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Naval Support Facility Dahlgren, Va., was initially established in 1918 on 4,000 acres bounded by the Potomac River and Machodoc Creek in King George County as a remote extension of Maryland’s Indian Head Proving Ground to be used for testing naval guns. The Dahlgren site was named the Lower Station, Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground in honor of Rear Admiral John Adolphus Dahlgren. The location on the Potomac River was specifically chosen for the development of a long ballistic range on the Potomac River, required for the testing of modern, high-powered munitions.  In 1932, Dahlgren became the Navy's principal proving ground, and the base’s name was changed to the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren. It was responsible for proofing and testing every major naval gun and all ammunitions supplied to the Fleet.

Following World War II, the impact of new technology on weapons systems shifted the emphasis from traditional proof and testing functions on weaponry to those of research and development of weapon systems. Electronic firing and targeting systems and the effects of electromagnetic radiation from radio and radar transmitters on ordnance became the emphasis of weapons research. During the 1950s, the U.S. Navy produced the first Fleet Ballistic Missile System. Dahlgren pioneered the development of fire control and targeting software for missile-borne strategic nuclear weapons on U.S. Navy submarines. In 1959, the name was changed to the Naval Weapons Laboratory, Dahlgren, to reflect its transition to a research and development facility. 

Dahlgren continues to support new Fleet software for firing and targeting ballistic missiles. Since 1960, Dahlgren has been heavily involved with satellite geodesy. During the 1970s, new ammunition and gun systems were developed at Dahlgren to provide increased safety, accuracy and range for naval guns. Also, during this period, Dahlgren provided comprehensive development and support for Tomahawk Weapon System. In 1977, the name of the Dahlgren base was changed to the Naval Surface Weapons Center. A decade later, the base was renamed Naval Surface Weapons Center to the Naval Surface Warfare Center to recognize Dahlgren's growing contributions to the development of integrated warfare systems versus weapons components.

In 2003, Commander Navy Installations Command (CNIC) officially stood up with the sole charter of providing shore installation management services to all Navy activities. As part of CNIC, all naval installations within the National Capital Region aligned with Naval District Washington (NDW). In November 2005, Naval Support Activity South Potomac was commissioned as a component of NDW with responsibility for shore installation management for the Dahlgren base, which was renamed as Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren. 

What began as a gun test facility has since evolved and expanded to include numerous scientific and response-force missions serving all branches of the United States armed forces. In addition to its military value, today Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren makes a significant economic contribution to the local community and the installation’s Navy commands, as a whole, serve as the largest employer in King George County.  Today, NSF Dahlgren employs approximately 3,900 civilians, 900 military and over 3,700 badged contractors. It has an operating budget of approximately $1 billion.

For visitor information, call the Public Affairs Office at (540) 653-8153


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