Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora 2. Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, Colorado Springs 3. Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs 4. Project Rulison Test Site, Garfield County 5. Pueblo Chemical Depot, Pueblo 6. Rio Blanco Test Site, Rio Blanco County 7. Rocky Flats Environmental Test Site, between Golden and Boulder 8. Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado Springs
Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora
In the suburbs of Denver, our newest Air Force base is the home of Detachment 45, responsible for detecting and reporting hostile missile launches and nuclear explosions in the atmosphere. They also have the capability of keeping track of a lot of other stuff that can be seen from space.
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Colorado is the space warfare capital of the United States. The newest addition to the Air Force’s facilities is Buckley Air Force Base (formerly Buckley Air National Guard Base), which became an Air Force base in October 2000. Detachment 45 is responsible for receiving, collecting, and analyzing data from spy satellites to detect nuclear explosions as well as missile launches and other events. With the increased emphasis on space warfare, it’s likely this facility and the activities there will grow in the years ahead.
What’s There: Until recently, Buckley was just an Air National Guard base, so it’s missing most of the amenities found on other Air Force bases, like housing, recreation facilities, and even (at the time this was written) a chapel. It has the usual nondescript buildings, aircraft hangars, a control tower, and a runway. The only indication that something unusual is going on inside is the abundant satellite dishes. Detachment 45 is located in a secure building near the East Sixth Avenue side of the base.
Key Facilities: In the Detachment 45 building, two operators are constantly on duty monitoring for missile launch and nuclear explosion data. The data is downloaded from orbiting satellites and processed by supercomputers. According to an official Air Force press release, Detachment 45 also performs “special data collections” for other government agencies, including “nuclear event notification” (what’s the difference between a “nuclear event” and an “explosion”?), fuel air explosions, and “natural phenomena” (how about UFOs?). And the press release says that any “anomalies” are reported to “the appropriate authorities.”
Secret Stuff: The frequencies used for downlinking data from spy satellites are also used for civilian industrial and scientific applications in most of the country. However, the Federal Communications Commission will create a “special exclusion zone” banning all civilian terrestrial use of those frequencies used to download spy satellite data. The FCC has created such a zone extending out to 150 kilometers, centered on the geographic coordinates for Buckley.
Getting a Look Inside: Buckley Air Force Base offers no public tours.
Getting There: Buckley is located east of Aurora on Highway 30; take the exit for that highway from Interstate 225.
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