Naval Base San Diego and Naval Station Norfolk are two of the foremost U.S. Navy bases. Hosting the U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces Command, respectively, their importance cannot be understated. However, a landlocked base in Indiana holds the title of the third-largest Naval installation in the world by geographic area and is vital to the Navy's history and future.
Naval Support Activity Crane is named after William M. Crane, the first chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. In 1941, the Navy Bureau of Ordnance established the installation as the Naval Ammunition Depot in Indiana. Its mission included the production, testing and storage of military weapons. Through the 1950s and 1960s, under the newly formed Bureau of Weapons, Crane's scope expanded to include small arms, sonobuoy surveillance, microwave tubes and even POLARIS missiles.
Crane underwent further name changes through the 20th century until it became Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center in 1992. Its mission is to provide acquisition and in-service engineering and technical support for sensors, electronics, electronic warfare and special warfare weapons. In 2004, Naval Support Activity Crane was stood up to encompass NSWC-Crane as well as the Crane Army Ammunition Activity. Crane's focus remains on engineering, ammunition and logistics.
During the Global War on Terror, Crane played a critical role in modernizing the military's small arms. Development of the Close Quarters Battle Receiver as well as an improved Special Operations stock for the M4 carbine was done there. The latter is even referred to as the Crane Stock. Today, Crane is one of the largest high-tech employers in Indiana, with over 3,800 employees, 2,500 of whom are scientists, engineers or technicians.
On the other end of the technological spectrum, NSA Crane is also vital in maintaining the Navy's oldest ship. Launched in 1797, the USS Constitution is one of the original seven frigates ordered by the U.S. Navy in 1794 and remains the oldest ship still afloat. During the War of 1812, British cannonballs bounced off of her white oak hull as if she were made of iron. This earned the ship the nickname Old Ironsides. However, maintaining Old Ironsides poses a different type of challenge for the Navy.
The white oak that makes Constitution so special is not easily sourced in the quality, sizes and dimensions needed for the ship. For the 1992 repair, it was estimated that Constitution would need 8,500 board-feet of white oak timber. In order to keep a supply of the wood on hand, Crane maintains a private forest of white oak. The grove of trees, called Constitution Grove, was designated specifically to support the historical ship in 1976.