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

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