Recently, I took a deep dive into underground or otherwise secret military bases around the United States. Today, I’m going global. Let’s look at some of the most interesting military bases from around the world.
To start, this list obviously will not be all-inclusive. There are somewhere around 10,000 underground bases in the world and we can only guess how many actually secret ones… Either way, in this article we’ll look into five.
1) Pine Gap (Australia)
The first base is one that you have probably heard of now due to its recent popularity on the Netflix show Pine Gap. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that Pine Gap was an actual military facility when I watched a couple of episodes on Netflix. It is, however, a base shrouded in both security and secrecy (and now name recognition) and because of those reasons, I’d like to look first at it.
Pine Gap is a military facility located in rural Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. Pine Gap is actually a United States military base located in middle-of-nowhere Australia. Before you say it, I know, I’m cheating a bit right from the start by technically including a U.S.-run base, but it only seems fair since it is located as far away from the continental U.S. as nearly any other inhabited place in the world.
One way to describe Pine Gap is that it is a major U.S. intelligence-gathering location. But the best way to describe Pine Gap is that it is where some of the United States’ most brilliant spies and researchers congregate, gather intelligence, and then submit that intel to the forces which need it most.
Pine Gap was established in 1966 and has been used by the U.S. to gather intel for the past 55 years. Most recently, the intel it produced has been heavily relied upon by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, the Pentagon, and the president and his military leaders. Pine Gap relies heavily on SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) rather than HUMINT (Human Intelligence). The difference between those two is simply that SIGINT consists of intelligence acquired from communications and information systems while HUMINT consists of information acquired from our humans.
Each type of intelligence is critical to forming a picture of the enemy. To read more about some of the incredible technology used in the base, click here.
2) The War Department Experimental Research Ground, Porton (UK)
Porton Down was established in 1916 and is the oldest chemical warfare research installation in the world. Located on thousands of acres in the remote Wiltshire countryside, Porton Down’s location has no shortage of space and secrecy, which allows scientists the “freedom” to perform various tests on animals, humans, and allegedly even aliens.
Porton Down is similar in its function, myth, and secrecy to a better-known U.S. military installation: Area 51. Like Area 51, there is secret scientific testing that occurs at Porton Down and there have been numerous rumors over the years that the facility houses aliens.
One has to wonder if myths like the housing of aliens, whether dead or alive, permeate every culture. Much like the legend of Bigfoot, the concept that there are entities (such as aliens) that are hidden from society is one that persists through generations. Whether alien abductions or crash landings near “secret military facilities,” or Bigfoot sightings in nearly every densely forested area in the nation, we humans love to speculate about something that we simply hope exists.
According to a piece published in the Guardian, one particularly bizarre and tragic incident occurred at Porton Down during one of the alleged human tests conducted at the facility. The Guardian said,
“An inquest was reopened into the death, in May 1953, of a young airman, Ronald Maddison. He died after liquid nerve gas was dripped on to his arm by Porton scientists in an experiment[ …] From 1945 to 1989, Porton exposed more than 3,400 human “guinea pigs” to nerve gas. It seems probable that Porton has tested more human subjects with nerve gas, for the longest period of time, than any other scientific establishment in the world. “
The article continued,
“From a purely scientific point of view, they produced a huge amount of data about the effects of nerve gas on the human body. This data in turn has enabled Porton to develop some of the most sophisticated defences in the world to protect Britain’s armed forces from chemical attack. Porton acknowledges that the human experiments have made a ‘vital contribution’ to this protection.”
It is here that we ask whether we should indeed use living, breathing humans as guinea pigs for testing. Does that differ from the Taliban kidnapping someone and using them as a test subject or live ballistic dummy for their murderous plots? It is definitely a legitimate concern for us all. Add in all of the other human rights issues and you have on your hands a tricky predicament at best.
3) Kapustin Yar (Russia)
Kapustin Yar is a Russian rocket launch and development site that is located in Astrakhan Oblast, Russia. Kapustin Yar was founded in 1946 at the behest of Joseph Stalin and was primarily used then for testing rockets for the Russian military.
Much like Porton Down, Kapustin Yar is a secret military test facility. Each of the locations I’ve talked about so far have one thing in common: they have an obvious, stated mission and then they have a more secretive, perhaps more sinister, actual purpose. Kapustin Yar is no different.
While we know that Kapustin Yar has historically been used to test Russian rockets, it is also rumored that Kapustin Yar also leads a secret double existence. It is said that the mere existence of this installation was only discovered when German military aircraft flew over the site and located intel on the property and then when German scientists returned from Russia and conveyed what they saw there. Either way, the real reason for Kapustin Yar’s current existence remains a bit muddy.
According to the History Channel, “Kapustin Yar is a place where it is said the Soviet Union’s top researchers, scientists and military specialists were sent to develop highly classified Cold War technology and weaponry. In fact, the building of the base was so secretive that when a small town nearby was deemed by the Soviet military to be too close for comfort, its residents were evacuated and it was simply eliminated.”
The true secret lies beneath the surface of Kapustin Yar, however. According to various witnesses (who probably were later burned at the stake by Stalin for speaking about this), there is a highly classified subterranean facility deep beneath the normal base of Kapustin Yar, that is utilized as Russia’s UFO research center. This wrinkle is why this secret base makes this secretive list.
4) Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Norway)
This is the Svalbard Global Seed Base; located in Svalbard, Norway.
Inside this highly restricted facility is a backup of seeds of nearly every known plant that has existed over the last century. The idea here is that in the event of widespread nuclear war or a huge plague, countries from all over the world would have the opportunity to rebuild their land. Hence, the base has been given the nickname of “The Noah’s Ark” of seed storage.
The vault, which is located more than 100 meters down into the mountain, is divided up by country, with each country’s section housing its corresponding seeds.
Since the base is near the North Pole, both permafrost and thick rock ensure that the seed samples will remain frozen whether or not there is a power failure in the facility.
Inside the vault, there are over a million varieties of seeds, from common grains to exotic plant seeds and even viruses that help make cures for various ailments.
According to www.croptrust.org:
“The Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops. Each variety will contain on average 500 seeds, so a maximum of 2.5 billion seeds may be stored in the Vault.”
“Currently, the Vault holds more than 1,000,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world. Ranging from unique varieties of major African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat, cowpea, and sorghum to European and South American varieties of eggplant, lettuce, barley, and potato. In fact, the Vault already holds the most diverse collection of food crop seeds in the world.”
While this base is widely known, its location hundreds of meters underground and its potential impact on both American and global welfare definitely warrants inclusion on our list.
5) Gjader Air Base (Albania)
Gjader Air Base is a communist-era base that was built on a barren hillside in northern Albania. This base wasn’t just a remote retreat for the Albanian military, however. Beginning in the mid-1970s it was home to numerous MiGs and other Soviet and Chinese aircraft.
This base is literally burrowed into the side of a mountain (similar to Svalbard) and it is said to contain some 2,000 feet of tunnels within its walls. The base, now out-of-use for the Albanian military, was once a bustling maze of tunnels, aircraft, and fighting men.
One incredible thing about this base is that planes would fly out of Gjader from the side of a mountain. It has been said that pilots had to ensure they didn’t turn upon takeoff or they’d risk crashing the plane into the formidable side of the mountain housing the base.
The main fighting aircraft that made their home at Gjader were the MiG-19, MiG-17, and MiG-21. Many of the original MiG planes still exist within Gjader, but Albanian officials are brainstorming ways in which to sell them. They are also considering putting the planes on display at various museums within Albania.
Gjader Air Base fits in perfectly with the thousands of concrete bunkers that pepper the Albanian countryside. All of this infrastructure was built at the behest of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha as a plan to prevent foreign invasion and takeover. Thankfully for Albania, the event Hoxha most worried about would never come to fruition.
The final jet flew from Gjader in 2004 and the base is now off-limits to all personnel. Despite its current eery and abandoned existence, it’s hard to believe that less than two decades ago it was filled with tunnels, soldiers, and fighting aircraft that would be ready when needed.
There may be one light in the future for Gjader, though. Officials, as recently as last year, were discussing options for either opening Gjader for tourism or refurbishing the base for military use once again.
The Unheard of Ones
Some of the bases we’ve seen above process intel and others work with jets. Some secure nuclear weapons and others handle seeds. Despite their differences, the common ground for each is the secrecy and folklore that surround them. The only thing I’d like to know is what about the ones we’ve NEVER heard of? Those are the ones I’d love to explore.
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