World militaries have a strange function in society these days, having to be both present and visible yet secretive and under the radar in many regards. We all know the military exists, but what they do is often so under wraps they’ll deny doing it even when people can see them doing it. Case in point: Area 51. The Nevada base is highly classified and the CIA only admitted the base was a real thing in 2013, despite the fact people could literally go there and see it. So we take it with a grain of salt these days that the military, in the US and abroad, will engage in not just clandestine missions, but build bases that the rest of us aren’t supposed to know about. Here are 10 of the most interesting.
10. Pine Gap
For a secret base, an awful lot of people know about the joint US and Australian base called Pine Gap. That’s mostly thanks to the fact there’s an actual TV show called Pine Gap. Developed in the 1960s as a joint operation between the two countries and given the ambiguously vague name “Joint Defense Space Research Facility,” Pine Gap was built in the Australian Outback away from prying eyes.
In the ‘60s, the base was used to spy on Soviet missiles and these days it still has control over a number of spy satellites. As far as people know that’s what still goes on but it doesn’t get much more clear than that. Even former Australian Prime Ministers weren’t informed about what happens on the base.
Edward Snowden’s data leak in 2013 included information on Pine Gap and how the base and its satellite network helped guide drone strikes in Iraq and elsewhere during the War on Terror. Additionally, it has been a hub of surveillance, spying on targets in Asia.
That’s what we know about Pine Gap today, and odds are there’s plenty that we still don’t know.
9. Porton Down
Across the pond, the British secret base known officially as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory is located at Porton Down. There are other facilities on the site, even commercial science labs, but it is the DSTL that interested most people. Formed back in 1916 as the War Department Experimental Station, this was where chemical weapons were tested.
In modern times the site still does research into chemical weapons but also diseases. The site researches things like ebola and anthrax as well as deadly nerve agents. Officially, according to the British government, Porton Down does no research into chemical or biological weapons anymore. Those British programs were said to have ended in the 1950s. That said, as a countermeasure to other people developing chemical and biological weapons, the facility does develop them in small quantities for research purposes in an effort to counteract those weapons.
8. Area 6
Everyone knows about Area 51 but not everyone knows that it isn’t just a cool, random number and there are a multitude of other “capital A” Areas in Nevada as well, most of which were nuclear test sites back in the day. You can find a quick breakdown of Areas 1 through 30 on Wikipedia, even. But while this breakdown is fairly limited in scope and just lists every single site as having been the location of nuclear tests back in the day, there’s more to it than all that. For instance, there’s Area 6.
Located just 12 miles from the infamous Area 51, Area 6 is home to a mysterious landing strip visible on Google Earth that indicates there’s obviously more than just nuclear tests from the 1950s going on here. A spokesman from the National Nuclear Security Administration said that the DoD and DHS use the area to test sensors. That means conducting drone tests, but that’s about the extent of what is publicly known about the facility.
7. Dugway Proving Ground
Spanning 800,000 acres of Utah desert, an area the size of Rhode Island, the Dugway Proving Grounds is as massive as it is mysterious.The facility dates back to 1942 when it was established to test biological and chemical weapons. The stated purpose of the facility is essentially the same as that of Porton Down in the UK. They test chemical and biological weapons to develop countermeasures against them.
The site is also used by the US Army Reserve and National Guard as a training grounds which is part of the reason it’s so enormous, and the US Air Force conducts test flights there as well.
Those who lean more towards the outlandish think there’s a lot more going on at Dugway and it’s been dubbed, at least in some circles, the New Area 51. The base opened its doors to the media for the first time in 2018 to potentially quell some of the rumors and conspiracy theories, but obviously the reveal was very controlled and only a small portion of the massive base was revealed.
6. Kapustin Yar
If Russia has an Area 51, this is it. Both in terms of alien conspiracy theories and in terms of secrecy. This was their most top secret air base and the place that Laika, the dog that became the first living thing ever to orbit the planet, was launched from. On the weirder side, former employees have alleged that there are underground labs where alien’ autopsies occur and alien craft are tested. To get some idea of how serious this alien business is, here’s a New York Times article about an alien crash that occurred near the base. Does that mean an alien ship crashed there? No. But someone sure reported that one did.
The existence of the site wasn’t even confirmed by the Soviet government until 1983, decades after the site had been built. It had been used not just for rocket launches and test flights but low-yield nuclear tests. Most of the facility is located underground and to this day no one outside of those involved with the base really knows what goes on there or even how much base is located under the ground.
5. South China Sea Bases
Located mostly in the Spratley Islands and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese government engaged in a seriously impressive effort of dredging and island building, constructing 3,200 acres of new land. There are numerous facilities spread across the area used for radar, missile launches, and helicopters. More than that, they announced plans in 2016 to build an underwater base 10,000 feet below the surface. Why announce something like that if it’s a secret base? Why, indeed.
Those who fly too close to the bases are warned to leave immediately by Chinese forces so the precise goings-on at the bases are really just left to speculation and what the government is willing to tell the world since there is no way to get to them as isolated as they are. In fact, the nature of the bases is so mysterious it’s not fully known whether they are strictly military, they’re for controlling trade routes, or even if they’re being used to control natural gas and oil rights. Whatever their ultimate purpose, they are well-armed with surface-to-air missiles and ground-launched missile systems.
Few military bases have reached the heights of conspiracy theories around them as much as the High Frequency Active Auroral Frequency Program, or HAARP has. In fact, this base may even outdo Area 51 for sheer volume of conspiracies about the nature of what goes on there, and it’s technically not even a military base anymore.
Located in Alaska, HAARP was an ionospheric research facility run jointly by the Air Force, the Navy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and everyone’s favorite hub of conspiracy fodder, DARPA. It’s that last one that probably made so many people start to question what was happening at HAARP.
The stated goal of HAARP was to research ways to improve communication and surveillance technology by analyzing the ionosphere. One of the main conspiracies about the facility is that it was designed to weaponize the weather. Hugo Chavez once accused the facility of causing the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Other conspiracy theories claim that the facility has the capability to burn the sky, cause floods, hurricanes, and droughts. It’s also been accused of developing mind control technology, chronic fatigue syndrome, Gulf War Syndrome, causing plane crashes and power outages. It can flip the Earth’s poles and even trap human souls.
As goofy as these conspiracies may sound, people take them seriously. That last one about trapping souls was a claim made by two men who were arrested on drug charges and found to be plotting a massive terrorist attack on the facility in 2016. The men had numerous weapons and thousands of rounds of ammo they were going to use because God told them to free the trapped souls at HAARP.
3. Dulce Base
The moment people learn about a base that’s secret, the first conspiracy to be floated about it is that it houses aliens. Welcome to New Mexico’s Dulce base, another hub of extraterrestrial involvement.
The town the base is named for, Dulce, has a population of just over 2,700. Word is they don’t even have a traffic light in town, it’s so small. But the base isn’t in the town. It’s under the ground. A New Mexico businessman blew the lid off of the alien conspiracy back in 1979, believing he had been intercepting alien communications around the same time a former state trooper began documenting animal mutilations in the area.
A former explosive engineer with security clearance said he helped in the construction of the facility and while he was there, he witnessed a straight up battle between humans and aliens, so take from that what you will. The town of Dulce has been home to numerous UFO sightings over the years as well.
As for the official word from the US government on Dulce, they don’t have one. Dulce doesn’t exist in any official or even unofficial capacity. No one has ever proven there’s a base anywhere in the area so if it exists, it’s incredibly well hidden.
2. Raven Rock Mountain
Known as Site R, the Raven Rock Mountain Complex is a poorly kept secret located in Pennsylvania and basically where control of the military would head in the event of nuclear war. They call it the Underground Pentagon and it was built to keep the whole machine running below ground if everything above ground was destroyed.
The facility is dug out of a mountain, a half mile in and a half mile down. It has a power plant, water reservoirs, three-story buildings carved into the rock, and room for 2,000. There’s infrastructure for having its own police and fire departments as well as a cafeteria to serve everyone. Essentially it’s a city inside a mountain and it’s still the go to location for high-ranking officials should the world fall into chaos.
The facility runs all day, every day and you have to assume that there’s a lot going on no one knows about since it’s planned to be the center of US power in the event of catastrophe. The existence is far from a secret though and it’s so well known you can even visit the facility in the world of Fallout video games.
1. Mount Yamantau and Mezhgorye
Deep in the Ural Mountains of Russia you’ll find Mount Yamantau which the US government is pretty sure is home to a top secret Russian base, equivalent to Cheyenne Mountain. Surveillance and eyewitnesses in the 1990s attested to a massive undertaking in the mountains that had apparently started during the reign of Brezhnev.
The official explanation from Russia about what goes on at Yamantau is about as unhelpful as it gets. They have at different times claimed it’s just a mining site, a storage facility for food or treasure, or a place for Russian officials to wait out a nuclear apocalypse.
A hop, skip, and a jump from Yamantau is the town of Mezhgorye, which is a closed city. You can’t visit this place unless the government gives you permission. That’s just as well since it doesn’t exist on maps, even though 17,000 people live there according to a census. But why would you take a census of a secret town? Military battalions are stationed there and between it and Yamantau there are supposed to be a whole underground facility and nuclear test sites in the area.