Lake Mead Base
Nellis AFB Area II
Nellis Air Force Base Area II, once known as Lake Mead Base, is a separate facility about a mile northeast of the main Nellis air base on the northern outskirts of Las Vegas. Area II is a munitions storage facility for both conventional and nuclear munitions.
As of 1990 a significant number of nuclear weapons were stored at Area 2, a highly guarded part of Nellis AFB at the foot of Sunrise Mountain also known as Nellis Area II and Lake Mead Base. The area consists of 790 acres, 75 specialized munitions storage igloos, 15 maintenance and support facilities, 26 miles of roadways, and 44 vehicles of various types. The site is one of three Air Force central nuclear storage areas in the United States, along with Kirtland AFB, Albuquerque, NM, and Barksdale AFB in Bossier City, LA. The 3096th Aviation Depot Squadron based at Nellis AFB, subsequently redesignated the 896th Munitions Squadron, is responsible for Area II operations.
The most prominent part of Area II is a compound encompassing several dozen earthen bunkers on a hillside surrounded by a high-security triple fence. The compound is well-lit at night, and is readily visible from cars on Interstate 15 and aircraft approaching the Las Vegas airport. Lake Mead Base was a storage and transfer area for nuclear weapons which were tested at the Nevada Test Site.
A lower security area outside the nuclear weapons compound includes support buildings and a federal prison.
- The separate and much smaller "conventional" munitions facility stores bombs and other munitions for Nellis air exercises. This conventional weapons storage area is separate from the nuclear weaspons storage area. Conventional munitions are transported to the main Nellis air base via a secured roadway within the Nellis AFB property.
- Various support buildings and dorms for the resident munitions squadron.
- A depot of the 820th Red Horse engineering squadron.
- Nellis Federal Prison Camp is a federal minimum security prison which occupies former Air Force dorms. This facility houses white-collar criminals -- bankers, managers and entrepreneurs who ran afoul of federal law. Inmates have included Mark Morze, who, as an executive in the carpet-cleaning outfit ZZZZ Best, helped swindle more than $70 million from investors in the mid-1980s, and Ted Wolfram, a former stockbroker from Toledo, Ohio, who served 10 years for embezzling about $50 million. It's a minimum-security institution and its 550 inmates are largely free to move about the facility during the day. Pepperdine University's George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management offers a course in ethical and legal issues through the Seminar in Business Ethics at the Nellis Federal Prison Camp outside Las Vegas. Students interview a panel of white-collar criminals about the potential impact of business decisions.
The property was acquired by the Army Corps of Engineers, carried on Department of Navy inventory, and used by the Defense Atomic Support Agency (DASA). DASA was a Department of Defense (DOD) entity and was renamed the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1971. It was not allowed to hold real property. In 1969 accountability for Lake Mead Base was transferred from the Navy to the Army and then permitted to the Air Force, for use by near by Nellis Air Force Base.
The property was used primarily for munitions storage by DASA, employing forces of the Navy and Marine Corps. Other uses of the site include explosive ordnance and demolition training, munitions maintenance, a military education center, and a federal prison. Improvements consist of approximately 238 buildings which includes primarily storage facilities in addition to housing, administrative, recreational, and training facilities. Property acquired specifically for sand and gravel removal consists of 5,120 acres. Much of the site remains active and continues to be used for munitions storage by the Air Force. No improvements are known to have been constructed on the disposed portions of the property.
Lake Mead Base is currently known as Nellis Air Force Base, Area II and consists of 8,015 acres. A total of 6,999 acres of the site were disposed of as follows: 20 acres relinquished to DOI on 20 July 1954; 5,120 acres retransferred to DOI on 5 April 1955; and 1,859 acres retransferred to DOI on 21 September 1956. No improvements are known to have been constructed by DOD on the disposed property. Disposed parcels remain undeveloped and are located in two areas. A 5,120-acre parcel is located entirely within National Park Service property known as Lake Mead National Recreation Area and a l,879-acre parcel is located entirely within Bureau of Land Management property known as the Las Vegas Dunes Recreation Area.
During the period 1 January 1952 to 21 May 1958, 15,014 acres were acquired by permit and transfer from the Department of Interior and in fee from various private parties, the City of Las Vegas, and Clark County. The site was acquired primarily for munitions storage, and the active facility which consists of 8.016 acres, remains in this use. Improvements by DOD on the currently active Nellis Air Force Base, Area II, consist of approximately 238 buildings including primarily storage facilities, in addition to housing, administrative, recreational, and training facilities. No DOD improvements are known to have been constructed on the disposed portions of the subject site. A total of 6,999 acres were returned to the public domain between 1954 and 1956. All disposed property remains undeveloped. The National Park Service owns 5,120 acres which is part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns the remaining 1,879 acres which is in the Las Vegas Dunes Recreation Area.
A total of 15,014 acres were acquired for Lake Mead Base as follows: 6,193 acres in transfer from the Department of Interior (DOI) by Public Land Order (PLO) on 19 June 1952 (includes 320 acres also covered by Special Land Use Permit effective 1 January 1952 to 31 December 1954); 998 acres in transfer from DOI by PLO dated 21 May 1958 (formerly acquired by Use Permits dated 18 March 1958 and 12 March 1953, and Use Permit dated 6 July 1953); 480 acres in transfer from DOI by PLO dated 10 December 1952; 1,879 acres in transfer from DOI by Use Permit dated 6 July 1953; 19 acres in transfer from DOI by Use Permit on 12 March 1953; 5,120 acres in transfer from DOI by Use Permit dated 6 April 1953; and 325 acres in fee from various private parties, the City of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Clark County, Nevada, between 5 February 1953 and l May 1957.
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