Cheyenne Mountain : What protects it from a "mission kill"?

Obviously, some of the details are a secret. However, as I understand it, the mountain complex is a buried bunker protected by a great many tunnels and large blast doors. Perhaps it is effectively impenetrable.

For the bunker to be useful as a command post, however, there have to be working radio antennas on the surface to communicate with the rest of the U.S. military. There’s probably buried communication cables as well, but how deep could they practically be buried? You cannot dig a tunnel that is miles deep all the way from the bunker to the missile fields in Nevada, it has to surface somewhere.

Anyways, while we the public don’t know the details, it seems highly unlikely that the KGB did not obtain most of the schematics at one point or another. They must know where all the surface antennas and buried communication cables are.

Thus, I wonder : what would have stopped them from just nuking the antenna clusters and cratering the communication cables? I’ve heard rumors of a buried communications missile they could launch, but even that thing must be in a silo with an armored door that could also be nuked.

Also, even if the soviets couldn’t destroy the bunker directly, what would have stopped them from simply collapsing the entrance tunnel? How would the bunker personnel have ever gotten out if that happened?

I consider it inconceivable that the facility does not have multiple hidden portals to the surface in the event of the main tunnel being unavailable or to replace antennas.

With that being said, at least by the early eighties the Soviets had good enough nuke delivery systems to take out the complex even buried as deeply as it is. No need to worry about ‘mission kill’ when ‘kill’ works too.

Yep - a direct hit will wipe it out. It’s not exactly the Fortress of Solitude.

The novel Arc Light by Eric Harry addressed this. The premise is the US and Russia get into a nuclear war. The Russians basically pounded Cheyenne with nukes every minute or so until it was a smoking crater, then did that for another 10 minutes just to be sure.

It’s a novel, but given that there were thousands of nukes pointed at each other for the cold war, I would be unsurprised if Cheyenne didn’t have 20 designed for it alone.

Cheyenne mountain is twice the depth that you can reliably defeat installations with a 1-megaton nuclear earth penetrator. (

It’d take a pretty serious attack to ensure destruction, likely quite a bit more than one direct hit.

Just popping in to say that’s a great book, I re-read it a couple weeks ago for the first time since it was released. I was struck by a couple little technical things he got wrong (M16 recoil dislocating your shoulder if the buffer spring is broken? Nope), but I’d still recommend it to anybody who likes military thrillers along the lines of Tom Clancy.

Ideally, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex would have already served it’s mission before Soviet nukes arrived. Once the “go” codes are sent and the US’s own silos emptied, there’s nothing left to do until the radiation settles down.

Yeah but that’s 1MT. The scenario’s I remember were something a bit bigger.

As the Cold War dragged on, the advent of more accurate Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles meant the mountain would be less likely to survive a direct nuclear hit.

The center was designed to withstand up to a 30 megaton blast within 1 nautical mile. But with the power and accuracy of more modern weapons, U.S. Army Capt. Jeff Dean concedes, “it’s questionable whether we would be able to survive” a direct hit from an intercontinental ballistic missile.

That seems to be the key here: NORAD wasn’t buried deep so it could keep on working after the nukes hit, it was buried deep so folks there could keep working right up until the nukes hit. It is both workplace AND survival bunker, thus insuring that nobody leaves early to make sure they can get to the shelters.
And what to do about collapsed tunnels is: wait to be dug out. Assuming the US survived in the kind of shape where you’d want to leave Cheyenne Mountain before you starved to death, other members of the US Military with earthmoving equipment will show up to dig you out.
There are also probably some machines inside the mountain that would be helpful in digging out.

“Manny, I don’t think we should hit that mountain any more.”
“Why not, Mike?”
“Because it’s not there any more.”

This is exactly right. My dad used to work under the mountain (retired a few months prior to 9/11). The mission is to warn the government of incoming nuclear attack so presumably that would have been done before the facility got creamed. If there was a conventional attack that took out the antenna but left the mountain intact, there are backups ready to be re-installed but as long as the government was warned about the incoming attack the mission was completed.

I was able to tour the facility in '99 or so. A fascinating experience.

Both of them are loonies.

I assume that Cheyenne Mountain would have taken ground-, as opposed to air-, bursts. In other words, that would leave the site glowing with a lot more radiation than a similar site that had been targeted for airbursts. So, by the time “the radiation settled”, it would be the NORAD folks’ grandchildren who emerged.

Wow, they actually do give tours? How do you get one? I always thought that scene from WarGames was poetic license.

They used to have tours for the general public on a regular basis, but not since 9/11

When I went the tours were only available to family of personnel serving. Big security check and everything.

Silly. You have to figure that the Russians already know everything involved. Sort of like the SINCGARS manuals : you need a top secret clearance to read the manual for the radio. The thing is, you gotta figure that with as many copies of that document there must be out there, surely every enemy country already has a copy. No point in making it top secret.

The military doesn’t discuss all its technology. It’s known there has been military research into Ultra Low Frequency communications with transmissions that can be broadcast underground or underwater. So it’s possible Cheyenne Mountain has a communications network that doesn’t use surface antennas.

I think the security check was more to ensure that I was not a big risk for bringing in a bomb or something else stupid like that.

If you do not have a penetrating warhead, and I don’t think any ICBMs do, then you waste nearly all of the explosive power. You need to increase the groundshock by penetrating the earth with the weapon. Without a penetrating weapon you need like 20 times the yield, and since the depth of Cheyenne mountain is twice what is mentioned in that report, and the decrease in groundshock scales as the square of the distance you’d need an 80 megaton surface blast to destroy Cheyenne mountain in one shot, which never has existed.

In the scenario where it’s getting nuked, better nuke the crap out of it, sure. I’m skeptical about a one hit knockout.