Stranded In The Southland

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

China Lake

The other week, on the way back from snow travel class, I stopped by the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station. They have a pretty cool little museum up there.

To my dismay, after wasting 20 minutes to get a pass to get into the base (the guy who issued passes was exceptionally cool and efficient, but it was still a PITA, and the rent-a-cop on the gate was a complete prick), I found that I had only 30 minutes to check out the museum before it closed. Doh.

When I walked in, a friendly docent asked me if I wanted to look around on my own, or if I wanted him to show me around. Luckily, I asked him to show me around.

It turns out that this guy was a mechanical engineer who'd worked there for years and years, and had all sorts of great stories. He had patents on stuff like the ASROC (torpedoes that were launched as surface to surface missiles so that they could engage submarines far from the vessel) and obviously knew his stuff.

He showed me a cool shaped-charge unguided rocket warhead that they had developed during the Korean War to deal with a new enemy tank with much thicker armor. They'd gone from request to manufactured part to a tank kill in something like 30 days. Yow. Those were the days!

We also spent a fair amount of time checking out the Sidewinder air to air missile, which was developed at the base. I hadn't realized quite how cool this was, or quite how many years it had been around. The little thing has gyroscopes on the ends of the movable control surfaces at the rear. They are spun up by air pressure as the missile accelerates, and provide a really simple and cool control system to keep the missile stable. What a cool hack!

The place is chock full of cool looking munitions, from the early unguided rockets and tube-based anti-radiation missiles like the WWII-era Bat to the Tomahawk and who knows what else. In 30 minutes, I didn't have much time to really check it all out -- to really do the museum right, you'd need several hours. I look forward to future trips up 395, when I wander through at my leisure.


I'm a misantropic bastard at heart (and superficially, as well), so you know it is a tough week when we go out five nights in a row! We started off with dinner with friends, then helped put on a surprise party for a friend, then dinner with my sweetie's senior (and coolest) colleage, then put on a BBQ for my sweeties's students, and now we're finishing it off with an end-of-year get together with more of my sweetie's colleages. Plus, tomorrow is her birthday, so we're going out for that.

I'm about sick of people. :-) There's just a limit to how often I can be sociable, and that's even without the dishwasher breaking down, looking for birthday gifts for my sweetie, and all the rest. Pwhew!

OTOH, I've also wasted countless hours this week playing Civilization III. It's a fascinating game, and I've always loved all those "take over the world" games, anyway. I'm not yet playing it online, but I've been through several marathon games. I hope I get it out of my system before I head to Spain!