www.PDHonline.com - Your Gateway to Lifelong Learning   |   Email: PDHonline@Gmail.com   
PDH Online Course Description PDH Units/
Learning Units (Hours)

Buy Now

View Course

View or Take Quiz


NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Jeffrey Syken

In January 1951, the USAF Air Defense Command set-up a one-room Combat Operations Center (COC) in one of the ordinary office buildings at Ent Air Force Base, in Colorado Springs, Colo., to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union’s manned bombers, which were capable of carrying nuclear weapons to targets within the continental U.S. and Canada. By 1952, it was clear that the control of North America’s air defenses needed more space. To that end, a new 15K square-foot concrete-block COC was opened on Ent Air Force Base in May 1954. However, by the end of 1955, it was evident that this facility, too, was inadequate. With the USSR expected to have ICBM capability by 1960, or earlier, the USAF’s CONAD (Continental Air Defense) wanted an automated defense system controlled from within an underground COC to defend against this significant threat. ICBMs, with their incredible speed, would greatly reduce the time available for defensive reaction and strategic warning, as compared to a manned bomber. Thus, automation, wherever possible, was considered essential by defense planners.

In January 1956, General Earle E. Partridge, Air Defense Command (ADC) Commander and CONAD Commander-in-Chief, told his staff that a new COC located underground was needed. Consideration was given to several sites in the Colorado Springs area, including Ent Air Force Base, Peterson Field and under a mountain. Initially designed with SAC (Strategic Air Command) needs in mind, by the end of 1956, the underground COC was based on CONADs needs instead. By mid-1957, the common wisdom was to place the COC under the Colorado plain, possibly at Peterson Field. However, by September 1957, with the requirement for the COC to be “hardened,” a shift to a COC within a mountain took place. With the establishment of NORAD (North American Air Defense Command) in early 1958 and their requirement for a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) computer and display facility, the stage was set for Cheyenne Mountain – one of two locations considered on the “Front Range” of the Rocky Mountains, to become the location of a new COC.

On June 19, 1961, excavation for the hardened COC in the 9,565-foot-high Cheyenne Mountain began. By August 1962, the COC was substantially finished and by May 1964, it was completely finished. Included in the facility are fifteen spring-mounted buildings, a power plant containing six generators, heating and air conditioning systems, dormitories, dining areas, maintenance and storage areas and a dispensary. Southeast of the buildings there are three large underground reservoirs holding diesel fuel, potable and water for industrial uses. Becoming fully operational in April 1966, the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex’s “Nuclear Watch” ended in 1992 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Responsible for the early warning air and space defense of North America at the height of the Cold War, in 2006, NORAD and USNORTHCOM moved its main command center to Peterson Air Force Base, fifteen miles distant from Cheyenne Mountain. However, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex remains on “Warm Standby” and serves as NOR-AD/USNORTHCOM’s Alternate Command Center (ACC), with more than a dozen government and DoD agencies operating within the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

View Course Content

NY PE & PLS: You must choose courses that are technical in nature or related to matters of laws and ethics contributing to the health and welfare of the public. NY Board does not accept courses related to office management, risk management, leadership, marketing, accounting, financial planning, real estate, and basic CAD. Specific course topics that are on the borderline and are not acceptable by the NY Board have been noted under the course description on our website.