CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — The snowy rowboat bobbing on an underground lake deep inside this hollow mountain is not the most unique quality of America’s most stable intelligence and data center.
Well, it may be. But we’ll probably never know.
That’s because Cheyenne Mountain retains the kinds of secrets America won’t share with anyone lacking a top secret security clearance. The caves a mile indoors are home to a number of the world’s most complex satellite and other monitoring systems.
The caves are secured behind burst doors, just some of the catastrophe-ready features that have captured. Trespassers usually get arrested before they even get close to the entrance doors, accomplished by driving a mile through a tunnel carved from solid rock of the bunker.
The bunker was originally built to help military commanders endure a direct nuclear attack that was Soviet, since it’s almost impervious to attacks around the electronics placed 45, and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado nevertheless plays a role in American air and space supremacy. The mountain protecting means that the military can remain above if workers are completely sealed inside.
To put it differently, this really is a centre of last resort, designed to keep running no matter what is happening out.
It is helpful to begin previously to understand the present and future of the bunker.
“it is a tribute to the anxiety and Canadian and American will that during the Cold War, they were literally willing to hollow out a mountain, move a mountain,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for NORAD.
The North American Aerospace Defense command, or NORAD, was made as a concerted effort to track the skies from above for missiles and strikes. Its creators knew their headquarters would be among the first targeted during war. The fear went when they shot out NORAD the Soviets could blind Americans into another wave of attacks.
After walking to the caverns blasted out from the 1960s that gloomy expectation is more easy to understand. Two thousand feet below the surface, buildings made from battleship steel sit springs isolating them from flames that may accompany a nuclear burst outside. The mountain is about 9,500 ft tall, along with the tunnel entrance sits about 2,000 ft in the top.
Underground reservoirs carved from solid rock provide drinking and cooling water, while a lake of diesel fuel stays ready for the six gas generators capable of powering a little city. A spring provides fresh water, when ensuring that the facility hasn’t had so much as a power flicker in 14 years and much more power is provided by a bank of batteries.
That protection and redundancy help its classified mission to help keep America secure from air and space threats is carried out by the bunker. NORAD and the U.S. Air Force track the skies above North America for ballistic missiles, space debris and hostile aircraft. Though NORAD commissioned the bunker, it moved that the bulk of its operations to nearby Peterson Air Force Base in 2006.
NORAD maintains a tiny continuous presence within the underground complex and practices working out there. In a crisis, its leaders could retreat to the bunker for security and safety.
The remaining 70% of those complex is used by the U.S. Air Force to get a variety of classified assignments. The blast doors stay open the majority of the time nowadays. They opened daily to ensure they work and therefore are closed and were shut during 9/11. The bunker stays a bet against a nuclear attack, ensuring command and surveillance systems keep running during a scenario.
After a set of news posts this calendar year said NORAD moved back in the mountain, officials with the 721st Mission Support Group of the Air Force granted a USA TODAY journalist an tour of the center. Photography was tightly restricted, and buildings within the complex stayed off-limits since they’re open to individuals with top secret clearances.
However, the tour, provided by the facility’s deputy manager, Steven Rose, offered a glimpse into a world most Americans will not see.
Cheyenne Mountain sits just south of Colorado Springs, the second-largest city of the state. While an Army post, Fort Carson, is just across the street about 20 miles sprawls away. Getting to the famous tube entry of the bunker requires passing through two security checkpoints.
The access tunnel goes completely so if a bomb exploded outside, the blast waves would funnel. Those doors are shaped such as plugs, meaning their seals would be tightened by any blast . The doors can shut in approximately 20 seconds, while they can be closed by the guards by hand in about 40 seconds.
Deep inside the mountain, the major entry to the steel structures is a workplace door leading to a warren. Workers inside include women and men from the USA and Canada, together with builders who support the military assignment and the surgeries of the bunker.
Around 350 people work within the bunker Rose states, and roughly 170 remain there overnight. Its operations that were complete can proceed during an emergency to the bunker but runs from Peterson, Davis explained.
“There was just a recognition that we’d gotten too big for the mountain,” Davis explained.
Although the mountain holds many secrets, one of its best attributes has taken on new significance. Thanks to the granite under which it’s buried in large part, Cheyenne Mountain is impervious to radiation. A nuclear explosion is invariably accompanied by an electromagnetic pulse, and an EMP can fry electronics, from laptops and phones to radios cameras, GPS units and even vehicles.
Data from antennas, telescopes, satellites and other surveillance systems flows into the bunker for aggregation and analysis before being handed to decisionmakers elsewhere today. The specific work stays classified. The bunker is the country’s single-best EMP-protected complex, Rose stated, and serves as the ultimate backup.
“As we become hooked on electronic systems, that facet of it has become much more central to our thinking,” Davis stated.
The bunker’s security steps have helped give it a larger-than-life presence in Hollywood, thanks to the WarGames Terminator and Independence Day films, together with the Interstellar of last fall, along with the long-running sci-fi series Stargate SG-1.
It’s hard to find. That’s by design. There’s cafeteria and a convenience store, twist and together with a gym, chapel class room. Many spaces pull double duty: whereas can be replaced by cooks The twist room could be transformed into a triage bay.
Nonetheless, the carpeting and lighting create parts of the facility look much like any other cubicle farm, even if the only “window” views come in televisions showing a live feed of their exterior parking lots.
“We strive to eliminate the feeling that you’re working in a cave,” Rose said.
However, a cave it’s. Recent rain assumed that the sound of water was ever-present as moisture migrated through the stone inside the caverns. As a centre system are straight out of rock, their reservoirs tilted to the Earth to decrease the risk they will spill out through a bomb-caused 36,, the water reservoirs used.
A rowboat bobs on the surface of one of those reservoirs that he is given the status as the deputy head of the largest Navy in America by Rose jokes. Workers use the ship to inspect the reservoirs, but it also serves a solemn function: A Few of the U.S. Navy personnel stationed in the bunker climb aboard to reestablish their enlistment as a portion of a long-standing tradition to renew at sea.
The reservoirs permit the bunker to operate using its doors shut for “a few weeks,” Rose said. The ’70s-era diesel generators have sufficient fuel to keep the entire facility powered for that moment, and there is stocks of equipment in endless cabinets lining the buildings’ walls.
To Rose and Davis, the bunker signifies the greatest in Cold War ingenuity — but it’s still ready to meet the needs and challenges of today’s world.
“Like anything, the military has changed in 50 years, so have we,” Rose said. “It’s the overlapping of history and future.”