Cheyenne Mountain houses one of America’s most rugged command and control centers. The entire complex is hidden under 2,000 feet of solid granite and its individual structures are located inside five acres of vast tunnels – all safely tucked away behind blast doors weighing 25 tons. The site has been a central theme in a wide variety of well-known and popular mainstream media.
Yet one of the most well-known and iconic images we’ve seen of the site to date seems to be that of the white rowboat bobbing on an underground lake deep inside the hollow mountain. Well, maybe it is. But we’re probably never going to know. That’s because the secrets of Cheyenne Mountain are only accessible to those with top secret security clearance. The rest of us mere mortals have to make do with what they allow us to know. The complex quite simply exists under a cloak of mystery, and rumors continue to circulate about what the US government could be concealing within their unbreachable mountain fortress.
10. It is the ultimate Covid bunker
The Cheyenne Mountain command and control center was originally built to withstand possible nuclear attacks on the US and Canada, however, it might have turned out that its first significant crisis is the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic. At this point in time, the base is serving as a backup to NORAD’s primary base at Peterson Air Force Base, and its key staff-compliment is living in isolation to keep the base virus-free. From separate take-home meals to using alternate entrances into the facility, any key NORAD employees are being kept entirely apart.
As the site was designed to be self-sufficient for prolonged periods of time, Cheyenne Mountain has its own power plant, ventilation and air conditioning, and water supply. These capabilities make it feasible to retain observation squads of both NORTHCOM and NORAD separated from the normal community of their risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
9. It contains 15 connected buildings and a possible “Hangar 13”
What we do know about Cheyenne Mountain’s buildings are impressive. There’s a total of 15, located 2,000 feet below the top of the mountain, starting from one mile inside of the entrance. All staff members take a bus to get to their offices, cubicles, and workstations. The office complex itself features 13 three-story and two two-story free-standing buildings that are connected by halls and rampways. Each building lies on massive springs and lies 18 inches from the rock walls in order to be able to move independently should a blast (or earthquake) occur.
At its center, the complex features a framework of six tunnels up to 40 feet wide and three stories high. What is interesting, is that NORTHCOM and NORAD occupies a mere 30% of the physical space of the site, while the workers assigned to these commands represent only 5% of the regular population of the facility under normal circumstances.
8. The HVAC system is vital to its operations
To ensure maximum indoor comfort, many people around the world make use of specific heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (or HVAC) systems to eliminate pollutants from enclosed air. The visible parts of an HVAC system are typically the huge air conditioning boxes that can be seen on top of apartment blocks and other large buildings. Although this should come as no surprise, Cheyenne Mountain’s HVAC system not only offers indoor comfort and impressive thermal control, it has also been engineered to incorporate the concepts of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.
HVAC systems are an important component when it comes to settings where humidity and temperature levels are specified by health regulations. Cheyenne Mountain has no boilers or other heating systems within the mountain, contrary to common belief, the system actually features four massive coolers designed to help the interior cool down. At any given time only two are required, so two are redundant.
7. Staff and everyday amenities
On weekdays, you can find 350 employees or staff members inside the mountain. That number goes down in the evenings and over weekends to around 130, but if necessary there is room for that number to increase dramatically during wartimes. The staff’s duties can include the monitoring of satellites and multiple screens, but you can also come across police, security personnel, medical staff, and other employees.
Cheyenne Mountain employees don’t have windows inside their offices, as granite walls are not known for their spectacular views. They do have some other perks within the mountain though, including a fitness center, spin gym, chapel, hospital, a grocery store, and much more. If you are lucky enough to come across a photo of the spin gym, you will actually notice hospital curtains on the gym-walls. That would be to give the spin-gym the ability to transform into a triage center should the need arise.
6. Lakes were carved into the mountain
Drinking and cooling water is provided by a number of underground lakes that were carved from solid rock. One of these lakes is filled with diesel and is always primed for the six, train-sized diesel generators that can generate enough power to run a small town. Fresh water is supplied by a spring that was discovered during the base’s construction, and a battery bank provides even more backup power, ensuring that the facility is never influenced by any power outages or surges.
One of the others on the complex is used for drinking water while the three other lakes are retained for commercial purposes. During peacetime, the water in the industrial lakes are used as and when needed – e.g. firefighting. Should the country be at war, the lake water becomes part of the backup heating and refrigeration system. There are also two boats on standby within the mountain so that staff can examine the lakes, pipes and the surrounding rock walls.
5. The tunnels were constructed to reduce the impact of a blast
Although the complex has several tunnels, the 2-mile long main tunnel includes a portal to the north and a portal to the south and curves its way through the mountain. This was done in part to steer clear of any gold mines in Divide, Colorado, but mostly to minimize the effect of a blast on the various government agency tenants. But more on that later.
We’ve already touched on the base’s electricity capabilities, but it is important to note that the electricity within the tunnels is 99.999 % secure. Why even mention the .999%? Because it is significant. The cables and wiring that travel through these tunnels into the various discrete nerve centers are all angled in order to remain at full capacity and not shear off should any bomb’s aftershock create the type of conditions normally associated with earthquakes
4. It features escape hatches and blast valves
The Cheyenne Mountain complex is unique in every way possible. It’s staff is always intensely aware of the super challenges they face when it comes to ventilation, smoke and occupancy, and even more so when planning for emergencies. The engineers involved in the construction and later upgrades have gone above and beyond when looking at exit strategies should an emergency arise.
Should a complete emergency situation ever arise, in which none of the other exits are available, the staff inside the Cheyenne Mountain complex can leave via tiny escape hatches, which offers crawlspaces out of the facility. Several blast valves have also been installed at the complex to maintain breathable air quality and includes filters that will purify any air coming into the base.
3. It is EMP proof
Although the mountain still retains several secrets, one of its most significant features have now taken on new meaning. Cheyenne Mountain is virtually immune to electromagnetic radiation largely attributable to the granite beneath which it is concealed. Any nuclear explosion is inevitably followed by an electromagnetic pulse and an EMP could ruin surrounding electronic devices. Including laptops, phones, radios, cameras, GPS systems, and even automobiles.
At our current point in time, data from satellites, antennas, telescopes and other surveillance equipment flow into the facility for interpretation and processing before being transferred to the various involved government agencies. The specifics around the data processing and management that takes place at the base remains highly confidential and classified. We do know, however, that the bunker is the United States’ best-secured EMP complex, and that it will function as the primary backup after a nuclear strike.
2. There are areas nobody talks about
During a rare 2018 interview, one smart journalist tested Steve Rose, the base deputy director, by asking him if the base wasn’t just a relic of days long past. The deputy director confidently stated that it couldn’t be farther from the truth and confirmed that the mountain was continuously occupied by permanent NORAD staff members as well as other commands for cyber, intelligence and space surveillance. He concluded his answer by saying, “A lot of the other areas I can’t talk about.”
NORAD scaled down its “nuclear watch” efforts in 1992 after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but the facility’s various employees continue to track possible vulnerabilities and threats to the United States on a continuous basis – including any possible threats that might originate from North Korea.
1. It hosts other secret U.S. government defense-related agencies
It is a well-known fact that numerous other U.S. government agencies have offices within the mountain, however, most of them may not be identified or discussed and their activities are highly classified. Who these agencies are and how many staff they have inside the mountain might in fact be very significant as only one-third of the floor space inside the facility is used by NORAD and USNORTHCOM, a figure which comprises a mere 5% of Cheyenne Mountain’s daily population. The U.S. Air Force uses the remaining two-thirds of the complex for classified operations.
From published photographs, we can see that the formal entrance to the underground base contains the emblems of NORAD, the U.S. Northern Command, the Air Force Space Command, and the U.S. Strategic Command. But the few journalists that have ventured inside have complained that almost everything, from computer screens to keyboards were covered during their visits and that most of their photographs would be deleted after a tour of the facility. Despite all its mysteries, we can firmly state that Cheyenne Mountain is currently the host of far more DOD agencies than they would like us to know.