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Cheyenne Mountain, a mountain located on the southwest side of Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA, is the location of a major United States military command base: Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), formerly called Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station (CMAFS). Civilian facilities, including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, are also located on the mountain.

On July 28, 2006, the CMOC ceased to be an operational base; its functions have been transferred to nearby Peterson AFB. NORAD officials no longer feel there is a threat of an intercontinental nuclear attack which could disrupt operations. The facility is on "warm standby" and could be reactivated if needed.

CMOC hosted four commands: North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC). CMOC served as the command center for both NORAD and USNORTHCOM. It was the central collection and coordination center for a worldwide system of satellites, radars, and sensors that warned of missile, air, and space threats to North America and of theater ballistic missiles aimed at U.S. and allied forces.

For NORAD, CMOC assisted the air sovereignty mission for the U.S. and Canada and served as the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles. For USSTRATCOM, CMOC kept track of precisely what was in orbit and where it was located. Space control operations included protection, prevention, and negation functions supported by the surveillance of space.

CMOC is one of the most unusual installations in the world. Apart from the fact that it is housed 2,000 feet (600 m) underground, CMOC is also different from most military units because it was a joint and bi-national military organization comprising over 200 men and women from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Canadian forces. Operations were conducted in seven centers manned 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The centers were the Air Warning Center, Missile Warning Center, Space Control Center, Operational Intelligence Watch, Systems Center, Weather Center, and the Command Center.


Cheyenne Mountain's facilities and mission have changed over the years, from tracking and guiding the defense against Soviet bombers to watching for short-range ballistic missiles. In 1957, the Sputnik I satellite showed that nuclear warheads might be launched from one continent to another, and by the early 1960s, detecting an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack against North America became a top priority. Missile warning and air sovereignty were the primary missions in the Mountain throughout the 1960s and 70s. Briefly in the mid-1970s, the Ballistic Missile Defense Center was installed within the Mountain.

In 1979, the Air Force established a Space Defense Directorate to counter the emerging Soviet anti-satellite threat.

Cheyenne Mountain's computers twice almost pushed the world into World War 3. On November 9, 1979 a computer communications device failure caused warning messages to sporadically flash in USAF command posts around the world that a nuclear attack was taking place. A similar incident occurred on June 2, 1980 when a technician in NORAD loaded a test tape but failed to switch the system status to "test", causing a stream of constant false warnings to spread to two "continuity of government" bunkers as well as Command Posts worldwide.

Both times, the Pacific Air Command (PAC) had nuclear-loaded planes in the air; Strategic Air Command (SAC) didn't and took heat because they didn't follow procedure, even though the SAC Command Post knew these were obvious false alarms (probably so did PAC). Both Command Posts had recently begun receiving and processing direct reports from the various RADAR, satellite, and other missile attack detection systems, and those direct reports simply didn't match anything about the erroneous data received from NORAD.

In the 1980s, Air Force Space Command was created to run the service's space operations. In April 1981, Space Defense Directorate crews and their worldwide sensors, under the direction of Air Defense Command, supported the first space flight of the space shuttle. Cheyenne Mountain has continued to support every shuttle mission since.

In the late 1980s, the CMOC began to help U.S. and Canada Customs and Drug Enforcement Agencies control North American airspace and search for drug traffickers.

In the early 1990s, CMOC began to provide theater ballistic missile warning during Operation Desert Storm, when Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites looked for the heat from missile and booster plumes and provided warning to civilians and troops in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

CMOC has since refined its ability and can now detect such missiles and quickly alert U.S. theater commanders.

On September 15, 2001, Cheyenne Mt added another mission: Operation Noble Eagle, which incorporates NORAD's Aerospace Warning and Control with the monitoring of Canadian and U.S. airspace. Today, NORAD and CMOC stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and NAV Canada in responding to any threatening or hostile domestic aircraft.

On October 1, 2002, CMOC welcomed two more commands: U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command. CMOC supports USNORTHCOM's mission of homeland defense and USSTRATCOM's mission of space and missile warning, formerly associated with U.S. Space Command.

In February 2006, Navy Admiral Timothy Keating, chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command (both based at nearby Peterson Air Force Base), commissioned a study of reducing the number of people who work at Cheyenne Mountain because of redundancies between the two bases. Existence of the study became public in June 2006 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, and release of the conclusions was delayed until July 2006 amidst rumors the study proposed moving about 150 jobs from Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson Air Force Base.

On July 28th, 2006 NORAD announced that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center becomes the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate, this change effectively closes the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Over the next few years, some NORAD and USNORTHCOM military and civilian positions at Cheyenne Mountain will be relocated to NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters in Bldg. 2 on Peterson Air Force Base. The NORAD and USNORTHCOM facilities at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station will be maintained, ready for use on short notice.

The underground Combat Operations Center (COC) was originally intended to provide 70% probability of continuing to function if a five-megaton nuclear weapon detonated three miles (5 km) away, but was ultimately built to withstand a multimegaton blast within 1.5 nautical miles (3 km). It was also designed to be self-sufficient for brief periods, have backup communications and television intercom with related commands, house personnel during an emergency, and protect staff against fallout and biological and chemical warfare.

Some interior spaces are mounted on shock absorbers and protected against EMP. All connections between buildings and components were to be designed for the required flexibility to remain functional. Blast doors were built.

The main entrance to the complex is about one-third of a mile (540 m) from the North Portal via a tunnel which leads to a pair of 25-ton steel blast doors. Behind them is a steel building complex built within a 4.5 acre (18,000 m²) grid of excavated chambers and tunnels and surrounded by 2,000 feet (600 m) of granite. The main excavation consists of three chambers 45 feet (15 m) wide, 60 feet (20 m) high, and 588 feet (180 m) long, intersected by four chambers 32 feet (10 m) wide, 56 feet (17 m) high and 335 feet (100 m) long. Fifteen buildings, freestanding without contact with the rock walls or roofs and joined by flexible vestibule connections, make up the inner complex. Twelve of these buildings are three stories tall; the others are one and two stories.

The outer shell of the buildings is made of three-eighths-inch (9.5 mm) continuously welded low carbon steel plates which are supported by structural steel frames. Metal walls and tunnels serve to attenuate electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Metal doors at each building entrance serve as fire doors to help contain fire and smoke. Emphasis on the design of the structure is predicated on the effects of nuclear weapons; however, building design also makes it possible for the complex to absorb the shock of earthquakes.

Blast valves, installed in reinforced concrete bulkheads, have been placed in the exhaust and air intake supply, as well as water, fuel, and sewer lines. Sensors at the North and South Portal entrances will detect overpressure waves from a nuclear explosion, causing the valves to close and protect the complex. All of the buildings in the complex are mounted on 1,319 steel springs, each weighing about 1,000 pounds (450 kg). The springs allow the complex to move 12 inches (300 mm) in any one direction. To make the complex self-sufficient, adequate space in the complex is devoted to support functions. A dining facility, medical facility with dental office, pharmacy and a two-bed ward; two physical fitness centers with exercise equipment and sauna; a small base exchange, chapel, and barber shop are all located within the complex.

Electricity comes primarily from the city of Colorado Springs, with six 1,750-kilowatt (2,800 hp) diesel generators for backup.

Water for the complex comes from an underground supply inside Cheyenne Mountain, deposited into four excavated reservoirs with a capacity of 1.5 million US gallons (6,000 m³) of water. Three serve as industrial reservoirs and the remaining one is the complex’s primary domestic water source. They are so large that workers sometimes cross them in rowboats. About 30,000 to 120,000 US gallons are actually retained at any given time.

Incoming air may be filtered through a system of chemical/biological/radiological (CBR) filters to remove harmful germs and/or radioactive and chemical particles. The fresh air intake is mainly from the south portal access which is 17 ½ feet (5.3 m) high and 15 feet (4.6 m) wide and linked to the north portal access which is 22 ½ feet (7 m) high and 29 feet (9 m) wide. The entire tunnel from north to south entry portals is nine-tenths of a mile (1.5 km) long.

The NORAD command center has been modernized several times over the years. The original equipment resembled Mission Control for NASA's Project Apollo in the 1960's~1970's and used similar Philco-Ford consoles and display systems. The current (2005) version, with ordinary desks and flat-screen displays, looks rather ordinary by comparison and resemble NASA's current (2000's) mission control.