Screaming down a remote valley to hit a target with precision, banging down on a carrier deck, engaging fighters at range — VX-9 ‘Vampires’ ensures that fleet units get just what they need in terms of new ‘kit’.

A fabulous shot of the VX-9 commander’s F/A-18E flying on a test mission near NAWS China Lake. Kedar Karmarkar

IT’S NO COINCIDENCE that Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (AIRTEVRON) Nine (VX-9) is stationed alongside VX-31 at Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake. The two work closely together, albeit with very different mandates. VX-9 is part of the Operational Test and Evaluation Force (OPTEVFOR), tasked with realistic testing and evaluation of naval aviation systems and weapons that are to be fielded to operational units.

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