Will the circle of containment be unbroken? It’s jokers wild until the cards run cold. Be the bullet. Your ass is already bet, because you are dwelling on the center dot of the target. Tactically consider the reality of the Angeleno situation: no matter where you live, hide, or pass through in Greater Los Angeles you are in the shadow of military facilities, major defense contractors, and innumerable support personnel. California has 42.7 million acres of federally controlled land. That comprises 43.6 percent of the state. The terror that is already here might be more ominous than any that could be coming.
A line of demarcation across a dry lake bed.
At what height does this navigation marker resolve itself as a directional device?
Down range at Fort Hunter Liggett, a Julia Morgan hacienda once commissioned by the world’s richest man is next to a Spanish mission. Over the hills from here, the National Reconnaissance Office commands advanced global investigation systems. The first use of satellites to gather intelligence was executed there. Any spot in California is just a button push away from multiple-phase interdiction.
It used to be easier to read the game board. Gun emplacements on Point Dume and Fort MacArthur, aerospace plants scattered amid think tanks like Rand and Systems Development Corporation, base camps on all the Channel Islands, armories with ceremonial cannons in every civic sector, an AF psyops film studio atop Lookout Mountain, and Nike nuclear missiles poised in Malibu, by Marineland, and on Van Nuys Boulevard. Today Los Angeles Air Force Base is still active in the heart of the megalopolis. And the Southern California Operations Area supports the largest concentration of naval forces in the world. Eyes in the sky overwatch all. And millions of contiguous acres are armored in the desert interior. Our contemporary sustainability strategy is to fire and forget.
God’s cruel kingdom is a wilderness of weird populated by snake eaters, spooks, squids, high- and low-altitude jumpers, frogs, grunts, and company men. It is crowded in Indian country. These motivated individuals do not necessarily like you, but they will die for you. Their commitment is built on the understanding that their sacrifice allows you the luxury of hating what they stand for.
When it started I have no clue, but I can pinpoint the exact day I knew it was over. I never planned to take this group of photographs. They were each incidental views, which were indecipherably woven into the landscape tapestry of Los. October 14, 1997, dawn … I stood on the Edwards AFB flight line. Brigadier General Chuck Yeager pulled up in a blue Cadillac with personalized BELL X1A license plates. We talked briefly during a majestic sunrise over the dry lake bed. That occasion was announced as being Yeager’s last supersonic flight. I was certain that I was witnessing the end of the dominance of the military-industrial complex. It was doomed like the dinosaurs. But Chuck did indeed go on to break more sound barriers over the years. Eventually I learned that like all good systems, covert and overt actions reproduce their own kind in perpetuity.
The new minimalism? The wake from a surface—running submarine crosses the bow plank of an aircraft carrier.
B-2 Spirit stealth bombers have flown more than 14,000 sorties to date.
They have a range of 10,000 nautical miles on a single aerial refueling
and are capable of delivering twenty tons of nuclear ordinance.
They cost $2.1 billion apiece in 1997 dollars.
The bad news is that they are always there, everywhere.
The good news is that you need them and cannot escape their area of operations.
Start at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo and drive north on Highway 1. Just over the Ventura County line, about sixty miles away, is the Naval Air Weapons Station, Point Mugu. From there it’s just a handful of miles up the coast to the Naval Construction Battalion Center (CBC), Port Hueneme. These bases occupy the coastal end of the Oxnard Plain, “the strawberry capital of the world,” across which awaits Camarillo and Thousand Oaks, if you’re so inclined. If you’re enjoying the coastal vistas, though, you may want to continue north just past Santa Barbara to Vandenberg Air Force Base, which encompasses thirty-five miles of pristine coastland between Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach.
At this point, if for some reason you’re tiring of the gorgeous Central Coast, head directly east over the coastal range and through the Los Padres National Forest, cross I-5, dodge Lancaster and Palmdale if you can, and arrive at Edwards Air Force Base. From there it’s just a short hop north and east to the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake. If boots on the ground, heavy artillery, and sandstorms are more your style, continue east to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, located in a giant swatch of the Mojave Desert just south of Death Valley and midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. From there it’s just a quick jog south to the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow, where you can witness the comings and goings of massive amounts of military matériel.
Logistics are fascinating, but maybe you’re wanting to see how those Devil Dogs prepare for the challenges of post-9/11 warfare? Head south on Interstate 40, and just when you need that first bathroom break you’ll have arrived at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, or the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa, depending upon your mood.
By now you’ve probably had enough of the desert’s dull hues and relentless sun, but maybe not enough of the few and the proud. Take the blue highways to Palm Springs, pick up Interstate 10 going west for about thirty miles, grab I-215 South to I-15 South at Temecula. Pretty soon you’ll be enjoying the cool, ocean breezes and seventeen miles of shoreline at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, ideally situated in north San Diego County, between the lovely beach towns of Oceanside to the south and San Clemente to the north. When you’re done watching the bombs drop, feel free to surf San Onofre and Trestles, two of Southern California’s most-loved breaks.
Your tour of the military ops forming a crescent around Greater Los Angeles is now complete.
1. Los Angeles Air Force Base, California
Los Angeles Air Force Base, located within El Segundo city limits, is headquarters to the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), part of Air Force Space Command. The center is responsible for research, development, acquisition, on-orbit testing, and sustainment of military space and missile systems. In addition to managing Air Force space and missile programs, SMC participates in space programs conducted by other U.S. military services, government agencies, and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.
SMC traces its origins to the Western Development Division, created in July 1954. The organization’s original mission was to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the results are a proud legacy with the early Atlas, Thor, and Titan of the fifties through the Minuteman of the sixties to the Peacekeeper of the eighties. SMC has been the center of military satellite development since 1956. The center also operates programs such as early warning systems and meteorological, navigation, and communications satellites.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 18 miles. Area: 112 acres.
2. Naval Air Weapons Station, Point Mugu
Point Mugu is part of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, the Navy’s full-spectrum research, development, test evaluation, and in-service engineering center for weapons systems associated with air warfare (except for antisubmarine warfare systems), missiles and missile subsystems, aircraft weapons integration, and assigned airborne electronic warfare systems. The Warfare Center also maintains and operates the air, land, and sea Naval Western Test Range Complex.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 60 miles. Area: 4,500 acres.
3. Naval Construction Battalion Center, Port Hueneme
Port Hueneme’s Surface Warfare Center Division provides testing and evaluation, in-service engineering, and logistics support services for surface combat, including naval mine warfare and weapons systems for nonsubmarine seacraft. Weapons systems include Point Defense, NATO Seasparrow, Harpoon, Tomahawk, and Aegis.
The Surface Warfare Engineering Facility (SWEF) is housed in a five-story, 50,000-square-foot building. The SWEF provides engineering, development, and integration of Navy shipboard offensive and defensive weapons systems. It gives the Navy the ability to safely conduct multiple simulations for the purposes of tactics development, operational evaluation, fault analysis, and training without the cost of taking the systems to sea.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 65 miles. Area: 1,600 acres.
4. Vandenberg Air Force Base
Vandenberg is responsible for satellite launches by military and commercial organizations, as well as testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the Minuteman III ICBMs. Vandenberg is assuming new roles with the creation of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space. The base’s location on the Pacific along with its position relative to the jet stream make it easier to launch military and commercial satellites southward into polar orbit. (Polar orbits are rare from the Kennedy Space Center, where launches typically head east, away from major population centers to the north and south.) More than 1,700 launches have been conducted from VAFB since its first launch on December 16, 1958.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 159 miles. Area: 98,000 acres.
5. Edwards Air Force Base
Almost every U.S. military aircraft since the 1950s has been at least partially tested at Edwards. The most recent projects are the F-35 Lightning II, F-22 Raptor, RQ-4 Global Hawk, YAL-1 Airborne Laser, and B-52 synthetic fuel program. The C-17 Globemaster III flight test program is another major project at Edwards AFB. And the Department of Defense’s massive development on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has seen significant testing of prototypes at Edwards.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 100 miles. Area: 301,000 acres.
6. Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake
The Naval Air Weapons Station is where the Navy and Marine Corps have developed or tested nearly every significant airborne weapons system over the past five decades. China Lake carries out the complete weapon-development process—from basic and applied research through prototype hardware fabrication, test and evaluation, documentation, and fleet and production support. Missiles such as Sidewinder, Shrike, and Walleye are just a few of the many products that have been developed here.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 150 miles. Area: 1.1 million acres.
7. National Training Center, Fort Irwin
As large as Rhode Island, the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin is the only instrumented training facility in the world that is suitable for force-on-force and live-fire training of heavy brigade-size military forces. The evolving sophistication of military equipment and advances in technology require a comprehensive battlefield that realistically simulates the tempo, range, and intensity of current and future conflicts. The NTC must provide all the necessary components to achieve world-class training.
The depth and width of the battle space gives brigade elements the unique opportunity to exercise all of its elements in a realistic environment. This is often a unit’s only opportunity to test its combat service and support elements over a realistic combat distance. Teams must be able to communicate through up to eight communications corridors, evacuate casualties over forty kilometers, and navigate at night in treacherous terrain with few distinguishable roads. Other environmental conditions, such as a forty- to fifty-degree daily temperature range, winds over forty-five knots, and constant exposure to the sun stress every system and soldier to their limits
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 150 miles. Area: 642,000 acres.
8. Marine Corps Logistics Base, Barstow
The Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) is within 150 miles of the ports of Los Angeles and San Diego, which are the primary storage and distribution facilities for Marine Corps forces west of the Mississippi and for the Pacific Fleet. MCLB Barstow, at a railroad hub between the ports, is ideally situated to accomplish its mission of supporting U.S. Marine Corps units along the West Coast and in the Pacific.
The city of Barstow functions as the western division point for Santa Fe’s Transcontinental mainline and is also served by the Union Pacific’s mainline to Los Angeles. MCLB Barstow possesses the largest Department of Defense railhead in the world. The rail and highway transportation network available to MCLB Barstow means that it is located within one day’s travel time by road or rail of virtually all the Marine Corps units it serves.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 134 miles. Area: 5,687 acres.
9. Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms
The base is home to the largest military training area in the nation (and the largest U.S. base in the world), and, consequently, the largest training program. The program known as Mojave Viper has become the model of pre-Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment training. The majority of Marine Corps units will undergo a month in Mojave Viper before deploying to Iraq or a mixed training venue using the Mountain Warfare Training Center for Afghanistan. Live fire, artillery, tank, and close air support exercises are used for training, as is the sprawling “Combat Town,” a two-acre fabricated Middle Eastern village, complete with a mosque, native role players, an “IED Alley,” and other immersive touches.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 158 miles. Area: 596,000 acres, three-fourths the size of Rhode Island.
10. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
The base’s varied topography, combined with its amphibious training areas, inland training ranges and airspace, offers maximum flexibility for Marine Air Ground Task Forces and other service units that require a realistic combat training environment. Each year, more than 40,000 active-duty and 26,000 reserve military personnel from all services use Camp Pendleton’s many ranges and training facilities to maintain and sharpen their combat skills. Camp Pendleton offers an array of training opportunities: firing ranges for everything from 9 mm pistols to 155 mm artillery, landing beaches, parachute drop zones, aircraft bombing and strafing ranges, three mock urban warfare towns, and large maneuver areas for training tactical units.
Of all the Marine Corps bases throughout the world, Camp Pendleton has one of the most intriguing pasts, filled with historical charm and vibrancy. Spanish explorers, colorful politicians, herds of thundering cattle, skillful vaqueros, and tough Marines have all contributed to the history of this land.
Approximate distance from downtown L.A.: 70 miles. Area: 125,000 acres.
The Hep-C Generation
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