The World's 18 Strangest Military Bases
The world's hodgepodge of military bases run the gamut from hazardous mountaintop forts to seemingly impenetrable underground bunkers. Then there are bases on remote islands tracking objects in deep space and high-tech laboratories probing the most lethal microbes in existence. The design of a base needs to address the immediate needs of a military while still being versatile enough to remain useful as threats and technology evolve.
THULE AIR BASE
Thule Air Base sits within 800 miles of the Arctic Circle, making it the northernmost U.S. military installation. Among the many challenges posed by the region's climate is that the base's port is only accessible for three months each year, so major supplies need to be shipped during the summer. The base may be frozen and remote, but the 12th Space Warning Squadron operates an early warning system for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles from Thule, while the 21st Space Wing is in charge of space surveillance operations.
Dugway Proving Ground
Great Salt Lake Desert, Utah
Within two months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt set aside the first 127,000 acres of Dugway Proving Ground in Utah's Great Salt Lake Desert. Over the past 60 years, the site has expanded to nearly 800,000 acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia BIOT, Chagos Archipelago
This joint U.S. and U.K. operation is situated on a tiny atoll about 1000 miles from India and tasked with providing logistical support to forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
How It's Unique: "There's a certain amount of logistical difficulty" with ultra-remote facilities like Diego Garcia, Schulz says, and shipping materials can be costly. Diego Garcia's remoteness, though, allows it to be a key hub for tracking satellites, and it is one of five monitoring stations for GPS. Additionally, the island is one of only a handful of locations equipped with a Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance system for tracking objects in deep space. As an atoll, the land itself is rather oddly shaped, too. From end to end, Diego Garcia is 34 miles long, but its total area is only 11 square miles.
I've actually been to this place - S.L.
HAARP Research Station
HAARP, or the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a collaborative project involving the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army and the University of Alaska. Researchers at the facility use a powerful high-frequency transmitter and an array of 180 antennas to temporarily disrupt the ionosphere in hopes of yielding potential communications and surveillance benefits.
Forward Logistics Base
Siachen Glacier, Kashmir
For more than 25 years, India and Pakistan have been battling for control of the nearly 50-mile-long Siachen Glacier. Both sides have set up military installations in the imposing Karakoram range, where 3-mile-high mountain peaks are the norm.
Cheyenne Mountain Complex
Cheyenne Mountain Complex Air Force Station, Colorado
This iconic underground base has been inspiring science fiction writers and awing engineers since 1966. Located nearly a half mile under a granite mountain, the labyrinthine facility is run by Air Force Space Command. The base earned its place in pop culture when the television version of Stargate made Cheyenne Mountain the HQ of cosmic time travel.
Devil's Tower Camp
Certain geographic locations will never lose their strategic importance. Case in point: Gibraltar. British control of the territory dates back to 1713, when Spain ceded the land in the Treaty of Utrecht. Nowadays, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment watches over the territory from its Devil's Tower Camp headquarters.
Joint Defence Space Research Facility Pine Gap
Near the hot, desolate center of Australia, just outside of Alice Springs, is the Joint Defence Space Research Facility Pine Gap. Australia and the U.S. agreed to build the compound in 1966, but desert flooding, blistering heat and a lack of paved roads slowed initial construction efforts. The site officially opened in June 1970 and has been a joint U.S./Australian operation since.
U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
Fort Detrick, Maryland
Anthrax, Ebola virus, plague and monkeypox are just a few of the deadly microbes handled by researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, commonly known as USAMRIID. Over the years, the institute has made significant contributions to the development of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments that have both military and civilian applications.
Naval Air Station Jacksonville
The new Hangar 511 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville is the largest hangar in the Navy's inventory, capable of storing 33 P3-C Orions, four C-130 Hercules and a helicopter unit. In the coming years, the hangar will be instrumental in housing the P-8 Poseidon and its 120-foot wingspan.
Raven Rock Mountain Complex
Adams Country, Pennsylvania
This notoriously cryptic facility is built under Raven Rock mountain near the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The site was birthed during the Cold War and goes by many names, including Site R and the underground Pentagon.
Temporary Deployable Accommodations
Iraq and Afghanistan
Temporary Deployable Accommodations, or TDAs, are the brainchild of global engineering firm KBR. These on-the-fly facilities can be large enough to host 600 troops and take less than a month to set up.
Edwards Air Force Base
America's first jet, the Bell P-59, made its debut flight on Oct. 1, 1942 at Muroc Dry Lake, now known as Edwards Air Force Base. A mere six years later, at the same site, Chuck Yeager busted through the sound barrier in a Bell X-1, marking the first time an aircraft had traveled faster than the speed of sound. Today, Edwards is home to the Air Force Flight Test Center and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, both of which are molding the future of aviation.
Lajes Field, on the small, Portuguese-owned Terceira Island, is an important refueling station for aircraft that can't clear the Atlantic Ocean in a single shot. In 1953, the U.S. established its first presence on the island when it positioned the 1605th Air Base Wing at Lajes. Today, the 65th Air Base Wing is stationed at the facility, providing support to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and to a variety of allies.
I've been here, too - S.L.
Nellis Air Force Base
Nellis AFB, Nevada
Nellis Air Force Base is a revered training facility and the location of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center. The base has been operational since the 1940s.
Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility
Anniston Army Depot, Alabama
The U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency's Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility is one of six locations that stores chemical weapons. During the 1960s, 7 percent of U.S. chemical weapons were stashed at Anniston, including stockpiles of VX nerve-agent munitions.
Defence Training Estate Salisbury Plain
The now defunct British War Office started snatching up land in this region of southern England back in 1897. Salisbury, location of the contentious Imber Live Firing Range, is still used regularly to put Royal Marines through the wringer.
Naval Submarine Base
Kings Bay, Georgia
Around 1980, the Navy began overhauling Kings Bay to be the East Coast location for Ohio-class nuclear submarines, a project that took nearly a decade and cost $1.3 billion, making it the largest peacetime construction project for the Navy at the time. Spread over 16,000 acres, about a quarter of which is protected wetlands, this submarine base is the habitat of 20 threatened or endangered species.