Dotted across the globe are many military bases in all stages of use and disrepair, from the Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania or the impregnable German Flak Towers. One would think the high cost of construction, camouflage and staffing them would ensure they’d stay open for long, it’s not always the case. There have been multi-billion dollar bases opened for less than a week!
Others are so hidden that you can’t even pinpoint their location using Google Maps. Even when they have been decommissioned, they remain some of the most inaccessible places on Earth. While some bases have one function, to house soldiers, others do much more.
Area 51 is supposedly the most secret military installation in the world and the center of secret UFO research. It’s also been described as a ‘home for visiting aliens’, a test ground for time travel, weather control, teleportation etc. No one’s really sure, as nobody is allowed in.
While you think of ways to get in, here are 12 other cool yet strange military bases from around the world.
12. Siachen Glacier
This military base also doubles as a battle ground for India and Pakistan. Located six hours north of Jammu and Kashmir, it serves as the base camp for the Indian Army. But for the past 41 years, Pakistan has also laid claim to the same remote patch of land.
The Siachen Glacier is located at a height of over 21,000 feet, with the Indian Army holding two-thirds of the glacier and controlling two of three important passes up the mountain. The base is constantly buffeted by 100 mph winds; snowstorms in Siachen can last up to three weeks with temperatures dipping below −50 °C. The thin, oxygen-depleted air also causes speech problems, nausea and depression.
Till date, more soldiers have died from avalanches, exposure and altitude sickness than enemy bullets. Siachen is also one of the most expensive bases to maintain, with outposts costing India and Pakistan, $300 and $200 million+, respectively.
11. Olavsvern Naval Base
When Olavsvern was first built during the Cold War, it was a marvel of engineering that was likened to a Bond villain’s lair. Carved directly into the mountains, the base had a submarine dry dock with direct access to the sea. It also had nearly 150,000 sq ft of buildings with another 270,000 sq ft of bombproof space inside the mountain.
With such a time (three decades) and cost investment (around $500 million), one would think this is one of those assets that would last forever, right? But in 2011, after years of disuse, it was sold for $18 million. The buying firm said it would be used as a maintenance base for oil rig platforms.
But after the sale, the new buyer started renting out the facility to the very Russians that it was built to protect Norway from. Talk about a strategic blunder! Now Russian ‘research’ ships and planes can legally violate Norwegian airspace; they’ve been accused of causing multiple near mid-air collisions.
10. The Pyramid of North Dakota
With the looming threat of ICBM attacks in the 1950s, the USA developed the Safeguard Program. This was a US Army anti-ballistic missile system that worked by tracking incoming missiles and shooting them down with surface-to-air missiles.
Costing six billion dollars to build, the building that housed the radar system had dishes embedded on each side, providing a 360 degree ‘view’. This coverage allowed it to detect missiles from a distance of 1,100 km.
The massive pyramid with the apex lopped off, reminded many of the ancient pyramids of Egypt and Asia. The base also consisted of miles of tunnels snaking beneath the surface. The choice of architecture and secrecy surrounding the construction led many to speculate that the facility had a more sinister purpose than simply tracking ICBMs. Inexplicably the base was shut down and the tunnels flooded, after being operational for only THREE days, in 1975.
Today, the remnants of the pyramid still tower over Nekoma in what has been described as “a monument to man’s fear and ignorance.”
9. Yulin Naval Base
Off the coast of Chinese resort island, Hainan lies a number of underwater tunnels. These are used to guide Chinese submarines into a vast underground naval base, beneath the surface of the South China Sea.
Borrowing from the Navy’s Rock-Site Concept, the Chinese military created several undersea installations using a technique developed for the mining and petroleum industry. By establishing permanent manned installations under the surface, vessels can arrive and leave without being seen.
The base was built in absolute secrecy, and in record time. Safe to say, a few governments were panicked when they learned of its existence. The vast tunnel entrances leading into what is believed to be huge caverns, where up to 20 nuclear submarines can dock and be deployed stealthily.
8. Bagram Airfield
Despite the withdrawal of forces and downsizing of military bases in Afghanistan, Bagram Airfield still remains the largest U.S. military base in the region. The base is comprised of different combat units including the Combined Joint Task Force 10th Mountain Division (CJTF-10), the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps etc. They also work alongside bureaucrats, logisticians and thousands of civilian contractors.
At one point, the base was home to over 40,000 troops and contractors. It was like any small US town, complete with traffic jams, commercial shops etc. Because the site was so self-contained, many of the ‘residents’ never even ventured out into the real Afghanistan.
But being massive isn’t the only thing Bagram is famous for. Security analysts claim that the extent of torture carried out on the base exceeded that of Guantanamo Bay. One interpreter described Guantanamo as ‘paradise’ when compared to Bagram.
7. Raven Rock Mountain Complex
Part emergency bunker, part weather-monitoring station, part Presidential bolthole, Raven Rock installation is also referred to as the ‘Backup Pentagon.’ During the Cold War, Raven Rock Mountain Complex was built for Pentagon officials to hold out in case of bombardment and radioactive fallout.
The bunker is buried inside a Pennsylvania mountain, six miles north of Camp David. The entire complex is inaccessible to the public with security so tight, that conspiracy theorists speculate there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Talk about prepping, but to the nth degree; there are plans underway to build a tunnel from Site R to the Pentagon. That’s a distance of around 157 km!
6. Nellis Air Force Base
Operational since the 1940s, Nellis was primarily a training facility for the USAF, but in 2007, it took on a few extra roles. The sprawling base is spread over 11,300 acres, allowing it to host more military schools and squadrons than any other USAF base. It’s so large that, the United States Geological Survey names five different locations for the base: the actual air base, the attached airfield, a post office, a Community College of Southern Nevada campus and a census-designated place.
With so much space available, the base (in partnership with MMA Renewable Ventures) set up North America’s largest solar energy plant. On a 140 acre plot, a 15-megawatt plant was inaugurated in December 2007.
The plant helped reduce the cost of the energy used by the base and the surrounding community, to the tune of $1 million per annum. The cost savings were significant enough to warrant another photo-voltaic farm named Nellis II launching in March 2015. This would provide 19 megawatts of to the base, making it the largest photo-voltaic system in the Department of Defense.
5. Diego Garcia
In 1965, the US government decided they needed a military base in the Indian Ocean. The island of Diego Garcia seemed just right, and it had already been colonized by the British. The native population of a few thousand didn’t faze the super powers.
The Brits simply came up with a law that made it ‘illegal’ for civilians to live there. The island population was rounded up and transported to the Seychelles. Their pet dogs that were left behind were shot, then fed poison; those that survived were eventually gassed.
The island is perfectly positioned between to act as a central node for the U.S. Military. It currently serves as a co-ordination point for during the Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan even the current bombing campaign of IS.
Till date, no journalist has been allowed to land on the island; it’s also been used as a CIA “black site” for holding suspected terrorists. The secrecy around this base has fueled speculations that this is where Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, ended up.
4. The HAARP Research Station
HAARP stations are used to analyze the ionosphere, the part of the upper atmosphere from around 85 km above the surface of the Earth to 600 km up. By sending radio beams into the ionosphere and studying the responses from it, scientists (and the U.S. military) hope to understand the role of the atmosphere in transmitting radio signals.
But with the Gakona Alaska base consisting of an array of 180 antennas, and the heavy military presence in the area, conspiracy theories have emerged about their ‘actual’ use. The equipment has been suspected for use as a death beam, the cause of tsunamis, even as a weapon for mind control. The fact that the results of the ‘experiments’ are never published, simply fuels the speculation.
Even Jesse Ventura tried to force his way past the Gakona gates, on one episode of “Conspiracy Theory,” but to no avail. After spending $300 million and 20 years to build the facility, the DoD closed it down in 2014. In June 2015, the facility was re-opened but transferred over to University of Alaska Fairbanks
3. Kwajalein Atoll
As one of the lesser known U.S. Pacific island bases, the Kwajalein Atoll is not as highly rated as, say, Guam. However, it played a key role in ballistic missile testing, is and even in helping to spur the technology that led to the internet.
The atoll is made up of almost 97 islands; the U.S. currently leases 11 of them. The lagoon in the middle offers a splashdown point for re-entry vehicles, there is almost no shipping traffic or radio interference to disrupt the tests. This ‘isolation’ extends to the island that houses the main launch facility, Meck; it doesn’t have any residential facilities. This means anyone who’s working at the facility must commute; a 40 km journey from Kwajalein Island everyday.
Fun Fact: When the military campaigns ended, airplanes, jeeps and other equipment were deemed too costly to transport back to the USA, so most of it was dumped in Kwajalein’s lagoon. This has developed into a ‘junkyard’ for scuba divers.
2. Secret Drone Base
Weird name, I know, but this base was only discovered by chance; a researcher was poring over satellite images of ta section of desert in Saudi Arabia. They were surprised to find a U.S. military base, far off the beaten track.
When you think about it, it kinda makes sense. Even with the developments in drone technology, flying them long-distance is still a problem. To combat this, America is building mini air bases for the UAVs. This secret drone base, hidden in the desert of Saudi, is capable of carrying out strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliates in nearby Yemen.
But it just seemed to show up out of nowhere. In 2010, the Globe, a provider of commercial photos, flew a satellite over the area; no base. In 2012, the satellite made another pass only to find a full-functioning military base there. The base is equipped with three “clamshell” hangars that are used to hold drones in the USA, two runways to launch and land drones on and a larger third run way for regular planes.
The region is described as ‘Hell,’ as it is miles from the nearest highway. Until 2012, there were no roads there, which led security analysts to speculate that the road was built solely because of the base. They describe it as a ‘major logistics feat’.
1. Eareckson Air Station
In one of the most barren areas of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, is the island of Shemya, home of the Eareckson Air Station. Shemya sits 1,900 km west of Anchorage and is so isolated that the Air Force doesn’t bother keeping personnel on it permanently.
In 1977, the island was home to the Cobra Dane ballistic missile radar. It was an early warning system used to gather intelligence in support of the SALT II arms limitation treaty.But these days, the Cobra Dane system is considered obsolete. But the Pentagon doesn’t have any plans to scrap the radar system.
They keep the air station open and use it as a refueling station, even repaving the 10,000 ft runway in 2010. This has allowed Eareckson to be used as an emergency airfield for any flights that run into problems between North America and Asia.
In July, a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong had to make an emergency landing on Shemya, when the crew detected smoke.
Looks like old military bases still have some use after all.