The Cheyenne Mountain Complex is located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station (CMAFS), a short distance from NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station falls under Air Force Space Command and hosts the activities of several tenant units.
At the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s, the idea of a hardened command and control center was conceptualized as a defense against long-range Soviet bombers. The Army Corps of Engineers supervised the excavation of Cheyenne Mountain and the construction of an operational center within the granite mountain. The Cheyenne Mountain facility became fully operational as the NORAD Combat Operations Center on April 20, 1966.
Over the years, the installation came to house elements of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Air Force Space Command and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). Under what became known as the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), several centers supported the NORAD missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control and provided warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America.
NORAD’s focus and facilities have both evolved to meet the asymmetric threats of the 21st century. On July 28, 2006, the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate was re-designated as the Cheyenne Mountain Division, with the mission to assist in establishing an integrated NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center within the headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the NORAD agreement–May 12, 2008–the Command Center located within Cheyenne Mountain Complex was officially re-designated as the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Alternate Command Center. The Cheyenne Mountain Division of NORAD and USNORTHCOM was re-designated as the J36 branch within the NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s Operations Directorates.
Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station is owned and operated by Air Force Space Command. In fact, NORAD and USNORTHCOM use just under 30% of the floor space within the complex and comprise approximately 5% of the daily population at Cheyenne Mountain.
Today, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex serves as NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s Alternate Command Center and as a training site for crew qualification. Day-to-day crew operations for NORAD and USNORTHCOM typically take place at Peterson Air Force Base.