• 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
ANCHORAGE –

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

  • Lifestyle

    Film festival kicks off with premier of last movie shot under tax incentive program

    by Bonney Bowman on Dec 03, 17:39

    The Anchorage International Film Festival kicked off Friday night, with the premier of a movie shot right here in our home state. “Sugar Mountain” was the last film made under the tax incentive program, which the state ended due to budget issues. “Sugar Mountain” was shot in Seward, and featured the town and its people. […]

  • Politics

    Green Party drops bid for statewide Pennsylvania recount

    by Associated Press on Dec 03, 17:29

    The Green Party is dropping its court case seeking a statewide recount of Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 presidential election. It had wanted to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated. The decision came Saturday, two days before a court hearing in the case. Lawyers for the Green Party-backed voters […]

  • News

    Scholar says China concerned about Trump policy following Taiwan call

    by Associated Press on Dec 03, 17:28

    China’s foreign minister says he hopes Beijing’s relations with the U.S. won’t be “interfered with or damaged” after President-elect Donald Trump broke with decades-long diplomatic tradition and spoke directly with Taiwan’s leader. Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV reports that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday the call between Taiwan’s president and Trump was “just a […]

  • News

    Bergdahl seeks pardon from Obama to avert desertion trial

    by Associated Press on Dec 03, 17:22

    A former prisoner of war accused of endangering his U.S. comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan is asking President Barack Obama to pardon him before leaving office. White House and Justice Department officials say U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl submitted the clemency request. If granted, it would allow Bergdahl to avert a court-martial […]

  • News

    Officials say up to 40 people may have perished in California warehouse fire

    by KTVA / AP on Dec 03, 15:41

    31st- pic.twitter.com/8TX6jk0iYq — Oakland Firefighters (@OaklandFireLive) December 3, 2016 OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say they fear up to 40 people might have died in a fire at an Oakland, California warehouse, which was hosting an electronic dance party. Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly said Saturday that nine people were confirmed dead, and that he […]

  • News

    Bethel fire investigation reveals 2 bodies, police say

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 03, 14:42

    Last updated at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3 Two Bethel residents were found dead inside their home after a fire early Saturday morning. Bethel police and fire personnel responded to the fire in the area of Trailer Court just after 1 a.m. and quickly extinguished it, according to a statement from Bethel Police Department […]

  • Weather

    Sitka airport closed after storm forced rocks, debris onto runway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 03, 14:13

    The Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport was closed for several hours Friday when a storm forced rocks and other debris onto the runway. High winds and heavy seas were blamed for the debris, which stretched across the runway for much of the day, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “The airport is […]

  • Lifestyle

    A night at the Bethel Winter House

    by Adrian Wagner/KYUK on Dec 03, 13:47

    Bethel’s homeless shelter, Bethel Winter House, opened earlier this week, providing relief from the cold to Bethel’s many in need. A story published by KYUK Public Media showed what it was like for guests on Wednesday night. Around dinnertime, Major Lonnie Upshaw checked a large convection oven. “I’m serving lasagna, and chicken alfredo pasta with rolls tonight,” Upshaw said. […]