ranging from bunker busters and guided air-to-ground missiles to MANPADS engaging airborne targets. Even the inert weapons that don’t explode make for some incredible footage. After all, how often do you get to see the exact moment a guided missile penetrates the roof of a speeding Jeep?
Or the moment another laser-guided JDAM tears the bumper off of a Ford Explorer?
But if we’re being honest, some of the coolest bit of this video are obviously from the live munitions that turn their targets to toast.
This video offers more than a crash course in all the ways the U.S. Navy can blow stuff up, of course; it also offers a powerful reminder of just how accurate America’s standard and specialized guided munitions can be. For instance, here’s a picture of how accurately the Tomahawk missiles fired from American Naval vessels are against targets like the F-4 Phantoms still employed by the Iranian military… ya know, just in case they’re looking.