2018 is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Because of the expansion of the organization, since 2006, the headquarters has been working at the nearby Peterson Air Force Base. However, once the crisis is imminent, thousands of workers will be transferred to the reinforcements in the mountains, hoping that 762 meters of granite can protect them from the end of the world.
The foyer behind the blast door was empty, with a plastic Christmas tree decorated with silver toys and red stockings. In peacetime, the gates are usually open and open. The intention of this design is that if a nuclear explosion occurs, the shock wave will pass through the open tunnel and automatically push the gate to ensure that the people in the base can survive.
Then pass through an explosion-proof door and there is a huge cave. There is a folding bed, compressed dry food, and a pile of unnamed materials in the wooden box next to it. “We have everything we need in wartime,” Rose said.
On May 12, 1958, the United States and Canada signed an agreement to jointly fight the Soviet threat. The Xiayan Mountain complex began construction immediately and was completed in eight years. Today, the North American Aerospace Defense Command shares the mountain with the North American Command and 10 other agencies.
Walking into the bunker, the air here is warm, refreshing and humid, as if from the tropics. “This is the cleanest air in the world.” Ross said that the ventilation system is equipped with dozens of nuclear biochemical filters and explosion-proof valves that ensure safe air supply even if fatal radioactive fallouts fall.
For more than half a century, the role of the Cheyenne Mountain base has changed dramatically. At first, the first task of the Aerospace Defense Command was to monitor North American airspace in case the Soviet bombers struck from the North Pole. In the late 1960s, ballistic missiles became the main delivery tool for nuclear weapons, so they turned their attention to space. After the “9.11 incident” in 2001, the Aerospace Defense Command further expanded its terms of reference. With the growing threat of terrorism and cyber threats, today it monitors everything from unruly passengers on commercial flights to boats sailing from the Caribbean to the US coast.
There are too many secrets hidden in the depths of the granite
There are 13 three-storey buildings and two two-storey buildings in the Xiayanshan base, covering an area of about 20,000 square meters. In order to give them a place to live, the military removed nearly 700,000 tons of granite with 1.5 million tons of explosives.
Entering Building 1, the exterior wall is welded with 0.9 mm thick steel plates. “I am the captain of this underground aircraft carrier.” Ross said in a serious way that the layout and design of the base was inspired by the field of ship engineering. Of course, the outer wall of the steel plate also has an important function: to shield the electromagnetic pulse generated by the nuclear explosion, which will damage the computer; the latest threat in this area is the “electromagnetic pulse bomb”, which can destroy the electronic equipment throughout the block.
Standing on the springboard between the buildings, you can see the foundations of all the buildings: 1311 springs of 1.22 meters high are neatly arranged. Their role is to absorb seismic waves accompanying nuclear explosions with a maximum tolerated magnitude of 6 on the Richter scale. Ross said: “When the whole mountain is swaying, we believe that the facility itself can survive.”
The clocks that can be seen everywhere in the command center, with the eight highest priority being placed horizontally on a low wall, also marked the time around the world – Moscow, Alaska, Pacific, Rocky Mountain… It should be recently, this A new area has been added to the wall – North Korea.
Most people don’t realize that Canadians account for at least one-third of North American Air Defense Defense staff. “Not many people know that there are so many Canadians protecting the United States,” Moren said. The North American Aerospace Defense Command and the US Northern Command brought together 1,700 military and civilian personnel from the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard…and even the US Federal Aviation Administration. Moren, for example, is like “a lot of tribes living together.”
Once the North American Aerospace Defense Command confirmed that there were missiles or enemy aircraft, the US Northern Command would step in and alert the Pentagon and the White House. How long does it take to find the target and notify the president? The answer is not standard, but it is always the fastest response to the partner: “No matter whether it is a forest fire, a Chinese submarine, a Russian plane, a North Korean missile, a cyber attack, or a plague outbreak, our calls will not be blocked.”
Within the reach of human imagination, the US Northern Command simulates a variety of possible emergencies and conducts more than 100 exercises per year. If a forest fire or other natural disaster is discovered, they will notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other civil departments to carry out their work. Major infectious diseases will be handled by the US Department of Health and Human Services. As for cyber attacks, usually led by the US National Security Agency, the Northern Command plays a supporting role.
Power is stable and water is abundant
Leaving Building 1, you can see in a room called the “Industrial Support Zone” that the rough granite outer wall is firmly supported by 115,000 steel columns that prevent landslides. Wearing a helmet, the first stop is the generator area. If the public power line is down, the 6 generators and 1500 batteries will come in handy in a few minutes.
About 500,000 gallons (about 1,800 tons) of diesel are stored in the oil depot in the granite gap. The power supply system is the lifeblood of the two commands. An atomic bomb or even a hacker can paralyze the entire country’s power grid, but in Cheyenne, lights, computers and the necessary electronics will function within a few months of the collapse of the outside world. Ross said that the mountain’s electricity supply is very stable and reliable, and the lights on the mountain have not flashed for 15 years.
People in the base are not worried about water shortage. In the deepest part of the industrial support area, there is a reservoir that is as large as a football field and 13.7 meters deep. It is also dug out of the granite. Probably a prank, someone put two plastic ducks in the pool and lived in dim light. There is also a kayak on the water for maintenance. There are 6 million gallons (about 22,000 tons) of water in this pool, enough for 250 people for one year. Even if the reservoir is dry, there is still no drought in the bunker – during the construction process, the workers excavated a natural spring that produces 500 tons of drinking water a day.
Invasion drill, 4 days a week
Every week, the two headquarters will hold a four-day exercise to deal with a variety of invasions. Colonel Moren explained: “We are engaged in real-life training.” Specific methods include sending small planes to invade Alaska, the United States, or Canada’s airspace. Not everyone will realize that this is training, so they will even launch emergency operations in the real world and dispatch fighters to intercept uninvited guests.
Russell Mullins is the deputy squadron leader of the 721 Communications Squadron and has been working at the Cheyenne Mountain Base since 1984. “The standard workflow doesn’t exist here,” he said. “You may encounter cyber threats for a while and process the data for a while. There are also some state-level exercises that require you to stay in the mountains for a few days and stay overnight for hundreds of meters.”
The more changes in the geopolitical field, the more things in the Cheyenne Mountains remain unchanged. Although many new institutions have moved to the ground, core assets, including supercomputers, remain in the depths of the ground and are connected to the Peterson base via fiber optic cables. “The Soviet Union was replaced by a small country with nuclear weapons. The world map has changed, but as long as anyone tries to threaten us, we must continue to monitor. We have no room for making mistakes in the past, and we still haven’t.” Marins stressed.
For 60 years, it has been operating silently in this way, just as the motto printed on the banner in the Cheyenne Mountain base: “We are staring at anything.”