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See also KUMSC Birdseye:

20 August 2005.

The Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC), located on Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM, is perhaps the single largest repository of nuclear weapons in the US if not the world.

USGS Seamless released on August 15, 2005, satellite photos of Albuquerque taken in March 2004 from which the KUMSC has been excerpted below. For comparison, photos from 1996 and 2002 are provided to show what has changed at the site. The three are from USGS Seamless.

Kirtland Air Force Base:

From the report Taking Stock: Worldwide Nuclear Deployments 1998, by William M. Arkin, Robert S. Norris and Joshua Handler, published in March 1998 by the Natural Resources Defence Council.


Rank: No. 1
Nuclear Warheads: 2450


BECAUSE OF A BACKLOG OF WARHEADS awaiting dismantlement at the DOE’s Pantex facility near Amarillo, TX, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC) at Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, New Mexico has emerged as number one in U.S. nuclear warheads deployed in a single location, a rise from 2nd place in 1992 and 11th place in 1985.

Kirtland AFB serves as one of two main Air Force nuclear weapons general depots in the United States (the other is at Nellis AFB in Nevada). And because of its 300 mile proximity to Pantex, Kirtland serves as a transshipment base and storage point augmenting the disassembly facility. Nuclear weapons are stored in the newly built, partially underground KUMSC facility, managed by the 898th Munitions Squadron of the 377th Air Base Wing (ABW), a unit of the Air Force Materiel Command. The 377th Air Base Wing received excellent and outstanding ratings in its 1994 NSI. They had another NSI on June 21-30, 1997. The 898th MUNS is scheduled to receive an NSI on September 28, 1998.

Kirtland AFB traces its origins to the 1920s when a private airstrip called Oxnard Field was created. In the late 1930’s Albuquerque’s municipal airport began operating in what is now the base’s west side, and in 1939, military activity began with the leasing of 2000 acres. One of the country’s largest bomber crew training bases was created soon thereafter, and a training depot for aircraft mechanics (later known as Sandia Base) was established during the Second World War.

In July 1945, Los Alamos scientific director J. Robert Oppenheimer formed Z-Division to manage the engineering, design, production, assembly, and field testing of the non-nuclear components of atomic bombs. The need for flight support and test facilities reasonably near to the Los Alamos Laboratory led to the movement of the Division to Sandia in September 1945. By July 1946 transfer was almost complete and Z-Division moved into four new buildings, 828, 838, 824 and 839. The unit became the Sandia Corporation in 1949 and later the Sandia National Laboratories, still the largest element and tenant at Kirtland.

During the Cold War, Kirtland became the U.S. military center for nuclear weapons administration and operation. The Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP) (later the Defense Atomic Support Agency-DASA, then the Defense Nuclear Agency-DNA, now the Defense Special Weapons Agency-DSWA) operated the Sandia Base from its creation in 1947. In 1949, the Air Force Special Weapons Command (disestablished in 1976) was also established at Kirtland, and in 1949, the Naval Weapons Evaluation Facility, a Navy nuclear weapons research and test facility was established. It was joined by the Air Force Weapons Laboratory (which became the Phillips Laboratory in 1990). In 1971, Kirtland and Sandia Base merged.

In 1945, nuclear weapons first came to the Sandia Base, and a special Manhattan District Military Police unit was established to guard the bombs as they were brought down from the Los Alamos laboratory for practice and operational loading on specially modified B-29 bombers. Nuclear warheads came for permanent storage in 1949, when the Manzano Base Weapons Storage Area ("Site Able"), a 2880 acre facility constructed amid a small range of foothills in the Manzano mountains near the southeast end of the base, was opened.

The facility at Manzano Base was a large complex of plants where weapons maintenance and storage occurred. During the initial phases of nuclear weapons development the AEC was responsible for the nuclear component of warheads, and the DOD was responsible for the non-nuclear components. The nuclear materials-stored in special rooms separate from weapons-required constant maintenance to insure readiness. This involved rotating individual weapons in and out of storage in igloos at Manzano and taking them through several rooms in four plants for various phases of maintenance.

Initially the Army was responsible for Manzano, but in early 1952, the Air Force 1094th Special Reporting Group was established and took control of the base. The 1094th went through a variety of redesignations over the years, until 1 April 1994, when the current 898th Munitions Squadron was established. The 56-acre KUMSC was completed in 1994, consolidating warhead storage in a new facility outside of Manzano mountain. KUMSC is located on the southeast side of the installation, approximately 3.5 miles east of the main base. Nuclear weapons moved by air in and out of KUMSC use the Albuquerque International Airport.

An earlier eyeball of KUMSC which shows the 2002 photo full-size and provides other site information:

Google Map's 2002 version:,-106.548704&spn=0.005910,0.009306&t=k&hl=en


Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex 2004

KUMSC September 1996

KUMSC March 2002 (Reduced)
Full size:

KUMSC March 2004 (Reduced)

KUMSC March 2004 (Full-size)