Sugar Grove Station

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Sugar Grove Station is a National Security Agency (NSA) communications site located near Sugar Grove in Pendleton County, West Virginia. According to a 2005 article in the New York Times, the site intercepts all international communications entering the Eastern United States.[1] Activities at the site previously involved the Naval Information Operations Command (NAVIOCOM).[citation needed] In April 2013, the Chief of Naval Operations ordered that the NAVIOCOM base be closed by September 30, 2015, as "a result of the determination by the resource sponsor National Security Agency to relocate the command's mission."[2][3] The naval base is being repurposed as a privately owned healthcare facility for veterans, while the NSA listening station, to the south, continues to operate.[4][5]


The site was first developed by the Naval Research Laboratory in the early 1960s as the site of a 600 ft (180 m) radio telescope[6] that would gather intelligence on Soviet radar and radio signals reflected from the moon and would gather radioastronomical data on outer space, but the project was halted in 1962 before the telescope construction was completed.[nb 1][8] The site was then developed as a radio receiving station. The site was activated as "Naval Radio Station Sugar Grove" on May 10, 1969, and two Wullenweber AN/FRD-10 Circulary Disposed Antenna Arrays (CDAAs) were completed on November 8, 1969. Numerous other antennas, dishes, domes, and other facilities were constructed in the following years. Some of the more significant radio telescopes on site are a 60 ft (18 m) dish (oldest telescope on site), a 105 ft (32 m) dish featuring a special waveguide receiver and a 150 ft (46 m) dish (largest telescope on site).

The site was part of the ECHELON communications network operated by the United States and its allies to intercept and process electronic telecommunications.[9] The network operates many sites around the world including Waihopai Valley in New Zealand, Menwith Hill in the United Kingdom and Yakima, Washington.

Sugar Grove is located in an officially designated National Radio Quiet Zone that covers 13,000 square miles (34,000 km2) in West Virginia and Virginia. The zone was established by Congress in 1958 to facilitate its mission and that of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory located 30 miles (48 km) away at Green Bank in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

On July 26, 2016 it was reported that the online auction for Sugar Grove Naval Station concluded on July 25 with a winning bid of $11.2 Million.[10] This transaction later failed and bidding was reopened that September.[11] In 2017, the second auction resulted in a $4 million purchase by an Alabama-based investment group with plans to convert the base into a healthcare facility for active-duty military, veterans, and their families.[4]


  1. ^ The primary contractor for the radio telescope was the General Dynamics Corporation. Philadelphia Gear Corporation (subcontracted by General Dynamics) developed the telescope's gear drives.[7]


  1. ^ Bamford, James (December 25, 2005). "The Agency That Could Be Big Brother". New York Times. Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Coy, David (May 31, 2013). "Senator Manchin Discusses Future Plans for Sugar Grove Naval Base". Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  3. ^ "Disestablishment Navy Information Operations Command, Sugar Grove, WV Archived 2013-05-02 at the Wayback Machine". Chief of Naval Operations. April 2014.
  4. ^ a b Steelhammer, Rick (February 7, 2017). "Investment firm sheds light on plans for old Sugar Grove Navy base". Charleston Gazette. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  5. ^ Charleston Gazette-Mail
  6. ^ "New Radio Telescope Is Man's Biggest Machine." Popular Science, December 1959, pp. 85-86/250.
  7. ^ "Subcontract Sources". Aircraft & Missiles. Chilton. 4: 17. 1961.
  8. ^ David K. van Keuren, "Cold War Science in Black and White: US Intelligence Gathering and Its Scientific Cover at the Naval Research Laboratory, 1948-62," Social Studies of Science, vol. 31, no. 2, Science in the Cold War, (2001): 207-229.
  9. ^ "Document 9. NAVSECGRU Instruction C5450.48A, Subj: Mission, Functions and Tasks of Naval Security Group Activity (NAVSECGRUACT) Sugar Grove, West Virginia, September 3, 1991". George Washington University. 13 January 2000. Retrieved 29 April 2011.
  10. ^ "U.S. GSA accepts high bid in auction for Sugar Grove Station". WV MetroNews. 26 July 2016.
  11. ^ "GSA to Open Sealed Bid for the Sugar Grove Station in Eastern West Virginia". 13 September 2016.

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Coordinates: 38°30′54″N 79°17′03″W / 38.514997°N 79.28421°W / 38.514997; -79.28421