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Located 50 miles south of Washington, D. C., the U. S. Naval Weapons Laboratory has a heritage that dates back to 1872, when the first U. S. Navy Proving Ground was established near Annapolis, Mary* land. In 1890 the facility was moved to Indian Head, Maryland (where the 3-inch, 23-caliber field piece above was tested), and finally, in 1918, was again relocated at Dahlgren, Virginia. For many years the primary role of Dahlgren was that of testing the Navy’s guns, but with the growing complexity and diversity of naval weapons, the emphasis shifted towards weapons research and development. In keeping with this expanding mission, the facility was renamed the Naval Weapons Laboratory in 1959- Although no longer the prime focus of attention, guns are still important at Dahlgren. Towers on the firing line, below, support timing devices for determining projectile velocities. At right, the prototype of a 175-mm. gun fires a shell down the range, which extends some 40,000 yards along the Potomac-
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Scattered across Dahlgren’s 4,500-acre reservation are a number of facilities devoted to basic weapons research, to the development of new weapons, and the improvement of existing ones. Perhaps the largest of these facilities is the 2,600-foot-long conical shock tube (opposite), designed to duplicate the air blast effects of nuclear weapons. An explosive, detonated in a series of four connected 16-inch gun barrels, will send shock waves down the tube equivalent to those produced by a 20-kiloton bomb. A sampling of other research facilities at Dahl- gren includes an electron microscope used in weapons metallurgical studies (below), an arena where the fragmentation characteristics of various warheads are recorded (series at left); and a duplicate of a shipboard magazine, in which the accidental firing of a missile can be simulated (bottom).
An expanding array of computers at Dahlgren (above and opposite) provides NWL engineers with the capability required for computing ballistics tables, satellite orbital data, warfare analysis equations, and solutions to other complex mathematical problems relating to naval weapons. Typical applications include the preparation of guidance data for Polaris missiles (left), investigations into the efficiency of aircraft computer systems (bottom left), and research into means of improving man-computer communications through visual displays of information (below). Dahlgren’s largest computer (following two pages) has a capability of 300,000 operations per second.
Recent operations at the Naval Weapons Laboratory included the test firing and evaluation of a new 5- inch, 54-caliber lightweight gun (right), designed primarily for new ships but also adaptable to existing destroyer escorts. Determining the resistance that a BQM-34A Firebee drone’s guidance system has to radar beam interference (below) was part of Dahlgren’s extensive HERO (hazards of electromagnetic radiation to ordnance) Program. Another project was the development of a helicopter escape system (demonstrated with a HUP drone in photo sequence at bottom) involving the explosive separation of the crew module from rotor blades and fuselage. A mirror used to direct laser beams (opposite) suggests the scope of the weapons research and development projects now being conducted by the Naval Weapons Laboratory staff of 2,300 civilians and 140 Navy personnel.