When I was in Imperial Beach a couple of days ago, I walked out to the end of the Imperial Beach pier. It was an extraordinarily clear day, and looking back at shore, I saw something I’ve never seen before:
That thing is huge! How could I have missed it all these years?
After I saw it from the pier, I first though, “What is it?” Then I rushed back to my car to go find it. Alas, I did find it, but there is no way we mere mortal citizens can get to it. That’s because it’s the Silver Strand Training Complex for the United States Navy. I had to take the following picture through a very high chain link fence.
According to Wikipedia, the Silver Strand Training Complex is the premier training facility for U.S. Special Operations Forces. The large, circular fencing is actually a Wullenweber direction finder antenna used until 1999 to provide direction finding, primary communication links for U.S. Navy submarines. It is known locally as the “elephant cage.”
Created in 1920 as the Navy Radio Compass Station, it has been renamed several times during the ensuing years: Navy Direction Finder Station (1940), Naval Radio Receiving Station Imperial Beach (1953), and Wullenweber Circular Disposed Antenna Array (1965). It was the last of its type to be built and was decommissioned in 1999.
The area owned by the U.S. Navy comprises 450 acres and provides an excellent training environment with its waterborne approaches from both the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay. Ship systems testing occurs offshore, and the city-like layout of the base (see map below) provides a realistic site for critical urban warfare training.
Since 2010, Navy training at the Silver Strand Training Complex has increased, involving mine-sweeping training, amphibious operations, special warfare operations, and Littoral combat ship training for antisubmarine warfare.
There has been a lot of environmentalist opposition to the increased use of the Silver Strand Training Complex because of nearby populations of endangered wildlife species, such as the California Least Tern, the San Diego fairy shrimp, and the Western snowy plover.
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