Monday, July 13, 2015

Site R Helipad

The Site R helipad is located near Portals A and B

When the Continuity of Government plan was activated shortly after 10AM on September 11, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed his deputy Paul Wolfowitz to relocate to Site R along with other key defense leaders. Within minutes of the order, a helicopter landed at the Pentagon to fly them to Site R.

During relocation events, the Raven Rock Mountain Complex operates under "Hasty Access" procedures to expedite the arrival of personnel and their entry into the underground complex. The Site R helipad procedures for evacuations/relocations are code-named "Blue Light" and "Iron Gate".

Using Google Earth, you can see how the Raven Rock Mountain Complex helipad has changed in appearance over the years:

2013 (Google Earth)

2007 (Google Earth)

2005 (Google Earth)

Here is another view of the older helipad design. You can see on the image below that there used to be a small building nearby.

Undated image of Site R helipad (Source)

A 2011 FedBizOpps solicitation for antenna maintenance services for Site R contains a list of equipment installed on top of the mountain (Site RT). Included in this list are two air traffic control military dipole antennas for ground-to-air communications with incoming helicopters.

The short video below is a relocation simulation showing Army helicopters on standby at Davison Army Airfield flying to the Pentagon and then onward to the Alternate National Military Command Center at Site R.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Just How Big is the Raven Rock Mountain Complex?

Site R

This layout shows five 3-story underground buildings

In a 1991 newspaper article, Site R was described as being a 265,000 square-foot bunker located 650 feet beneath the 1,529 foot summit of Raven Rock Mountain.

According to that same article, it has living quarters, a medical facility, dining facility, fitness center, barbershop, chapel, and a convenience store. The underground reservoirs hold millions of gallons of water.

A declassified 1966 document states that Site R was designed to accommodate 3,000 people in an emergency.

The Gettysburg Times - Feb 15, 1954

This  Gettysburg Times article discloses the following facts:

  • Contractors blasted away 500,000 cubic yards
  • The curving tunnel is about 25 feet across with a vaulted roof of about equal height
  • The main chamber is about 35 feet high

Sarasota Herald-Tribune (November 8, 1952)


The FY 2015 DOD Base Structure Report lists the Raven Rock site in Pennsylvania as having 68 buildings totaling 636,261 square feet on 716 acres. For FY 2012, the numbers were 66 buildings totaling around 615,000.  In 2001, there were 59 buildings with a total of 452,000 square feet on the same number of acres.


A 2015 FedBizOpps solicitation for RRMC Base Operations and Support Services seeks a contractor to provide custodial, full service dining facility operations, logistics, and transportation services to the Raven Rock Mountain Complex.

In this solicitation, the DOD Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) provided details about the size of the installation. According to the chart below, there is approximately 300,000 square feet of flooring (carpet, tile, epoxy) in the underground portion of Site R (Items 1-4).  The rest of the items are miscellaneous Site R buildings located above ground.

The list also contains size information for Site C and for the West Power Plant, which is noted as being located off-site (approximately 3 miles away according to the initial solicitation). This may actually be the temporary power plant constructed as part of the four phase Power Plant Modernization project which will double the generating capacity to support future facility mission loads.


A 2013 construction solitcitation on FedBizOpps includes a copy of the 114th Signal Battalion RRMC Engineering Drawing Standards.  This document contains a detailed list of all RRMC on-site supported building systems as of 2007.

Also attached to the same solicitation is the RRMC Mechanical Labeling Standard which lists these additional RRMC-related locations:


The 2014 RRMC Preventive Maintenance-Elevators solicitation reveals there are three elevators at the Raven Rock Mountain Complex.


The 2015 RRMC Base Operations Support solicitation also provides information about the number of meals served daily in the Granite Cove Dining Facility located underground in the Alpha corridor. The numbers below do not include the additional meals required during exercises/relocations.

The contractor is also required to plan, schedule, and coordinate the semi-annual rotation of MRE (meals ready-to-eat) stock.


The Raven Rock Mountain complex can generate its own electricity using diesel-powered engines. The RRMC Operating Permit issued by the State of Pennsylania lists 21 emergency generators and six diesel engines.

If you look up the Raven Rock Mountain Complex using the PA Dept of Environmental Protection's PADEP Facility Search function,  you will see a total of 34 storage tanks shown as currently in use. Note: Pennsylvania does not list tanks with a capacity greater than 21,000 gallons, so the list below may be incomplete.  (ie; tank information is listed for this 2012 modification, but are unlisted for this 2014 modification).


Other ways to portray the size of Site R include the number of personnel assigned to the facility, the annual budget figures for capital and expenses, and the number of computer systems and telecommunication links related to the Pentagon's alternate relocation site.  These topics will be explored in future posts.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Site R Challenge Coins

Challenge coins are used as awards for outstanding performance and are presented by unit commanders in recognition of a special achievement. They are also sometimes given to dignitaries or special  guests as a mememto of their visit to certain installations.

Below are six challenge coins related to Site R. There is also another Site R challenge coin displayed on the Fire & Emergency Services blog post.

Raven Rock Mountain Complex challenge coin - 114th Signal Battalion
Signal Masters of the Rock:  114th Signal Battalion Command Team Coin of Excellence

AJCC Site R coin - Raven Rock Mountain Complex challenge coin
Alternate Joint Communications Center Site R: Well Done From the Headquarters Commandant

JSSC Raven Rock challenge coin - Site R
Joint Staff Support Center: Presented by Chief JSSC Site-R Raven Rock Mountain Complex

Raven Rock Mountain Complex Site R: Installation Commander Coin of Excellence

Raven Rock Mountain Complex - Site R - Ready, Always, Period

1111th Signal Battalion Site R challenge coin - Fort Detrick
Commander's Coin of Excellence: 1111th Signal Battalion Fort Detrick, MD. Site R

Site C

Site C in Highfield-Cascade, Maryland

Site C is a satellite communications facility connected to the Raven Rock Mountain Complex and located atop Quirauk Mountain in Washington County, Maryland.  The photo above was taken several years ago. You can see the radomes that were added later in the Bing Maps image below.  You can zoom in and rotate the image by accessing it directly on Bing.

The Division of Emergency Management in Frederick County, MD was allowed to install some of their public safety radio equipment at no cost to the county at Site C in 2000. However in 2010, Frederick County was notified by the Army that they would need to relocate their equipment from the classified space in the main building to accommodate some "significant facility renovation work" scheduled in 2011.

Also in 2010, the Raven Rock Mountain Complex submitted a request to the Maryland Public Service Commission for approval to install a Type I emergency generator at Site C. Approval for two additional 600 kW emergency generators were requested in 2012.

Aerial view of Site C from Bing maps 

A 2011 solicitation on FedBizOpps for antenna maintenance due to personnel shortages contains a link to additional documentation which includes a listing of 31 towers and antennas at Site R (RT) and Site C.  Below is a subset of the list for items related to Site C:

302nd Signal Batallion (A Company)  Site C resume

  • Supervises, plans, and directs the installation, operation, and maintenance of satellite communication systems and networks, including strategic, tactical and commercial interfaces and gateways
  • Managed the operation and maintenance of a 24-hour operation three terminal satellite communications facility to include two AN/GSC-49 DSCS Terminals and an AN/FRC-181 MILSTAR Ground Command Post terminal valued at over 40 million dollars.  Supervised four shifts comprised of three soldiers and one Noncommissioned Officer per shift.
  • Performed quality assurance test procedures, troubleshooting, configuration, programming, scheduling, maintenance, repair, and training on secure and non-secure equipment, satellite transmission systems, FDMA, TDMA, SSMA, DAMA, CDMA, PSK, BPSK, QPSK, OQPSK with data rates in the T1+ range, analog/digital data, fiber optics (3M certified), interfacing data formats, COMSEC Crypto, STU III, STE, KOI-18, KIV-13, CZY-10, SIPR net, NIPR net, Red Phone, and computer networking.

Encounter with Site C Security

At an elevation of 2,140+ feet, Quirauk Mountain is the highest point in Washington County, MD. This makes it of interest to the County Highpointers group, which seeks to hike up to the highest point in 3,143 counties across the nation. There were a total of eight visits recorded here between 2000 and 2011. The 2008 trip report describes an encounter with "gun-toting guards".

This is as far as you can go up the road to Site C before encountering the "No Trespassing and Warning" signs

Site C on Flickr

This photo of Site C was taken at night in 2008.

Photo of Site C - 21st Signal Brigade (website no longer online)
Enterprise Gateway Locations map - Network Modernization - SATCOM
Frederick County - Site C relocation memo
Maryland Public Service Commission - 2010, 2012 memos
County Highpointers - Mt Quirauk trip report
Antenna list -

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Site RT - What's On Top of Raven Rock

Site R cutaway released by the Department of Defense in response to a 1999 FOIA request

Site RT is the area on top of Raven Rock Mountain where the antennas and satellite communication equipment are located.  It is easily visible from the road approaching Site R from the south. On a clear day, you can even see it from the Gettysburg Battlefield about twelve miles away.

View of Site RT from nearby road  (August 2014)

Photo of Site R antennas taken from the Gettysburg Battlefield

It's hard to see what's actually up there by looking up from the road. If you really want to explore Site RT, you need to do it from overhead. Bing Maps has a feature called "Bird's Eye" which gives an aerial view, rather than a satellite view of what's down below. Using low-flying aircraft, Bing captures imagery from a 45 degree angle. Below is a bird's eye view of Site RT. You can zoom in and rotate the view by accessing it directly in Bing.

Of course, the problem with any image is that it is only a snapshot in time. The Bing image below is from 2012.

Site RT - Bing Maps (Bird's Eye)

Another good source for overhead images is Google Maps. Those images are satellite views, so they lack the perspective of the Bing imagery. However, Google does a much better job of updating their imagery more frequently and allows you to compare images over time using Google Earth.

Below you can see that a piece of equipment was added in 2013. The new addition is also visible in the roadside photo at the top taken in 2014.

Site RT - Google Earth

Close-up view of new equipment added in 2013

The 114th Signal Battalion Directorate of Logistics Inside/Outside Plant is responsible for maintaining all communications systems associated with the RF systems in support of the High Frequency (HF) radio mission.

The antenna at the top left of the Bing image is an LPH-24 rotatable antenna. It was installed in 2005.  In 2013, a solicitation went out for the repair of the waveguide on the antenna. The Statement of Work can still be viewed on the FedBid website.

Microwave towers at Site RT
The Cryptome website has a Site R Birdseye page that features aerial photos of Site R along with a detailed description of the various types of antennas and microwave towers. The photo to the right shows the two main microwave towers at Site RT.

The tall one on the left is described on Cryptome as being part of a government system linking sites around the DC area including Ft Belvoir, Andrews AFB, Ft Meade, and the Pentagon. The Andrews-style microwave dish connects Site RT to its related satellite communications facility (Site C in Maryland) forming the RT-Site C backbone.

The structure on the right is an At&T microwave tower with two KS horns. It also has four antennas about 4-inch diameter and a few feet long. These are the GEP antennas for the Wideband FM system. The Air Force uses it for NAOC and Air Force One.

Site R cutaway - DOD response to 1999 FOIA request
Bing Maps
Google Maps/Earth
LPH-24 antenna repair - FedBid
Microwave tower information - Cryptome

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Possible 100% Increase in Mission Support

View job listing

The Washington Headquarters Services posted a  job listing in March 2014 for a Supv Management and Program Analyst. This position was open only to current Raven Rock employees as a temporary one-year assignment. One of the duties listed for this position was:
"Oversee and monitor the Installation Management Action Plan, develops procedures and processes for use of advanced analytical tools for analysis, conducts war gaming and brainstorming sessions to support various hypotheses, e.g., how would RRMC handle an initiative resulting in a 100% increase in mission support."

Job listing -

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Raven Rock Fire and Emergency Services

This RRMC fire station opened in August 2005

Site R was built deep underground back in the early 1950s to protect its systems and occupants from atomic annihilation. But the biggest danger to this and all underground bunkers is fire. Sometimes the job postings for Raven Rock casually mention this very real possibility:
"Because of the great likelihood of a major smoke event and total darkness during a fire, selectee must maintain a flashlight and also be issued and trained to use an emergency escape breathing apparatus."
Evacuation routes are clearly marked by fire exit signs and fluorescent arrows are posted on the baseboards in hallways to show the direction of the exits.

Fire & Emergency Services is located inside the underground facility in Room 1-B-18 at the B Corridor Inner Roadway.

According to an OPM database, there are 16 employees in the International Association Of Firefighters bargaining unit at RRMC.

There is a 2015 job listing for a HAZMAT firefighter whose duties include:

  • Control of hazardous substance using specialized protective clothing and control equipment to plug, patch or stop the release
  • Utilize hazard and risk assessment techniques to form an incident analysis by surveying the area, materials, containers, weather, research sources, and monitoring equipment
  • Inspect administration and office areas, warehouses, storage, assembly, industrial and other occupancies to look for life threatening and potentially hazardous violations

Crash 19 is a 2004 E-One 1500/1500/200 model

A 2014  job posting on USAJOBS for a Fire Protection Inspector lists these duties:
  • Serve as a member of the installation Hazardous Materials Response Team.
  • Inspect various types of structures, equipment and storage areas, repair shops, warehouses, fuel storage, welding areas, maintenance facilities, power generating plants, commercial kitchen, for life threatening and potentially hazardous violations. 
  • Attend construction planning meetings to advise on fire protection or detection issues.
  • Conduct briefings on fire prevention requirements, emergency egress procedures and fire extinguishers for installation personnel.

 Raven Rock Mountain Complex Fire & Emergency Services challenge coin

Another Raven Rock Firefighter Technician job posting describes some of the unique characteristics of working at this underground facility:
"Responds to emergencies involving fire, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, and other circumstances. Performs tasks to gain control of and extinguish fires, effect rescue operations, and maintain safety. 
While at the underground facility, personnel will be engaged in unusual and difficult situations. The hazards, limitations, and special circumstances the Installation poses require skills and knowledge not encountered while working in conventional fire department operations. These conditions include work in confined spaces, large industrial power plants with large fuel storage facilities, high voltage electrical and communications equipment, and unventilated areas."

In October 2015, DOD Washington Headquarters Services posted an open continuous announcement for firefighter positions at the Raven Rock Mountain Complex. The announcement expires in October 2016. (archived listing)

Aerial view of the Site R fire station

FireHawk M7 air mask
Site R Firefighter Equipment

The FedBizOpps website lists some firefighter-related gear for Site R. According to a 2012 solicitation, Raven Rock maintains an inventory of over 60 sets of Globe G-XTREME® jackets and pants.

Another solicitation for Raven Rock references an order for 25 air masks (MSA FireHawk M7 SCBA)

The Site R fire department has the following trucks listed on its vehicle maintenance solicitation:

Raven Rock Mountain Complex's E-One D251 pumper tanker
The E-One webpage announcing the delivery of the above truck to the Raven Rock Mountain Complex can be viewed here.

Smoke Containment System

In 2008, as part of the Pentagon Renovation and Construction Program (PENREN), a  life safety needs assessment identified the requirement for a more effective means of smoke management in the underground facility. Their original budget was $9.8 million to replace a manual smoke control system that involved shutting down the toilet exhaust fans and closing the associated dampers;  then reopening the dampers and restarting the exhaust fans.

Contractors were required to "design, construct, furnish and install, test and demonstrate functional operation of a Smoke Management System to limit the spread of fire gasses and resulting soot into areas of egress, corridors, elevators, stairwells, for Buildings A, B, C, D, E, and the Inner Roadway".

The new smoke management system can be activated automatically during the early stages of a fire and was to be designed to interface with the facility's Notifier fire alarm system and HSQ Technology SCADA system. The project was completed in FY 2012. Final budget numbers are listed below.

DOD Revolving Funds Justification

Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Raven Rock firefighters are represented by the International Association of Firefighters Local F-301. Their Collective Bargaining Agreement describes the working conditions for the firefighters at Site R including tours of duty, annual leave, living quarters, etc.

Mutual Aid MOA with Frederick County

The Raven Rock Mountain Complex and Frederick County in Maryland signed a mutual aid agreement whereby either party could request the aid of the other party during an emergency. Read the 2009 Memorandum of Agreement for more information on this.

Fire station photo- The Renovation of the Pentagon (
Aerial view of fire station - Google Maps
Pumper photo - E-One
Job listings -
Solicitations -
FireHawk air mask photo - MSA
Budget for Smoke Containment System - DOD Revolving Funds Justification
Smoke Containment System - solicitation
Collective Bargaining Agreement - Public Intelligence
RRMC - Frederick County MOA - Frederick County government
Crash 19 - photo credit Patrick Shap, Jr.