• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 44s

A look inside a classified Cold War-era antenna site, now shut down

By Bonney Bowman 7:49 PM May 25, 2016

After 50 years monitoring radio waves, the AN/FLR 9 antenna array on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was shut down Wednesday.

The site, also known as the “elephant cage,” is a relic from the Cold War. At 40 acres in size and standing 120 feet tall, the antenna array stands mostly unchanged from when it was built in 1966.

“This is before computers. These things were built with slide rules,” said Col. Suzy Streeter, commander of the 373rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group. “It’s actually an engineering marvel if you think about it.”

elephant cage JBER

Outer view of the “Elephant Cage” – Bonney Bowman / KTVA

“It’s a little bittersweet day,” Streeter said. “It was one of those, kind of a Cold War artifact, if you will, but we’re now moving on to new technologies.”

The antenna site was decommissioned in a ceremony celebrating the thousands of airmen who have worked there. One of the last to fill that role was Senior Airman Tanner Wayne Croley.

“I feel my job is as much museum curator as it is actual maintenance on a building like this,” Croley said.

Underground tunnel carrying the signal to a separate building where it was analyzed. - Bonney Bowman / KTVA

Underground tunnel carrying the signal to a separate building where it was analyzed. – Bonney Bowman / KTVA

He knows the wires and tubes inside the site that take the radio waves and turn them into something listenable. He said it’s old technology, but it was accessible in a way modern computers aren’t.

“This place is so simple when you actually get to know it that if something goes bad, you know which part went bad and why and how to fix it, whereas a modern piece of technology, it’s a ghost in there pretty much,” Croley explained.

It’s a testament to the hard work of airmen, like Croley, who kept the antenna site running for 50 years and would keep it running for another 50, if needed.

“Just as much as aircraft in the air keep our nation safe, the men and women who operated and maintained this kept our nation safe through the years,” Streeter said.

The AN/FLR 9 is the last remaining one of its kind in the country. Streeter said she’d like it to be preserved as a piece of military history. To make that happen, a local nonprofit group will have to volunteer to work with the U.S. Air Force to preserve the antenna site, raise funds to help with maintenance and open the site to visitors five times a year.

KTVA 11′s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Report: California soldiers must repay enlistment bonuses

    by KTVA / AP on Oct 23, 11:58

    Nearly 10,000 California National Guard soldiers have been ordered to repay huge enlistment bonuses a decade after signing up to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon demanded the money back after audits revealed overpayments by the California Guard eager to fill ranks and hit enlistment targets. Faced with a […]

  • Lifestyle

    New bumble bee, flower fly species discovered in Denali National Park

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 23, 10:48

    Two new species of pollinating bugs have been discovered in Denali National Park and Preserve, according to park officials. The new species were discovered during a 2012 pollinator survey in the park, a statement from park officials explained. “I think these two new discoveries really highlight the fact that there is still so much to learn […]

  • News

    Presbyterian church first to present statewide apology at AFN

    by Liz Raines on Oct 22, 19:50

    The Presbyterian church becomes the first religious organization to officially apologize at #2016AFN to @NativeFed for oppression, abuse. pic.twitter.com/xP3gPYPHWz — Liz Raines (@lrainesktva) October 22, 2016 FAIRBANKS – It was a historic moment for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Saturday. For the first time, a religious organization came before an AFN convention to apologize […]

  • News

    Alaska veterans receive warm welcome home after Honor Flight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 19:05

    A group of Alaska veterans returned Saturday from Washington D.C., where they visited our nation’s war memorials thanks to Last Frontier Honor Flight. The crowd waiting for their arrival at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport applauded as the veterans disembarked to the sounds of bagpipes from the Alaska Celtic Pipes and Drums (ACPD). The 23 […]

  • News

    SAVEarth project aims to provide homeless Alaskans with boots

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 22, 18:28

    While many Alaskans are celebrating the first snow of the season, it marks the beginning of a tough time of year for people living outdoors. A group from the Lower 48 is working to help Anchorage’s homeless in a big way. SAVEarth is assembling 1,100 pairs of boots with the help of volunteers. Each pair […]

  • News

    Whittier police begin patrolling Girdwood on short-term contract

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 22, 18:12

    After roughly three weeks without any law enforcement stationed in Girdwood, there are now Whittier Police Department (WPD) officers patrolling the town. It is the result of a short-term contract between the Girdwood Board of Supervisors, the Municipality of Anchorage and WPD that lasts through the end of the year. After the contract expires, there […]

  • Troopers: Selawik man dead after early morning fight

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 22, 16:47

    One man is dead and another is in custody after a fight broke out in the village of Selawik early Friday morning, Alaska State Troopers say. Troopers were notified of the fight at about 1:30 a.m., a dispatch explained, when someone from the village contacted them, saying 38-year-old Roscoe Cleveland had died after a fight. […]

  • Law enforcement raids Bethel house used by suspected drug dealers

    by Charles Enoch / KYUK on Oct 22, 16:28

    This story originated from KYUK Public Media and was republished with permission. BETHEL — State troopers, investigators and local police raided a house in Bethel this week and recovered heroin, crack cocaine, money and drug paraphernalia. They arrested seven people. According to the Alaska State Trooper dispatch, the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit with local State and Wildlife Troopers […]