Cheyenne Mountain bunker: All you need to know about the Cold War fortress currently housing army top brass
The military has put a team at the Cold War bunker to save itself from the deadly claws of coronavirus
With the coronavirus outbreak spreading like a wildfire in the US, a part of the US Army’s Northern Command in charge of homeland security has decided to isolate itself at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker in Colorado. American has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the moment (103,321) while its death toll is 1,668, according to WHO.
Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, head of US Northern Command and NORAD, said in a Facebook Live town hall on March 23: “To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well.”
“Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland,” he said.
The military is not immune from the pandemic and only watertight isolation can protect them from getting the disease. In case any of the staff members working at the bunker falls sick, there is a team of high-ranking military officials working at another secret location.
Cheyenne Mountain Complex: 'America's Fortress'
The Cheyenne Mountain Complex or ‘America’s Fortess’ is a hardened command and control site, most of which is located inside the mountain. It is part of the Rocky Mountains’ front range and situated outside the Colorado Springs.
Between 1965 and 2006, the site served as the NORAD’s primary command and control center. Between 1985 and 2002, it was also home to the US Space Command. The site has featured in a number of films, ranging from 'WarGames' (1983) to 'Interstellar' (2014). The complex was completed on February 8, 1966 — at a time when the Cold War was at its peak and the US needed to protect its defense from a possible nuclear attack from the erstwhile Soviet Union.
NORTHCOM and NORAD have used the Cheyenne Mountain Complex for some other functions since 2006, including monitoring incoming ballistic missiles and tracking space objects. Its facilities have been upgraded a number of times over the past decade. Five years ago, NORTHCOM and NORAD shifted various communications functions from Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County back into the complex over potential electromagnetic pulses threat.
The bunker is an underground city that has a mini hospital, small chapel, dining and a gym. The hidden facility is in fact termed as the nervous system of the US defense which sends signals to the brain (the decision-makers) to act on matters of security.
The bunker is located 2,100 feet under the Cheyenne Mountain and can be shut down with two massive blast doors made of concrete and steel ― each more than three feet thick and weighing 21 metric tons. The heart of the complex features a grid of six tunnels up to 40 feet wide and height measuring three stories. They hold together 15 connected buildings that are made of steel plates and ride on gigantic coil springs that can absorb the shock of a nuclear blast or earthquake.
The granite and steel protect the electronics from the destructive pulses caused by electro-magnetic energy that nuclear explosions can produce. The bunker is considered to be capable of withstanding even a powerful modern-day nuclear attack.
NORTHCOM and NORAD, however, occupy only 30 percent of the complex's physical space while the personnel assigned to those commands constitute just five percent of the day-to-day population within the facility under normal conditions, said a report in The Drive.
But why in Colorado? Associated Press cited NORAD deputy historian Brian Laslie as saying that the military put NORAD in the Centennial State since it is located deep inside the territory, away from the former USSR’s bomber bases and missile launchers.