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Dahlgren: A Unique National Asset

Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) , established as a naval proving ground in 1918, is headquartered at Dahlgren, Va., and includes Combat Systems Direction Activity Dam Neck in Virginia Beach, Va. NSWCDD personnel are impacting our national defense at home and abroad with technically relevant science and engineering expertise and unique facilities – at Dahlgren and Dam Neck sites – to meet the needs of the current and future Navy.

First and foremost, NSWCDD’s mission is to support our men and women in uniform in combat on land and at sea. We are in direct communication with the field and provide boots-on-the-ground support when needed. Our engineers support communications, surveillance and weapons systems that are critical to the execution of successful operations and to the safety of our military men and women.

Map of NSWC Dahlgren's Range Stations

  Map of NSWC Dahlgren's Range Stations


1. Littoral Operations Environment

With its 25-mile range along the shores of the Potomac River and Upper Machodoc Creek, the Potomac River Test Range looks to the future –

pushing the envelope of ordnance and weaponry for tomorrow’s Navy. Because weapon systems and sensors function differently over water than over land, testing over a littoral environment that readily recreates the environment around the world where many of today’s conflicts occur.  NSWCDD is one of the few Navy locations that provides an optimal testing location for RTD&E supporting military preparedness.

2. Fully Instrumented Over-the-Water Range

Dahlgren has a multitude of test facilities that support its RDT&E activities. Among them are the Potomac River Test Range (PRTR) complex and the Explosives Experimental Area (EEA) range complex. Dahlgren's PRTR is the nation's largest fully-instrumented over-the-water gun firing range. It allows the Navy to efficiently conduct testing in a realistic, controlled environment.

Arial Photo of Dahlgren and the
Potomac River

Using the fully-instrumented PRTR together with our other RDT&E facilities, we can interact in real time with the fleet and other branches of the military to conduct global military exercises. This not only provides the Navy with a cost-effective method to develop new weapons and systems, but it also speeds the development process.

3. Making a Difference through Expertise and Unique Facilities

 As a premier Naval scientific and engineering institution, Dahlgren technology makes a difference in our military’s ability to fight, win, and come home safely. The fleet of the future is being designed today with Dahlgren scientists and engineers in the thick of it, lending their knowledge, expertise, and innovation so that our nation is never outflanked by adversaries. Even with brand new design concepts, current ships and systems must be taken into account for integration and interoperability. For example, the Navy announced in December 2014 that the NSWCDD-developed laser weapon system, a cutting-edge weapon that brings significant new capabilities to America’s Sailors and Marines, was successfully deployed and operated aboard a naval vessel in the Arabian Gulf. The deployment aboard USS Ponce demonstrated a laser weapon working aboard a deployed U.S. Navy ship operating seamlessly with existing ship defense systems. NSWCDD scientists and engineers developing and testing the Electromagnetic Railgun are bringing the Navy closer to a promising new Naval gun system capable of extended ranges against surface, air and ground targets.

NSWCDD is also home to the Naval Directed Energy Office, the Navy’s top facility for research and development of pulsed power, microwave, and laser technologies. National attention is focused on military participation in non-traditional missions. Operations other-than-war, homeland defense, chemical-biological warfare protection, counter-terrorism, and counter-narcoterrorism are a few examples of missions that are pressing. Dahlgren’s infrastructure enables research, development, testing and evaluation in support of these diverse missions. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) runway gives NSWCDD an organic and effective in-house capability to research, develop and test UAVs with new sensors, payloads, weapons and engagement systems.

Map of Dahlgren's Proximity to Military Installations and Government Agencies

Map of Dahlgren's Proximity to Military
Installations and Government Agencies

4. Proximity to Other Key Military Installations and Government Agencies

Finally, the proximity of Dahlgren and its resident scientists and engineers to the seat of the federal government and numerous military installations (from the Pentagon to Naval Station Norfolk) fosters scientific, technical, and operational collaboration across services and government agencies.

The combination of our outstanding RDT&E capabilities, our testing facilities, and our physical location makes us a hub within this important network of agencies and installations.

Last updated: June 2015