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U.S. Strategic Command Center (USSTRATCOM), Bellevue
When the President gives the order to launch our nukes, here is where the attack will be coordinated from. Previously the home of the Strategic Air Command, this site now will command and direct all nuclear weapons delivered by manned bomber, missiles, and submarine-launched missiles. And there’s also an airborne command post here ready to command and direct an attack in case this facility gets nuked itself.
The U.S. Strategic Command Center (USSTRATCOM) is where the Really Big One will be directed. It is a two-level reinforced concrete and steel building occupying over 14,000 square feet. Twenty-four hours a day, it is commanded by either an Air Force general or a Navy admiral, and they are ready to command and direct all use of U.S. nuclear weapons should the President authorize their use.
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USSTRATCOM is located on Offutt Air Force Base near Bellevue. Offutt was a former Army fort, Fort Crook, until June 1946. During World War II, Fort Crook had been the site of a factory producing B-26 and B-29 bombers. In a sense, Offutt has already been responsible for a nuclear attack the B-29 bombers that dropped the atomic bombers on Fliroshima and Nagasaki were built at the factory here.
Offutt became the home of General Curtis LeMay’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) in November 1948. Offutt’s selection was the result of it being located in the middle of the country, well out of range of the bombers and missiles then in existence. At first, manned bombers were stationed and directed from Offutt. In the late 1950s, the first
Atlas missiles were deployed in Iowa and Nebraska, and these were commanded from here. In 1971, an airborne command post named “Looking Glass” was added to provide an alternative nuclear command in case Offutt got knocked out by one of those pesky Soviet missiles. Looking Glass was a specially-outfitted EC-135 jet that was in the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year; when one Looking Glass craft landed, a replacement took to the air. Each plane had an Air Force general aboard and equipment for direct communication with the President and other military officers. If an incoming missile was detected heading for Offutt, Looking Glass would fly to safety and the counter-attack (if any) would be directed from aboard it.
SAC was deactivated on June 1, 1992, and was then replaced by USSTRATCOM. While SAC was strictly an Air Force operation, USSTRATCOM includes all branches of the military. However, its command is top-heavy with senior officers from the Air Force and Navy, since those services have a monopoly on strategic nuclear weapons. Looking Glass is still in operation (it’s now a modified Boeing 707) and always carries either an Air Force general or a Navy admiral. In fact, except for a change of name and the addition of officers from other services, USSTRATCOM still operates much in the same way that Curtis LeMay envisioned.
What’s There: USSTRATCOM is located underground at Offutt, so there’s not much to see from the outside. Battle commanders and senior staff work in the lower level, while lower-level officers and support staff work in the upper level. In case of war, the entire facility would be sealed off and continue to operate from emergency power, water, and food supplies. The facility is reinforced to protect against the electromagnetic pulse produced by a nearby nuclear explosion; the pulse could damage electronic equipment without such added protection.
Inside USSTRATCOM is the Alternative Processing and Correlation Center (APAC), a missile tracking and warning center that would take over if Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (see entry under COLORADO) was destroyed or otherwise unable to function. If USSTRATCOM is activated for war, the APAC will provide it with data on enemy missiles.
Key Facilities: The interior of USSTRATCOM includes numerous workstations with video monitors and secure telephone systems. Eight large wall screens are capable of displaying video and still images. In the event of war, battle information and data would be displayed on the wall screens as well as on individual video monitors. Numerous high-powered computer systems are here along with an extensive telephone network the USSTRATCOM commanders have direct telephone access to over 200 U.S. military facilities around the world, including missile silos. Direct lines also go to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other lines link USSTRATCOM to military computing centers and communications facilities. The communications demands of USSTRATCOM forced the construction of massive telephone lines and switching facilities going into and out of Offutt. Satellite and radio communications facilities are used to link USSTRATCOM with Looking Glass and other sites, such as Navy submarines.
Getting a Look Inside: Forget about getting a look inside USSTRATCOM or Offutt itself; the security at the base is very tight and people parked near the base or walking in the area have been questioned and told to move along by local sheriff’s deputies.
Flowever, there is a Strategic Air Command museum in the area open to the public. Opened in 1998, the museum is located at Exit 426 off Interstate 80. It occupies over 300,000 square feet and includes displays of 31 aircraft and six missiles, including the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. Most of the exhibits deal with the history of SAC, and several of them are interactive. As their motto says, their purpose is “to educate, inspire, and entertain.” Global thermonuclear war you can’t get more entertaining than that!
Listening In: Offutt uses shortwave frequencies to keep in touch with Looking Glass. If you have a shortwave radio capable of receiving upper sideband (USB) transmissions, listen for them on 4724, 6739, 8992, 11175, 13200, and 15016 kHz. Offutt will identify as “Offutt” and Looking Glass will identify as that. Although you may hear some encrypted communications, many routine communications will not be scrambled.
Unusual Fact: The massive telephone line and switching infrastructure necessary to support USSTRATCOM has made this area a leading telemarketing and “800” call response center. When you call long-dis-tance information, or receive a sales call from a major company out of state, the odds are good that it is made from, or routed through, the Bellevue area.
Getting There: Offutt Air Force Base is located southwest of Bellevue off Flighway 75.
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