• 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

  • News

    EPA proposes OK of Fairbanks air plan, but more steps needed

    by Associated Press on Jan 19, 14:04

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to accept a state of Alaska plan for cleaning up the air in Fairbanks. EPA region 10 air office director Tim Hamlin says the agency is recommending approval of the plan even as it works to reclassify pollution violations in Fairbanks as serious rather than moderate. Reclassification would […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: Simply Three

    by Daybreak Staff on Jan 19, 12:55

    Simply Three is a classically trained trio bringing a modern sound to their stringed instruments. According to their biography on their website, they are known for their high-energy shows and covers of pop hits, but they also play the old masters like Gershwin. The band has an online following based on their creative music videos with […]

  • Lifestyle

    Nordic skiing for newbies: What you need to get started

    by Rachael Penton on Jan 19, 12:52

    Anchorage has received more than 30 inches of snow so far this winter, and with temperatures staying below freezing this year, the snow has stuck around. This means great conditions for nordic skiers — also known as cross-country skiers — both experts and novices. If you’re a newbie who wants to get out on Anchorage’s trails […]

  • Politics

    Anchorage municipal attorney rejects initiative to change equal rights ordinance

    by Daniella Rivera on Jan 19, 12:10

    The battle between religious freedom and LGBT rights in Anchorage is at a standstill, with one side trying to figure out their next move. Wednesday, the Anchorage Municipal Attorney’s office rejected a ballot initiative from a group that wants to make changes to the equal rights ordinance the Anchorage Assembly passed in 2015. The ordinance protects […]

  • News

    Bethel homeless shelter dealing with drunk residents

    by Associated Press on Jan 19, 9:23

    Operators of a homeless shelter in Bethel say they’re struggling to deal with intoxicated residents. KYUK-AM reported Wednesday that Bethel Winter House Director Eva Malvich says she may be forced to shut down the facility if problems continue. Malvich described an incident that took place earlier this month in which staff had to call police. She […]

  • 2 charged with burglary at Public Safety Department building

    by Associated Press on Jan 19, 9:07

    A former Department of Public Safety employee will be arraigned next month on a felony burglary charge and misdemeanor counts of theft and criminal mischief. Alaska State Troopers say 22-year-old MarieKimberly Ramos and 32-year-old Jeremiah Ranem on Dec. 22 broke into a locked area of the Department of Public Safety Building on east Tudor Road […]

  • Politics

    Governor renews demand for fiscal fix, unveils plan to combat opioid epidemic

    by Liz Raines on Jan 19, 0:09

    Gov. Bill Walker’s State of the State address Wednesday was similar to his speech last year. It was serious, mainly focused on the budget, but did prompt a few laughs, like when he told lawmakers about an incident from his youth where he had to drive home to Valdez from Delta Junction in reverse. For […]

  • Lifestyle

    YWCA Alaska tackles pay equality between men, women

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 19, 0:02

    In Alaska, women make up 48 percent of the workforce, but only earn an average of $.67 for every dollar men make for the same work. Because of this, Alaska has been ranked 48 out of all 50 state for pay equality. The YWCA Alaska is halfway through its two-year EconEquity Initiative, which aims to […]