Navy Lakehurst dates back to 1917 when the command was established as the Naval Aircraft Factory. Since aircraft manufacturers were too busy building planes for the Army, the Navy decided to build the only aircraft factory ever to be completely owned and operated by the U.S. Government. After breaking ground in Philadelphia in August 1917, the first plane, an H-16 Flying Boat, flew off to war eight months later. By the end of World War I, aircraft were coming off the line at the rate of two airplanes per day. Experimental research and development of new types of airplanes was the thrust after the war. Nearly 1000 of the famed N3N "Yellow Peril" airplanes were built here before and during World War II. A total of 1,407 airplanes of six types were produced during World War II, as were 1,300 aircraft engines.
In 1962, the focus became the Naval Air Engineering Center. It was reorganized in 1967 with various functions moving to several different locations. In 1973, NAEC was transferred to Naval Air Station Lakehurst. In 1977, existing Lakehurst commands were consolidated with NAEC as the host command. In 1992, the NAEC became the Naval Air Engineering Station. On 30 September 2009, a formal ceremony was held to decommission NAES Lakehurst. On 1 October, 2009, Lakehurst formally merged to become Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Lakehurst is most well known as the site of the 1937 crash of the Hindenburg, a hydrogen powered dirigible, but is also home to Hangars 5 and 6, built in 1943, which are among the largest single-arch wooden structures in the world still today.
Today, NSA Lakehurst performs various tasks. The Lighter-than-Air program is continued with the flights of the MZ-3A, as well as the development and testing of Army and Air Force airships. It is the location of various A and C schools, including Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Officer, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Maintenance Officer, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Arresting Gear, Catapult Electrician, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Maintenance Technician, Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Indoctrination and Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System. Lakehurst’s Airfield provides support for McGuire’s C-17 fleet as well as Army National Guard SH-60 flight training. Lakehurst also conducts the unique mission of supporting and developing the Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment and Support Equipment for naval aviation. Lakehurst is the main hub for research and development of The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and the Advanced Arresting Gear system that will replace the existing steam catapults and the Mk-7 arresting gear.
The Lakehurst side of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is located in the Lakehurst Borough of Ocean County New Jersey, approximately 25 minutes from the Dix and McGuire sides. It is located on the eastern portion of the Joint Base, formerly known as Naval Air Engineering Station (NAES) Lakehurst.