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Coordinates: 38°19′30″N 77°02′00″W / 38.325°N 77.0333333°W / 38.325; -77.0333333

The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), named for Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, is located in Dahlgren, Virginia and is part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. The NSWCDD was founded as the U.S. Naval Proving Ground on October 16, 1918, as a result of the expanded range on large caliber naval guns brought about by the launching of the British battleship HMS Dreadnought that revolutionized seapower, but was renamed some time after 1950 to the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory. In 1974, it was renamed the Naval Surface Weapons Center, and obtained its current name around 1990.

NSWCDD consists of two organizations: The NSWC Dahlgren Lab (NSWCDL) in Dahlgren, Virginia and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dam Neck (NSWCDN), in Virginia Beach, Virginia. NSWCDD employs approximately 2400 scientists & engineers at the Dalhgren organization. Prior to 2007, Panama City Coastal Systems Station located at the Naval Support Activity Panama City was part of Dahlgren Division. As of 2008 it became its own division within the Naval Surface Warfare Centers. The physical base where NSWCDD is located became officially known the Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) ca. 2003. The name NSWCDD or NSWC is still commonly used to refer to the base. The base commander is no longer a secondary function of the Commander of NSWCDD. A tenant command located aboard the base is Joint Warfare Analysis Center. Another tenant command located aboard the base is involved in the training and development for the Aegis Combat System, and training and development for other future shipboard combat systems. NSWCDD was previously home to Naval Space Surveillance System Command before that function was transferred to the Air Force in 2004.[1]

The base is recognized by the Census Bureau as a census-designated place (CDP), Dahlgren Center. Its population as of the 2010 Census was 599.[2] It is entirely distinct from Dahlgren CDP, to the west.


NSWCDD conducts basic research in all systems-related areas and pursues scientific disciplines including biotechnology, chemistry, mathematics, laser and computer technology, chemical, mechanical, electrical and systems engineering, physics and computer science. Distinguished figures who have worked for the NSWCDD include physicists Albert Einstein, Edward Teller, Carl Norden, and computer pioneers Howard Aiken and Grace Hopper.

Engineering projects of historical or military significance developed at NSWC Dahlgren include the triggering device on the Hiroshima atomic bomb, the Norden Bombsight used on most American bombers such as the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator and B-29 Superfortress during World War II, the Standard missile used on modern United States Navy warships, and the warhead for the AIM-54 Phoenix. Current projects include the majority of US research into directed-energy weapons, railgun technology and weapons integration for the Littoral combat ship.


The history of the Dahlgren naval base was documented in the 2007 book, The Sound of Freedom: Naval Weapons Technology at Dahlgren, VA 1918-2006 by James P. Rife and Rodney P. Carlisle.


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