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Navy to Cut Point Mugu Squadron : Military: The weapons test group, with a 41-year history at the county base, will be merged with a China Lake unit.

September 17, 1993|MAIA DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As part of the overall U.S. military downsizing, the Navy plans to move about 65 sailors from Point Mugu to the Navy base at China Lake by early next year and may transfer another 200 out of Ventura County by next spring.

The planned transfers are part of the Navy's decision to dissolve the 341-member VX-4 squadron, which has been based at Point Mugu for more than 40 years.

Flying F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcats, VX-4 tests missiles and fighting tactics over the Pacific Ocean off Point Mugu.

To save money, the Navy will merge the squadron with another flight-test unit at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in northeastern Kern County, a Navy spokesman said.

"It's part of the Navy's overall consolidation," said Steve Boster, a spokesman at China Lake.

Local officials said the transfer is part of a worrisome trend of military personnel and their families leaving the area.

"I fear that in the next two to five years all of the Navy bases will be greatly downsized," Camarillo Mayor Charlotte Craven said. "I'm sad to see them go."

The executive officer of VX-4 said some of the group's pilots and support personnel are also sorry to see the unit dissolved.

"It's the end of an era," Lt. Cmdr. Ken Gigliotti said.

Based at Point Mugu since 1952, VX-4 spent the late 1950s and early 1960s testing Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles, which were used against enemy MIGs in the Vietnam War.

More recently, the squadron tried out updated versions of the Sidewinder and Sparrow that were used in the Persian Gulf War.

But in late August, the Navy decided to save on maintenance and administrative costs by dissolving the squadron effective April 30, 1994.

Roughly 80 squadron maintenance and administrative personnel will be reassigned to new duties at Point Mugu and other bases.

About 15 of the squadron members are expected to move to China Lake by the end of November. Another 40 to 50 are expected to be transferred early next year. All of the people who have already been assigned to move to China Lake work on or fly F/A-18 Hornets, Gigliotti said.

The Navy is now deciding whether the remaining 200 squadron members, who work mainly with F-14 Tomcats, will also be reassigned to China Lake, he said.

Although some of the VX-4 members are excited about moving to the Kern County base, others would prefer to stay at Point Mugu, Gigliotti said.

Located 180 miles northeast of Point Mugu at the edge of the Mojave Desert near Ridgecrest, China Lake is a relatively isolated base, he said.

"If you're used to a large metropolitan area, it's pretty remote," Gigliotti said. "There are some people that quite honestly don't want to go there."

But Gigliotti said the worst part for squadron members has been wondering where they will be next year.

"With the uncertainty of the consolidation, people are concerned about where they're going to live in the future," he said.

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