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Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

Article about: My wife and I just visited a unusual attraction in Thailand, a former US signals intelligence HF direction finding station used during the Vietnam war and commonly referred to as an "El

  1. #1

    Default Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    My wife and I just visited a unusual attraction in Thailand, a former US signals intelligence HF direction finding station used during the Vietnam war and commonly referred to as an "Elephant cage".

    But first a background. This is a huge facility. The AN/FLR-9 Antenna was a large circular array built at 8 locations during the Cold War. Collectively the 8 stations could locate and intercept HF communications anywhere on the planet, an individual station had accurate direction finding up to 7,400 km away.
    The antennae was gigantic, consisting of three concentric rings with outer ring 440 metres in diameter. The antenna two outer rings were supported by 96 pillars of 40 metre height.

    In Thailand an "Elephant cage" was built in 1970 at the tiny village of Non Sung, about 15 km south of Udon Thani in the north East region. Operated by the 7th RRFS (rather blandly described as a "Radio Research Field Station") it was really a top secret intell gathering station under the command of the Army Security Agency. In fact the 7th RRFS had been operating there since 1967. By 1970 the station had a 1,000 linguists, O5H (high speed morse intercept operators), cryptologists and communication staff. The development of the 320 acre site (which cost the US $400 to buy) cost US$50 million. Primarily purpose was listening in to NVA and Viet Cong radio traffic and monitor Chinese military movements.
    But political wind changes saw the Thai Government asking the US to close the Station in 1976, and it remained of limits to civilians until September 2018 when the Thai Army opened the Ramasun Historical museum.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-25-2018 at 09:05 AM. Reason: revise text

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    Apparently soldiers who made the top 10% of the draft test might end up in the ASA. At Ramasun they worked in a large low white building with no windows. This was the "Operations building" or "Ops", it was air conditioned like every other building at Ramasun, and divided into at least 10 rooms, which separated the different working groups, morse code, linguists etc.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    The last two photos show the Air Force barracks, all air con rooms, concrete road and street lighting. The base generated it's own huge power requirements from diesel generators. Outside in the village the people made do with a few light bulbs in their houses, and no street lighting.

    The other photo shows the base administration office, now used by the Thai Army for same purpose. The "ops" building today is in poor condition. As following photos will show.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-30-2018 at 08:27 AM.

  3. #3

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    Ramasun Station in 2018

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage
    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage
    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage
    No idea why that flipped. The trap door leads to a 350 meter underground tunnel to the Ops building, and originally housed cables. The white circular building in centre of the antenna array housed electronics.
    The bathroom (left) missing roof and jungle encroaching.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-25-2018 at 08:46 AM. Reason: Edited to orient photos.

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    Some of Thailand's ruined temples are in better shape than the Op's building.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    The internal corridor with blue half painted walls, has ten doors on either side that led to windowless rooms where the operators worked in two 12 hour shifts. The corridor even now is claustrophobic, narrow and low. Those who worked there referred to the Ops building as "the box." I understand the left side doorways opened into the Ops floor and on right side were offices.

    Below; our two Thai army guides took us through the tunnel from the centre of the antenna array to the Op's building. They said when they cleaned it out recently they had numerous snakes to evict.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-30-2018 at 12:13 PM. Reason: Edited to orient photos.

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    The Thai Army still uses most of the other parts of the Ramasan Station including the barracks, so are off limit. Evidently those buildings are in better condition as they were of use. The Op's building which was high security until it was closed, was stripped of salvageable metals such as the roof and this no doubt sped it's demise. Evidently the morse code specialists would sit at their posts for 12 hour shifts with headphones on, hands on the keyboard waiting for a sound. When they heard a sound they had to react writing down what they thought they heard. The mission was simple, find your target, copy the dits and dahs, make comments when appropriate, and do this 12 hours a day in a windowless room. The Viet cong and North Vietnamese used morse, but only used numbers in sending out their messages, and not even the full morse code number. They used an abbreviated number eg for number 1, in morse= 4 dits and a 1 dah. The VC however only sent 1 dit and 1 dah, which actually meant "A" in morse code. The VC operators were not highly trained and repeated the same thing over and over as the other end did not understand.

    On our visit to the Ramasun station we got a video introduction at the information building then two Thai soldiers on staff gave us a guided tour. The scale is impressive and having prior knowledge of the facility I found it very interesting, part of the tour was walking through the 350 metre underground tunnel. They are apparently continuing to develop the museum and are bringing together some Vietnam war relics (vehicles probably) to the site in the near future. On the day we were there we got to have a closeup look at a Cessna 0-1 bird dog aircraft on display. Not related to Ramasun, but interesting. I'll post more photos when I work out how to post them right way up.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    Notice behind the Cessna the concrete anchor bases for the third and smallest antenna ring.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-25-2018 at 08:59 AM.

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    Thanks Ralph for turning the pics. Here's few more

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

    The top photo shows one of the massive 48 concrete anchors for the inner circle antenna array. Still visible among the grass stainless steel bands that were part of the original antenna.

    Painted on the corridor wall a red dot, with ? GAS.

    I understand the Station also had a function as a military satellite terminal for communications between the US and other S.E. Asian countries.
    Last edited by Anderson; 11-25-2018 at 09:09 AM. Reason: text

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    Last few photos. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and were the only people there and got a guided tour, so if you want to escape the crowds on a trip to Thailand, the Ramasun station might be the place.

    Cold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant CageCold War relic in Thailand; The Ramasun Elephant Cage

  8. #8

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    Very interesting thread.
    My dad was stationed just down the road at the airbase at NKP.
    gregM
    Live to ride -- Ride to live

    I was addicted to the "Hokey-Pokey" but I've turned
    myself around.

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    This is truely amazing Anderson !!

    History hidden and now found!
    The photos are great !
    It is not the size of a Collection in History that matters......Its the size of your Passion for it!! - Larry C

    One never knows what tree roots push to the surface of what laid buried before the tree was planted - Larry C

    “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” - Winston Churchill

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    I've been to NKP as well, on the banks of the Mekong river. I once met a guy who had worked in the intelligence gathering site at that base. He described listening for sounds like truck noises going down the Ho Chi Mihn trail, after which they would send an airstrike to hit the convoy. Secret radio transmitters had been dropped from the air along the trail that transmitted snatches of conversation and other noises from passing convoys and infiltrating NVA.

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