top of page


The United States Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) is located in Dahlgren, Virginia, and is part of the Naval Surface Warfare Centers under the Naval Sea Systems Command. It is currently a tenant of Naval Support Activity, South Potomac under Naval District Washington. 

NSWCDD consists of two organizations: the NSWC Dahlgren Lab in Dahlgren, Virginia, and NSWCDD DNA, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. NSWCDD employs approximately 4,600 civilians, 70 percent of whom are scientists and engineers, and over 30 percent have advanced degrees.   

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, which revolutionized sea power. Its recorded first work, the firing of a 7-inch, 45 caliber tractor-mounted gun, occurred on October 16, 1918, and is recognized as the official founding date. 


The proving ground was named Dahlgren in honor of Rear Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren, a Civil War Navy commander, who is the acknowledged “father of modern naval ordnance.”


Over the past 100+ years, NSWCDD has evolved from a proving ground for naval guns and ammunition to a premier naval and scientific institution of technical curiosity responsible for research, development, test and evaluation, analysis, systems engineering, integration, and certification of complex naval warfare systems. But how did the institution evolve to what it is today? What combination of events occurred that provided pivotal moments in its evolution, and who were the people that shepherded the organization through these moments as Dahlgren’s name changed from the Indianhead Lower Station to its current name, reflecting the evolution of its mission?


What unique combination of knowledge and technical curiosity in many fields, built upon almost a century of test and evaluation experience, created the synergy that is necessary to create, develop, and deploy the weapon systems for today and the future?   There are many chapters of the Dahlgren Story, and the following only presents some of the key events in history that led to its formation and growth into what it is today. This is a story that mirrors the evolution of the United States and the impact of the growing complexity of US Navy combat systems and the technological challenges that foster the continuing need for more creative solutions to keep America’s Navy #1 in the world. For more about the lab, click the link below:

bottom of page