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On June 24 and June 25, I was treated to a tour of China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station by Captain Jim Seaman, the Military Deputy Commander for Pacific Ranges. China Lake hosts some of the facilities of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.
We visited the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) facility for an explosives demonstration. EOD handles the destruction of unexploded ordnance from the test ranges as well as out of date munitions and rocket engines.
Panorama of the main base area of China Lake NAWS. The town of Ridgecrest is at far left. The southern Sierra Nevada is on the horizon at center. The object at far right is a radar reflector mounted on a pole a few feet away. The explosive demonstration was set up in a small canyon just out of view on the right.
We drove up into a canyon where they explode small devices, less than 300 pounds of explosives. The EOD team had set up a series of demonstrations.
a blasting cap in a tin can
a commercially available conical shape charge on a steel plate
a shape charge made from a wine bottle (the concave bottom works nicely to focus the blast) on another steel plate
a linear shape charge set to cut the flange off of an I-beam
a 1.25-pound block of C4 explosive
five outdated air-to-ground rocket motors with flexible shape sharges wrapped around them
Three 45-gallon drums of water with C-4 explosive inside, placed next to a car as an anti-car-bomb demo. The blast of water is intended to disassemble the car-bomb components. The water spray loses much of its force in a relatively short distance, limiting damage to the surroundings.
We took shelter in a bunker with a multiple mirror system for indirectly viewing the explosions. The EOD team pulled the time-delayed fuses on the charges and joined us. The charges went off at ten-second intervals, from smallest to largest. The bigger explosions lifted a cloud of dust off the ground and rattled the bunker.
The commercially available conical shape charge made a relatively small explosion. Most of the force of the blast was directed downward.
The shape charge made from a wine bottle was quite a bit bigger. The can with the blasing cap was still standing after the cap had been detonated.
1-1/4 pound block of C-4. The edge of the overhead mirror can be seen at right.
Rocket motor demolition detonation. The I-beam can be seen, between the explosion and the car, with its flange peeled away by the linear shape charge.
The barrels of water blew the car into bits, hurling the rear end of the car a hundred feet, and other small pieces much farther than that.
The blast pattern of the blasting cap is mostly directly out from the sides with relatively little of the force directed out the ends.
Holes were punched right through the steel plates that were under the shape charges. The lower plate was penetrated by the commercially manufactured shape charge. The upper plate was penetrated by the shape charge that was made from a wine bottle. It has been flipped over.
The I-beam flange was peeled away by linear shape charge. Pitting can be seen on the lower flange from the jet of plasma that cut through the upper flange.
There was nothing left in the rocket motor demolition pit. Small chunks of rocket fuel continued to smoke for several seconds.
The "car bomb" was blown in two. The front half landed several yards from where the car had been parked.
A member of the EOD team posed next to the rear half of the car in the distance.
Looking from the rear half of the car to the front half.
Captain Jim Seaman and the EOD team. The bunkers can be seen in the background. We took shelter in a bunker hidden behind the earthen embankment. The top mirror of the viewing system is just visible in the background directly above the left headlight of the car.
Go to the main China Lake NAWS tour page.
Go to home page of the Goleta Air and Space Museum.
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