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27 August 2010. Add Google Earth photos.

23 December 2005. Add 2001 photo of antennas, map and aerial photographs of Sugar Grove Base support facility of the antenna farm.


Sugar Grove antennas June 2001.


USGS Topo map 1977. From

Aerial photo August 2004. Composite photo excerpted from and reduced MrSID images: (19MB) (19MB)

Sugar Grove Base in 2000. From:

Sugar Grove Base in August 2004. Shows that considerable new construction has occurred in four years with more underway.

Photo excerpted from and reduced MrSID image: (19MB)

22 December 2005. Revise URL for MrSID image: (19MB)

26 October 2005. A. writes:

Some notes on Sugar Grove:

Following the disestablishment of the Naval Security Group and realignment of  its personnel and assets under Naval Network Warfare Command (as noted earlier on your webpage), NSGA Sugar Grove was renamed Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Sugar Grove.

The two Wullenweber antennas (variants of the FRD-10), which were built in 1969, have both been dismantled, as the 2005 satellite photo recently added shows. The more northern one had already been dismantled by the time of the 1997 satellite photo. Unlike the other FRD-10s, which were operated by the Naval Security Group for high-frequency direction-finding and SIGINT collection, the arrays at Sugar Grove were used for ship-shore communications by the U.S. Navy.

The story of the 600-foot dish, intended at the time to be the "world's biggest bug", is told in James Bamford's first book about the NSA, The Puzzle Palace.

More information on the history of the Sugar Grove station, the Wullenwebers, and the big dish is at these sites:

23 October 2005. Updated to add August 2005 aerial photos excerpted and converted to JPG from MrSID: [Superceding URL above.]

8 October 2005. Updated to add the following two West Virginia GIS satellite photos. See related news release
of the disbanding of the Naval Security Group Command to become part of the Naval Network Warfare Command:
From the Coldwarcomms Mail List:

6 October 2005

I found the following in a declassified National Security Council document 
dated June 30, 1958, in the event it interests anyone:

"Naval Radio Research Observatory (NRRO).  This observatory is to be erected 
at Sugar Grove, West Virginia for exploiting lunar reflective techniques for 
the purposes of intelligence collection, radio astronomy, and 
communications-electronics research.  A 600-foot steerable parabolic radio 
antenna will provide for the reception of electromagnetic emissions reflected 
off the moon.  As an intelligence device it will provide for reception and 
analyzing emissions from areas of the world not now accessible by any other 
known method, short of physical penetration.  The Observatory is planned to 
be operational in FY 1962."  [there then follows discussion of the required 
construction budget]  

One of the two Wallenweber antennas (the large circular layouts) appear to be inactive, with several
antennas installed instead. The other Wallenweber remains in this photo but it is not clear if it
is active. Wallenweber's were signal direction finding devices, with dozens of pole-receivers located
on the circumference, each picking up a signal from a slightly different angle. The combined receptions
were triangulated to establish the direction of the signal source.

Note the large antenna at the upper right of the photo below. This may a smaller descendent of the giant
600-foot diameter "moon-bounce" antenna.

28 April 2002


Interception Capabilities 2000

By Duncan Campbell

Sugar Grove, Virginia - COMSAT interception at ECHELON site

73. US government documents confirm that the satellite receiving station at Sugar Grove, West Virginia is an ECHELON site, and that collects intelligence from COMSATs. The station is about 250 miles south-west of Washington, in a remote area of the Shenandoah Mountains. It is operated by the US Naval Security Group and the US Air Force Intelligence Agency.

74. An upgraded system called TIMBERLINE II, was installed at Sugar Grove in the summer of 1990. At the same time, according to official US documents, an "ECHELON training department" was established.(47) With training complete, the task of the station in 1991 became "to maintain and operate an ECHELON site".(48)

75. The US Air Force has publicly identified the intelligence activity at Sugar Grove: its "mission is to direct satellite communications equipment [in support of] consumers of COMSAT information ... This is achieved by providing a trained cadre of collection system operators, analysts and managers".(49) In 1990, satellite photographs showed that there were 4 satellite antennae at Sugar Grove. By November 1998, ground inspection revealed that this had expanded to a group of 9.



Antennas are located in circle shown at left.
ZD Net Photo