Why Is There a US Naval Cruiser in the Middle of This Cornfield?

If you're driving along the New Jersey turnpike just outside of Moorsetown and think you see the top of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer peeking above endless rows of corn, miles from the nearest ocean, don't worry—it's supposed to be there. It's just a full-size mock up that Lockheed uses to develop its AEGIS Combat System.

The USS Rancocas, officially called the Vice Admiral James H. Doyle Combat Systems Engineering Development Site (CSEDS) but known by locals as the Cornfield Cruiser, is a unique naval R&D facility—half warehouse, half strike cruiser. The facility began as an Air Force-operated ballistic missile early warning radar installation in the 1950s and remained so until the 1970s, when the Air Force sought to shutter the site.

But rather than let the facility be mothballed completely, Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer convinced the Navy to buy the site and use it for weapons development instead. By the time CSEDS was formally commissioned in 1977, the giant, golf ball-shaped radome that had previously occupied the building's roof had been replaced with the 122-foot-tall forward deckhouse of an Arleigh Burke-class class nuclear strike cruiser. Because how else are you going to make sure that your cutting edge combat system works with existing naval technology without installing it on a seafaring frigate?

The facility houses both US Navy and Lockheed personnel, as well as a number of smaller defense contractors, and has been instrumental in the AEGIS' design and development. What's more, every system in the deckhouse superstructure operates as it would aboard an actual ship, to dutifully simulate combat conditions.

In fact, sailors utilize a pair of antennae on the facility's roof to track commercial flights around NYC—all in order to simulate enemy aircraft movements. So if you've ever flown into a New York area airport, you may have helped them hone their technique without even realizing it. [Lockheed - Wiki