Thread: China Lake
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Old 13th Apr 2019, 12:55
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McHover
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 63
Pre 9/11 I was in California from the UK scouting locations for a Vodafone advert we were making. My brief was to find unusual, mysterious looking buildings, so I headed for the Mojave Desert. The Antelope Valley Freeway bisects some beautiful landscapes that feature some pretty bizarre and secretive facilities. I visited places like Victorville, Edwards, Mojave and the JPL. And whilst in Ridgecrest, at the small airport there (that we occasionally used for filming car to car sequences on the runway), I knew I was close to the vast reserve of the China Lake Air Weapons Station.

Someone in the Ridgecrest airport office gave me a number, and I called them. The next thing I know I’m on base and driving towards a very large hangar like building isolated out on the desert floor. To this day I’m not sure who I spoke to on the phone, but even back then I was surprised how easy it was to gain access. So i entered the office block adjoining hanger and introduced myself.

After climbing a couple of flights of stairs I was shown through the door and into an inky black void. It was completely silent and after a few moments my eyes started to adjust to the lack of light. I could sense that I was in an enormous space. The air around me was motionless. My voice felt like it would only travel a few feet before being absorbed into the blackness.

My host threw a switch and suddenly there in the distance, inside the building, and at least 300 metres away was hanging in mid air a Russian fighter jet. A real Russian fighter jet, suspended by cables from an apparatus that clearly allowed it to be positioned at almost any angle.

After regaining my composure, and taking in the scene, I started to understand the scene before me. Positioned on the railway track down the centre of the hanger was a mobile tripod on which missile warheads were placed to test the radar detection systems. The tripod was propelled towards the aircraft at some ridiculous rate to simulate closing on the target.

I was was told the military had a suite of enemy aircraft that they regularly rigged and tested in this facility. My host went on to tell me that during downtime the employees would stand on the balcony where I was and fly paper aeroplanes in this extraordinarily calm air.

After some time we left and returned to the offices at which point I was introduced to a uniformed officer. On hearing my Scottish accent he asked where I was from and what I was doing there. When I told him, his face turned ashen, he barked at my host, and I was swiftly escorted off base without the films I’d shot.

It was a privileged surreal scene that I will never forget.

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