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Thu July 31, 2014
To Find America's Nuclear Missiles, Try Google Maps
Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 4:05 pm
Earlier this week, NPR ran a short series I did on America's land-based nuclear missiles. One diagram in particular raised a few eyebrows: It showed the location of a Missile Alert Facility, along with the silos for 10 nuclear weapons.
Ken Albertson summed up what several of our readers were thinking: "Thanks for the map. Can you now publish the GPS coordinates. You've been real helpful, Kim IL Sung."
In truth, the location of these weapons is no secret.
The missiles and their command bunkers have been in the same place "for decades," Air Force Capt. Edith Sakura of the 90th Missile Wing Office of Public Affairs wrote in an email. "They are near county and state roads that are public access to people. You need security clearances to access the sites; however, it would be hard to 'hide' such facilities."
Moreover, as other commenters noted, the sites are already visited by foreign militaries. Russian officers regularly inspect U.S. missile silos to make sure America is adhering to international arms-control treaties. (And the U.S. sends its own observers to Russia.)
The missile base I visited, Foxtrot-01, is right there on Google Maps.
When I needed a break from writing the series, I found myself scrolling around Nebraska and Colorado, looking for silos and bunkers. See how many you can find.
But here's a disclaimer: Don't actually try GOING to any of these locations. Heavily armed security forces respond to intruders, and very bad things will happen.
Geoff Brumfiel is a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent with NPR's Science Desk.