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 -