Silver Strand Training Complex

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Silver Strand Training Complex South
Navy Radio Compass Station
Navy Direction Finder Station
Fort Emory
Imperial Beach Radio Station
Naval Radio Receiving Station Imperial Beach
Naval Radio Receiving Facility
Part of Naval Base Coronado
Wullenweber Circular Disposed Antenna Array
Silver Strand Training Complex antenna array in 2013
Silver Strand Training Complex South is located in the United States
Silver Strand Training Complex South
Silver Strand Training Complex South
Coordinates32°35′47″N 117°07′41″W / 32.596389°N 117.128056°W / 32.596389; -117.128056Coordinates: 32°35′47″N 117°07′41″W / 32.596389°N 117.128056°W / 32.596389; -117.128056
Site information
OwnerUnited States Navy
Controlled byU.S. Special Operations Forces
Site history
Built1920 (1920)
Garrison information
OccupantsUnited States Naval Special Warfare Command

Silver Strand Training Complex South (SSTC-S), formerly known as the Naval Radio Receiving Facility (NRRF), is the premier training facility for U.S. Special Operations Forces. Located between Imperial Beach and Silver Strand State Beach near San Diego in southern California, USA, this facility was known by locals as the "elephant cage" which is a nickname for the large Wullenweber direction finder antenna. The antenna was used to provide direction finding, primary communication links for U.S. Navy submarines. The antenna was finally dismantled in 2015,[1][2] even though it was scheduled to be removed in fiscal year 2007.[3][4] Presently the area is part of Naval Base Coronado and commanded by that base's Commanding Officer.[5] While just north of Imperial Beach, it is within the city limits of Coronado.[6]



Navy Radio Compass Station, circa 1925

Initially created in 1920 as the Navy Radio Compass Station, it was renamed in 1940 as the Navy Direction Finder Station when a permanent direction finding station was established.[7] In 1943, thirty WAVES were stationed there, culminating in 1945 with a total of 112 WAVES;[8] there they engaged in SIGINT. By 1953, it was known as Naval Radio Receiving Station Imperial Beach, and in 1965 it received its well-known Wullenweber Circular Disposed Antenna Array,[7] an AN/FRD-10.[9] The last of its type to be built, it ceased operation in 1999.[10]


In 1942, the United States Army took ownership of 412.14 acres in Coronado Heights and designated it Fort Emory in honor of Brigadier-General William H. Emory, itself being subordinate to Fort Rosecrans, being manned by the 19th Coast Artillery.[11][12] Armament of the base consisted of four 155mm guns of Battery Imperial, which were later superseded by the two 6-inch M1905 guns of Battery Grant.[13] Coastal radars were authorized in 1943.[14] Construction of a two-gun 16-inch battery (#134) was completed in 1944;[11][12] however, the guns were never mounted; these guns would have supplemented the 16-inch Battery Ashburn at Fort Rosecrans.[15][16] In World War II, Fort Emory was garrisoned by the 19th Coast Artillery Regiment, and after October 1944 by the 523rd Coast Artillery Battalion.[17] The land upon which the fort was located was turned over to the Navy in 1947,[16] with a single army family as caretaker of the facilities, which were declared surplus a year later;[11] in 1950 it was finally transferred to the Navy, integrating with the Imperial Beach Radio Station.[11]


Today the 578 acres (2 km2) facility provides an excellent training environment with waterborne approaches from both the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay sides.[18] Offshore the Coronado Roads area is used for ship systems testing.[19] The city-like layout of the base also provides a realistic site for critical urban warfare training.[18]

For amphibious operations training the beaches of the base have been designated Beach White, and Beach Purple, each with two training lanes.[20] In 2010, the Navy proposed increased training, including mine-sweeping training,[21] amphibious operations, as well as special warfare operations.[22] This faced opposition during public hearings by environmentalist, due to possible impact upon the California Least Tern, San Diego fairy shrimp,[23] and to a lesser extent the Western snowy plover.[21][22] Later that year new warning signs were put up by the Navy warning of increased training, and of endangered species.[2] A ten-year-long, 818-page environmental impact statement was released relating to this proposed increased activity,[24] it was created with the assistance of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.[25] Sailors and Marines, training on the Complex are provided maps to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and conduct clean-ups to minimize impact on those areas supervised by local organizations and the EPA.[26] In an unrelated proposal, the base's water area will be used for training by the Littoral Combat Ships for antisubmarine warfare;[27] the Navy has filed its impact upon wildlife with NOAA as it relates to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.[28]

In September 2014, the Navy proposed demolishing the Wullenweber Antenna Array stating it was obsolete equipment;[29] the San Diego array as of September 2014 is the last of its kind still standing.[30] By early 2015, the array had been demolished.[1]

Construction of the coastal campus of Special Warfare Command seen from the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in October 2017.

In 2014, the Navy proposed expansion of Special Warfare Command facilities at Silver Strand, dubbed "Naval Base Coronado Coastal Campus"; the proposal had four alternatives, one which would demolish a historic bunker.[31] Concern has been raised of planned expansion on the Lotus nuttallianus.[32] At its outset, the expansion in facilities aboard Silver Strand was over $700 million.[33] As of February 2016, the Navy plans to tear down the bunker;[34] it had been planned to be named for Brigadier General George Washington Gatchell, but is identified as #134.[35] It had been previously used by the Navy as an instruction of SEALs, and had the designation of "Building 99";[36] it would have been eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[31] In August 2016, members of the Kumeyaay nation protested the construction due to concerns about disturbing buried ancestors.[37] It was estimated that demolition of "Building 99" would be completed by December 2016.[38] In April 2018, Representative Susan Davis raised concern of sewage spillage from the Tijuana River would have on SEAL training at the complex.[39] In May 2018, construction continued with five new buildings of the 44 planned to be built, were completed with some already in use.[40] Upon completion, it is expected that over 3,000 navy personnel will be working aboard the complex.[41]

In 2015, the Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command opened a course on unmanned aerial system, including the Scan Eagle, aboard Silver Strand Training Complex, with additional field activities occurring at Camp Roberts.[42]


  1. ^ a b Steele, Jeanette (20 March 2015). "Navy SEALs eye dramatic expansion". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b JANINE ZÚÑIGA (8 April 2010). "Navy's signs causing beach-goer confusion". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  3. ^ CDR Alvin H. Grobmeier (9 December 2007). "USN CDAAs". Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  4. ^ Dee Ruzicka (May 2007). "U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Naval Radio Station, AN/FRD-10 Circularly Disposed Antenna Array" (PDF). Historic American Buildings Survey. U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  5. ^ "Welcome to Naval Base Coronado". Commander, Navy Installations Command. United States Navy. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  6. ^ Sampite-Montecalvo, Allison (21 July 2017). "Poop suit settled between Coronado, I.B. over naval services". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  7. ^ a b "NAVIOCOM San Diego History". Navy Information Operations Command San Diego. United States Navy. 1 February 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  8. ^ McGinnis, George P. (1997). U. S. Naval Cryptologic Veterans Association. Turner Publishing Company. p. 41. ISBN 978-1-56311-250-8. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  9. ^ Pike, John. "AN/FRD-10 CLASSIC BULLSEYE". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  10. ^ "CFS Masset". RADIO COMMUNICATIONS AND SIGNALS INTELLIGENCE IN THE CANADIAN NAVY. Jerry Proc. December 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d "Fort Emory". California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. 18 May 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  12. ^ a b Linder, Bruce (2001). San Diego's Navy. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. p. 129. ISBN 1-55750-531-4.
  13. ^ Thompson, Erwin N.; Howard B. Overton (1991). The Guns of San Diego: San Diego Harbor Defenses, 1796-1947. San Diego: National Park Service. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  14. ^ Thompson, Erwin N.; Howard B. Overton (1991). THE GUNS OF SAN DIEGO: San Diego Harbor Defenses, 1796-1947. San Diego: National Park Service. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  15. ^ Thompson, Erwin N.; Howard B. Overton (1991). THE GUNS OF SAN DIEGO: San Diego Harbor Defenses, 1796-1947. San Diego: National Park Service. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  16. ^ a b Mark J. Bernow. "Harbor Defenses of San Diego". California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  17. ^ Gaines, William C., Coast Artillery Organizational History, 1917-1950, Coast Defense Journal, vol. 23, issue 2, p. 13
  18. ^ a b "Silver Strand Training Complex". CNIC website. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  19. ^ "US Navy on the T-AKE As It Beefs Up Supply Ship Capacity". Defense Industry Daily. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  20. ^ Zuniga, Janine (14 March 2010). "Comment time extended for Navy's strand plans". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  21. ^ a b Megan Burke; Hank Crook; Alison St John (26 February 2010). "Navy Expansion Proposed Along Silver Strand". Editors Roundtable. KPBS. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  22. ^ a b JANINE ZÚÑIGA (23 February 2010). "Plans to step up Navy training worry neighbors". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  23. ^ Kyla Calvert (12 August 2010). "Navy's Silver Strand Expansion Could Harm Vulnerable Species". KPBS. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  24. ^ JANINE ZÚÑIGA (13 January 2011). "Last chance to comment on new training activities". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  25. ^ Melanie Ravan (31 August 2010). "USFWS Carlsbad Field Office Federal Partnership Recognized by Navy Region Southwest". Navy Compass. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  26. ^ Perry, Tony (21 February 2013). "Coronado sailors clean up imperiled birds' nesting areas". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  27. ^ Gidget Fuentes (4 August 2010). "Navy eyes wider training area off Hawaii". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  28. ^ Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (28 December 2010). "Incidental Harassment Authorization Application for Navy Training Conducted Within The Silver Strand Training Complex" (PDF). National Marine Fisheries Service. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  29. ^ Steele, Jeanette (3 September 2014). "Navy's mysterious 'elephant cage' retired". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
    "Antenna Array Demolition Part Of Proposed Navy Campus". Eagle & Times. Imperial Beach, California. 18 September 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  30. ^ Klausner, Alexandra (6 September 2014). "Navy's mysterious 'elephant cage' in San Diego will be demolished as secrecy still surrounds what giant antennae discovered in Cold War". Daily Mail. United Kingdom. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  31. ^ a b Abbie Alford (14 August 2014). "First look at future Naval Base Coronado". KFMB Channel 8. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
    Jeanette Steele (27 July 2014). "Plan for new Navy SEAL campus". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  32. ^ Pell, Sheila (2 December 2014). "Environmental roshambo: Navy smashes lotus". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  33. ^ Steele, Jeanette (12 June 2015). "New Navy SEAL campus is a go". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  34. ^ Graham, Marty (8 February 2016). "Fortress with a view". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  35. ^ May, Ronald V. (Summer 1988). "U.S. Army Forts Around San Diego Bay" (PDF). Fort Guijarros Quarterly. 2 (2): 4. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  36. ^ Axelson, David (22 January 2016). "World War II Era Bunker To Be Demolished On New Navy Coastal Campus". Eagle & Times. Imperial Beach, California. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  37. ^ Baker, Debbi (31 August 2016). "Indians protest Navy building site they say is sacred burial ground". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  38. ^ Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. (October 2016). Transportation Management Plan (PDF) (Report). United States Navy. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  39. ^ Chambers, John (23 April 2018). "Navy asked to investigate cross-border sewage spills". KSWB. San Diego. City News Service. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  40. ^ Groeneveid, Jeannie (18 May 2018). "Navy's Coastal Campus – On Time and On Budget". Coronado Times. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  41. ^ Graham, Marty (27 January 2018). "SEAL appeal on the Silver Strand". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  42. ^ Miller, Seaman Richard (3 June 2015). "A New Approach; NSW Opens UAS School". Naval Special Warfare Command. Retrieved 1 August 2018 – via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service.

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