Background: Thule Air Base sits within 800 miles of the Arctic Circle, making it the northernmost U.S. military installation. Among the many challenges posed by the region's climate is that the base's port is only accessible for three months each year, so major supplies need to be shipped during the summer. The base may be frozen and remote, but the 12th Space Warning Squadron operates an early warning system for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from Thule, while the 21st Space Wing is in charge of space surveillance operations.
How It's Unique: Brad Schulz, vice president of federal architecture at HNTB, who recently worked on a dormitory replacement project at Thule, explains that construction crews essentially need to build on the most stable layer of permafrost they can get to. With temperatures dropping below minus-60 F, keeping troops warm is crucial. One of the more interesting weather-specific features is that all of the utilities are above ground, because it would be too hard to quickly access them if something went awry. "You don't bury any waterlines, communication lines or even sanitary lines," Schulz says. "They're all insulated and triple-heat-taped." Schulz also notes that all the buildings on the base are equipped with so-called arctic vestibules, which provide 24/7 access to shelter while ensuring the buildings remain secure.
Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah:
Background: Within two months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set aside the first 127,000 acres of Dugway Proving Ground in Utah's Great Salt Lake Desert. Over the past 60 years, the site has expanded to nearly 800,000 acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island. Geographically, Dugway is located in the eastern Great Basin desert region of the American West. The mean elevation is 4,350 feet above sea level. Dugway sits under a huge invisible container of protected airspace known as the Utah Test and Training Range, controlled by the U.S. Air Force. Military Flight Operations in this area are very frequent. NASA has also used the combined air/land space for critical recovery operations of its Genesis and Stardust Mission Craft. The nearest major national-scale city is Salt Lake City, Utah, 85 miles northeast.
How It's Unique: Dugway's massiveness allows it to be the premiere site for testing defense systems against chemical and biological weapons, as well as military-grade smoke bombs. During World War II, the facility played a vital role in the development of incendiary bombs. In order to test the fire-causing weapons, crews at Dugway built replicas of German and Japanese villages, even going so far as to fill the model buildings with furniture that would be similar to that found in the respective country. Today, the remains of the German village are eligible to be included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Diego Garcia BIOT, Chagos Archipelago:
Background: This joint U.S. and U.K. operation is situated on a tiny atoll about 1000 miles from India and tasked with providing logistical support to forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
How It's Unique: "There's a certain amount of logistical difficulty" with ultra-remote facilities like Diego Garcia, Schulz says, and shipping materials can be costly. Diego Garcia's remoteness, though, allows it to be a key hub for tracking satellites, and it is one of five monitoring stations for GPS. Additionally, the island is one of only a handful of locations equipped with a Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance system for tracking objects in deep space. As an atoll, the land itself is rather oddly shaped, too. From end to end, Diego Garcia is 34 miles long, but its total area is only 11 square miles.
Background: HAARP, or the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a collaborative project involving the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and the University of Alaska. Researchers at the facility use a powerful high-frequency transmitter and an array of 180 antennas to temporarily disrupt the ionosphere in hopes of yielding potential communications and surveillance benefits.
How It's Unique: HAARP has been the centerpiece of countless conspiracy theories, ranging from rumors that it will be used for mind control to claims that it can manipulate the weather of individual countries. The project's website says that the equipment can only function properly if it is located in the auroral region, and Alaska happens to be the only U.S. state that fits that criterion. A quiet electromagnetic location is needed for the system to operate, which further explains the removed location of HAARP. In past interviews, HAARP's operators readily admit they're researching potential defense applications.
Cheyenne Mountain Complex Air Force Station, Colo.:
Background: This iconic underground base has been inspiring science fiction writers and awing engineers since 1966. Located nearly a half mile under a granite mountain, the labyrinthine facility is run by Air Force Space Command. The base earned its place in pop culture when the television version of Stargatemade Cheyenne Mountain the HQ of cosmic time travel.
How It's Unique: One-of-a-kind bases like Cheyenne pose countless construction challenges and need to satisfy seemingly impossible requirements, like being able to withstand multi-megaton attacks. "It would be hard for a contractor to bid a project like this, because you might be using new construction techniques, new construction technology," Schulz says. Aside from sitting under a mountain of granite, an extremely hard rock, the base is protected by 25-ton blast doors, and some rooms sit on massive beds of springs to better absorb a blast. "It's certainly not a very secret installation, but it's well-protected."
Background: Near the hot, desolate center of Australia, just outside of Alice Springs, is the Joint Defence Space Research Facility Pine Gap. Australia and the U.S. agreed to build the compound in 1966, but desert flooding, blistering heat and a lack of paved roads slowed initial construction efforts. The site officially opened in June 1970 and has been a joint U.S./Australian operation since.
How It's Unique: Pine Gap's collection of eight or so radomes and its remote location have sparked many UFO-related rumors, both in Australia and abroad. The main function of Pine Gap is to monitor any missile activity in the region and relay intelligence to U.S. and Australian forces. Schulz points out there are certain military installations, like Pine Gap or HAARP, that can only operate effectively in certain geographical areas. "Even though they're in terrible environments, some portion of that land is strategically important," he says. In 2009, the Australian Department of Defence announced plans to upgrade antiquated equipment at the facility, indicating that Pine Gap has a long future ahead of it.
Fort Detrick, Md.:
Background: Anthrax, Ebola virus, plague and monkeypox are just a few of the deadly microbes handled by researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, commonly known as USAMRIID. Over the years, the institute has made significant contributions to the development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments that have both military and civilian applications.
How It's Unique: USAMRIID is the only Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory under the purview of the Department of Defense. Facilities like these are all about redundancies, Shulz says, and the safety requirements needed for BSL-4 certification are extensive and complex. A few of the more notable precautions include double-door airlocks, sophisticated filtration systems capable of catching microscopic particles, fumigation chambers and a completely air-tight building. According to the National Institutes of Health, many of the BSL-4 facilities build buffer corridors around the laboratories to help mitigate damage from any potential blasts.
The USAMRIID campus hosts researchers from a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), and the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), which conduct research in Biosafety level 3 and 4 laboratories. Such laboratories are required to work with dangerous pathogens, such as Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and Ebolavirus sp (Ebola).
Adams Country, PA:
Background: This notoriously cryptic facility is built under Raven Rock mountain near the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The site was birthed during the Cold War and goes by many names, including Site R and the underground Pentagon.
How It's Unique: Raven Rock Mountain Complex (RRMC) is a underground continuity of government facility built by the U.S. government in the early 1950s. It is located about 14 km (8.7 miles) east of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and 10 km (6.2 miles) north-northeast of Camp David, Maryland. It is also called the Raven Rock Military Complex, or simply Site R. Other designations and nicknames include “The Rock”, NMCC-R (National Military Command Center Reservation), ANMCC (Alternate National Military Command Center), AJCC (Alternate Joint Communications Center), “Backup Pentagon”, or “Site RT”; the latter refers to the vast array of communication towers and equipment atop the mountain. Colloquially, the facility is known as an “underground Pentagon”.
Background: Lajes Field, on the small, Portuguese-owned Terceira Island, is an important refueling station for aircraft that can't clear the Atlantic Ocean in a single shot. In 1953, the U.S. established its first presence on the island when it positioned the 1605th Air Base Wing at Lajes. Today, the 65th Air Base Wing is stationed at the facility, providing support to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and to a variety of allies.
How It's Unique: Lajes Field is on a small chunk of volcanic rock about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal, a location that can be stressful for first-time navigators. About 11 miles long from north to south, the island is not capable of supporting more than one airport, so the field is split between civilian operations and military operations. "All the military support facilities line one side of the runway, and the passenger terminal, if you will, is very small on the other side," Schulz says.
Anniston Army Depot, Alabama:
Background: The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency's Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility is one of six locations that stores chemical weapons. During the 1960s, 7 percent of U.S. chemical weapons were stashed at Anniston, including stockpiles of VX nerve-agent munitions. The Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, currently under construction, is located 50 miles east of Birmingham, Alabama, and eight miles west of Anniston. The stockpile at Anniston is maintained on 762 acres in the northeastern portion of the Anniston Army Depot, and holds 2,254 tons, or 7.4 percent of the original US stockpile of chemical weapons. Anniston's stockpile consists of cartridges, projectiles, ton containers, rockets and mines containing the nerve agents GB and VX, and the blister agent HB, more commonly referred to as or mustard agent.
How It's Unique: Operations at Anniston have shifted from storing chemical weapons to safely destroying and disposing of them. Mustard-gas-filled munitions can't just be chucked in the garbage or buried, so the facility is equipped with high-tech robotics that disassemble weapons and powerful incinerators that help destroy certain waste materials. Workers at the site have recently started using a Linear Projectile Mortar Disassembly machine—a six-axis, remote-controlled robot—to extract the explosives from mortars filled with chemical agents.
Kings Bay, Georgia:
Background: Around 1980, the Navy began overhauling Kings Bay to be the East Coast location for Ohio-class nuclear submarines, a project that took nearly a decade and cost $1.3 billion, making it the largest peacetime construction project for the Navy at the time. Spread over 16,000 acres, about a quarter of which is protected wetlands, this submarine base is the habitat of 20 threatened or endangered species.
How It's Unique: When a submarine needs a little TLC, there's not a better place than the Trident Refit Facility at Kings Bay. The 700-foot-long covered drydock, one of the largest in the world, is impressive, but what really stands out is the state of the art Magnetic Silencing Facility. The entrance of the silencing facility is designed as a drive-in, like a Jiffy Lube for Naval vessels. After a sub is in place, it is subjected to a deperming treatment, which basically erases the sub's magnetic signature, allowing it to remain as stealthy as possible during future voyages.
COMMENTARY: I wanted to add one final military facility that is glaringly missing from the above list. This is the military facility known as Area 51 (see below) a.k.a Groom Lake and Dreamland. If you ask the U.S. government about Area 51, they will tell you that it does not exist.
Fifteen miles south of Area 51 is S-4, a super-secret facility located at the base of the Papoose Mountains adjacent to the Papoose dry lakebed. Individuals with authorized access to S-4 are flown from Las Vegas to Area 51, then transported by bus over a dirt road to S-4. The windows of the bus are deliberately blackened so that passengers are unable to see the route to S-4.
The airspace over Area 51 and S-4 is highly restricted, and any pilot or aircraft that accidentally or intentionally strays into sector R 4808 N is subject to pursuit by Air Force jets scrambled for intercept, or subject to outright destruction by surface-to-air missiles.
The S-4 installation is built into the mountain, and there are nine hanger doors that are angled at about 90 degrees to match the hillside. These doors are covered with a sand-textured coating to blend-in with the sides of the mountain, amid the desert floor.
According to several S-4 informants, including Conner O'Ryan, Bob Dean, Phil Schneider (btw, the powers that be within the U.S. government probably arranged to have Phil Schnider murdered in 1996 for divulging the existence of S-4), and Bob Lazar, S-4 houses several recovered extra-terrestrial spacecraft that either crashed or were shot down.
Below are some aerial images of an underground facility located at Area 51/S-4 taken by Google Earth.
The following videos do an excellent job of describing the location of Area 51 and S-4.
Now you know where your tax dollars go.
Courtesy of an article appearing in the November 2011 issue of Popular Mechanics