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Take a Journey Into The Fortified Superbunker Now Used As A Line Of Defense Against ‘North Korea’s Nukes’

With tensions rising around the world, this bunker's relevant again

We’ve seen immense technological leaps forward in weapons and defense systems, but when it comes to withstanding a catastrophic attack, there’s nothing quite like 2,500 feet of granite to make you feel safe and secure.

For this very reason, a “superbunker” in Cheyenne Mountain—near Colorado Springs, Colorado—is as relevant once again as it was following its construction in the 1960s. Since the term superbunker probably doesn’t mean much to anyone, let’s call this thing what it really is: a massive subterranean defense complex constructed to keep systems operational and people alive in the event of any number of catastrophic events, diplomatic or otherwise.


Civilians aren’t allowed near the complex, much less in the complex, so we’ve largely relied on films and our imaginations to visualize just what this place, often called simply Cheyenne Mountain Complex could entail.

NORAD

But recently, a Wired reporter, Sarah Scoles, was invited in to take a rare look at what goes on in this relic of the Cold War that suddenly got a lot more interesting in past few years.

During her tour of the facility, it became clear that the defense against today’s doomsday threats is virtually no different than it was 50 years ago. The threat on everyone’s mind is nuclear weapons, though they’re most often contemplated to be weapons of North Korea rather than those of the Soviet Union/Russia as it was during the Cold War. Scoles says the most common hypothetical used for an emergency during her stay was nonspecific “North Korean nukes” that would put everyone at the mythologized DEFCON 1.

All the “buildings” inside the complex sit on springs to absorb blasts, the pipes and conduits bend for the same reason, and the first line of defense is a pair of giant blast doors that are kept open these days, but sealed shut and locked when things get hairy. The last time the complex was closed for a nonexercise was September 11, 2001.

The facility, like a submarine, exists almost solely for purpose of intense isolation. The staff doesn’t freely come and go. As such, the mental toll of working in a cave can be great. That toll is compounded immensely in the event that something terrible happens in the outside world, and your job becomes that much more real. For these reasons, the facility has ample mental health resources, as well as a chapel and a chaplain on hand to help people work through the stress of being selected as some of the last survivors should something go bad.

Today, some of the features that were designed to withstand a doomsday scenario—such as nonnetworked communications that continue to function internally—now serve as assets in the battle against cyber terrorism, which remains the predominant threat against the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

While the facility may not feel as vital or necessary as it did in the height of the Cold War, there’s always a threat somewhere. With the talk of nuclear testing, proliferation, and a new Cold War more frequent than it’s been in years, this site continues to serve as our last line of defense, against those same enemies and new ones.

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