Does the U.S. Military Maintain Secret Underwater Bases?

By: Diana Brown  | 
underwater base
Do clandestine underwater military bases really exist? OAR/National Undersea Research Program
Key Takeaways
  • The concept of secret underwater military bases has been a topic of intrigue and speculation. Potential benefits include operational privacy and difficulty in detection.
  • Despite historical proposals and the existence of certain underwater facilities like the naval testing facility in Idaho, the feasibility of maintaining deep-sea military bases faces significant challenges.
  • While the idea remains within the realm of possibility, evidence for the existence of such bases is sparse and the practicality of constructing and maintaining them remains a subject of debate.

Secret underwater military bases have captured our imaginations for years, from James Bond movies to James Cameron movies and everything in between. But are there really any clandestine bases? The guys at Stuff They Don't Want You To Know dive deep into the mysteries and conspiracies behind these top-secret bases to uncover whether they even exist in this episode of the podcast.

Undersea bases make sense, in many ways: They'd be hard to detect or infiltrate, impossible to observe by typical satellites and would allow for complete operational privacy — all things any military base would require. Deep-sea manned bases were first proposed in a paper by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 1968. The AIAA version utilized underwater mining techniques, and was touted as being surprisingly affordable. Is this compelling evidence that there must be some bases out there, given that technology has only gotten better since the '60s?


It's not like the United States is a stranger to secret military bases, either, both above and below ground. The U.S. already has at least one water base we know of, a naval testing facility beneath a deep lake in Bayview, Idaho established during World War II. This is hardly the deep-sea operation conspiracy, however. According to author and researcher Richard Sauder, Ph.D., there's an abundance of military operations on the very bottom of the ocean.

But are there, really? Regular military bases are expensive to build and require tons of people to staff and operate; if these were located at the bottom of the ocean, they'd require extra costs for developing, testing and maintaining watertight living quarters. On top of that, it's very hard to keep people alive underwater, thanks to the incredible pressure and freezing temperatures. Not to mention there's just very little to back up Sauder's claims of multiple bases.

China, however, is planning to build an underwater research facility at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) below the South China Sea, and it's big news. How could the U.S. (or another big government or corporation) keep several of them so secret?

The "surprisingly affordable" price tag seems a little suspect, too, given that there are a few underwater hotels that cost billions of dollars to build — and these are only about 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 meters) beneath the surface. Deep-sea bases would likely be miles below; the AIAA proposal from 1968 intended them to be drilled right into the ocean floor. Of course a military base wouldn't have the luxe amenities found in these fancy underwater hotels, but the expense of staffing, supplying and maintaining a military base could certainly rival — or exceed — those costs.

So, while it's fairly likely the U.S. government would build underwater bases, it's not clear if they actually could. To find out what Matt, Ben and Noel think about the possibilities and hear all the evidence — and a few bad James Bond impressions — you'll have to listen to the entire podcast.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do underwater bases impact marine life?
The construction and operation of underwater bases could potentially disrupt marine ecosystems. The introduction of artificial structures and human activity into these environments may affect local wildlife and their habitats, leading to changes in species' behavior and biodiversity.
Can civilians ever visit these secret bases?
Given their classified nature, it is highly unlikely that civilians would be allowed to visit secret underwater military bases if they exist. Access to such facilities would likely be restricted to military personnel and authorized individuals only, to maintain security and operational secrecy.