The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, White Sands Detachment, is a tenant command of the U.S. Army-operated White Sands Missile Range.
The Navy was established on range on June 14, 1946, to participate with the Army in research studies and test firing of captured German V-2 rockets. During the late 1940s, the Navy was primarily involved in launching sounding rockets for atmospheric research. From the V-2 the Navy expanded rapidly with testing of its own Viking rocket. This work grew in the 1950s when the Aerobee rocket was developed and set new altitude and payload records. An early altitude record of 158 miles was set on May 24, 1954. Current rocket programs include support for the Strategic Defense Initiative.
From the early 1950s the Navy expanded into testing surface-to-air missiles because of an urgent need to improve the Navy´s defense capabilities against increasingly sophisticated enemy threats. On July 10, 1951, the first Talos missile was test fired. This program was followed by Tartar, Terrier, Standard and Aegis missile flight test programs.
Today, the Navy´s mission is three-fold: land-based weapons system testing, directed energy weapons testing and research rocket launch support. The detachment is the Navy´s only test center capable of firing all versions of the Standard Missile (SM-l, SM-2, MR and ER) including the Vertical Launch Standard, Terrier/Tartar missiles and Aegis weapons system. It also is the land-based test site for Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), Vertical Launch ASROC (VLA), Sea Lance, 5" Guided Projectile, Tomahawk and NATO Seasparrow, among other systems. The detachment´s High Energy Laser (HEL) activity is responsible for the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) and the Sealite Beam Director (SLBD). Tests using the MIRACL are done in support of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, the Navy, and other Department of Defense agencies.