November 14, 2011By

Ok, long overdue, some full on Cold War action for you…

In the 1950’s Skunkworks (Lockheed Advanced Development Projects) created a single engined, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to be used in the Cold War to help determine Soviet capabilities and intentions. Elements of previous Lockheed designs such as the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter were incorporated to build what became the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane (and later the TR-1). The first live flight was in August 1955 at Area 51 in Nevada and soon a variety of intelligences packages were developed for use with the plane that could be switched around depending on the mission (Interchangeable nose sections were fitted with large format cameras, radar and other cutting edge surveillance equipment). They flew so high that the pilot had to wear a space suit and breath bottled oxygen.

When the USAAF 17th Reconnaissance Wing was activated the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron was formed at RAF Alconbury bringing with them a fleet of TR-1 Spy planes. Building 210 was the Avionics and Photography Interpretation Centre for the TR-1/U2 Spy plane taking two years to build at a cost of $39 million and was later given the nickname Magic Mountain. The building was linked to various other US bases and also to the Strategic Air Command in Omaha, Nebraska.

Inside the stainless steel lined entrance corridor are a series of large rooms with raised access flooring for computer cabling. Building 210 has its own power plant, closed air conditioning, decontamination chambers, water supply and sewage systems. A Positive Air Pressure system was used to prevent any fallout or poisonous gas getting inside the facility. The bunker is on two floors and built of steel and reinforced concrete, sitting on a bed of gravel and giant ‘spring coils’ allowing the structure to shift during an attack and absorbing the impact. Allegedly it could withstand a direct hit from a nuclear bomb.

The political situation changed in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and within six months of opening Magic Mountain was obsolete. By July 1991 the USAAF 17th Reconnaissance Wing was deactivated and by 1993 the entire base was handed back to the MoD.

On this visit I could not gain access to the subterranean bunker itself so you will have to make do with the few photo’s I could get, I will however be going back so watch this space…

2 Comments

  1. RAF/USAF Alconbury | sYnc_below - […] Interpretation Centre and a Nuclear Hardened Command Post/Avionics Suite for the TR-1 spyplanes known only as Building 210 (later…
  2. Even More Magic - […] a continuation of THIS POST and THIS POST and there will probably be one last post with the remaining…

Leave a Reply