A rare look beyond the gates at Ellsworth AFB - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A rare look beyond the gates at Ellsworth AFB

Ellsworth Air Force Base just northeast of Rapid City, South Dakota includes a section called the Munitions Storage Area. You’re probably picturing your average weapons depot, right? Turns out, the reality is more explosive than you might think. The Ellsworth Munitions Storage Area has been nicknamed the “Bomb Dump,” and for good reason. 

Even bombs need to have a home somewhere

The 28th Munitions Squadron is in charge of every single explosive at the base as well as making sure that B1 launching equipment is always ready to go. That means no accidents can occur here or the whole thing could blow up. 

The outside world rarely gets to see this part of Ellsworth, which makes sense. Severely limiting access is necessary because it is such a dangerous place. How dangerous, you ask? Well, there are 678,500 pounds of net explosive weight. That’s why the Munitions Storage Area is far, far away from any populated areas of Ellsworth. 

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A 122nd Fighter Wing munitions storage facility sits under a fresh coating of snow, Jan. 10, 2016, at the Indiana Air National Guard Base, Fort Wayne, Ind. The aging facility was originally constructed in 1991 and has served as munitions storage for both F-16 and A-10C aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper)

Clumsy folks beware

Strictly speaking, munitions are anything that contain explosives. Small things like bullets, bomb bodies, and grenades are stored at the Ellsworth Munitions Storage Areas. However, so are a five-hundred-pound bomb body, a two-thousand-pound bomb body, and loaded cruise missiles. In other words, if you’re clumsy, this place is probably not for you.

To enter the Munitions Storage Area at Ellsworth, you have to pass through additional security beyond the gate. The Bomb Dump is so exclusive that many of the base’s employees have never even been inside of the 647 acres of the Munitions Storage Area. 

Talk about a no-risk area

If you do find yourself in this volatile area, first you’ll have to give up your cell phone, as their signals could accidentally set off sensitive explosives. After all, the risks here are no joke, and they’re not taking any risks. 

Inside, you’ll find 86 facilities. They are all neatly in a line and aptly named Long Row. The structures are built beside one another, but they don’t touch. Long Row was specifically designed for extra security, just in case there is a problem. For instance, if a bomb exploded in one of the buildings, the building beside it won’t sympathetically detonate. 

One bomb, two bomb, red bomb, blue bomb

The Munitions Storage Area also includes free-standing carts out in the open loaded with non-explosive bombs used for training. They are color-coded blue to indicate that they are trainers. 

On the Munitions Storage Area grounds, you’ll also find a bunch of “igloos” covered in earth. They were built in the 1950s with the idea that they would last quite a while. They sure are living up to their goals. 

A minimum of 24 inches of soil plus a concrete topper covers each igloo for protection from what’s inside: many different types of explosives. At least one of the igloos serves as munitions inspection, where every single explosive device that enters Ellsworth must pass through.

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