The Avionics Building
The Avionics building, constructed c. 1989 by US Air Force, is a two storey, partly sunken reinforced concrete bunker, rectangular in plan. The building accommodates a drive-through access roadway and is capped with a rough concrete buster cap designed to absorb the impact of a missile before penetrating the bunker's roof.
INTERIOR: The purpose of the avionics building was to service the electronic components of reconnaissance aircraft and process the data retrieved. The interior of the building housed life support systems, stainless steel decontamination rooms, electronics workshops, photographic dark rooms, handling and storage areas. It is protected internally by subterranean 'portcullis' type blast doors on a hydraulic release mechanism. By the main doors are a suite of decontamination rooms and male and female toilets. An internal vehicular decontamination facility is also present. Large rooms on the lower floor housed the computers (now removed) where the data was downloaded and analysed. One of these rooms has a painted motto 'Aircrews live by the knowledge, skill, awareness and integrity of their maintenance people' over the door. A unique feature is the system for maintaining air pressure in the case of attack, by the use of compressed air cylinders on the lower floor, still present. All fixtures and fittings apart from the air cylinders and generators, floor surfaces, wall panelling and doors have been removed.
Land for an airfield at Alconbury was first acquired in 1938 as a satellite landing ground for RAF Upwood and when war broke out, the base was used by Blenheims from RAF Wyton. As part of the US 8th Air Force, it fulfilled a variety of roles until being handed back to the RAF in November 1945. In June 1953, the base was reactivated for the US 3rd Air Force and from 1959, Alconbury assumed its principal Cold War role as the home to various reconnaissance squadrons. In 1983, U2/TR-1 spy planes were permanently based at Alconbury, resulting in the construction of a number of hardened structures including the Avionics building and a number of Hardened Aircraft Shelters which have group value. Following the cessation of the Cold War, flying ceased in March 1995 and the base was released for disposal.
RCHME/English Heritage 'MPP Cold War Survey' 1999.
Cocroft, W.D and Thomas, R.J.C 'Cold War, Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989', English Heritage, 2003.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANCE:
The hardened Avionics building at Alconbury airfield was constructed by the US Air Force in 1989. It is a very rare surviving example of this building type, and along with other buildings from this period, represents the physical manifestation of the global division between capitalism and communism that shaped the history of the late 20th century. The Avionics building is unique amongst the few such buildings in England, because of its size, form and internal survival of the vehicular decontamination unit and compressed air re-pressurising system. It is uniquely associated with the U2/TR1 aircraft, stationed only at Alconbury. As one of the last Cold War structures built in the country, it is the most sophisticated hardened structure remaining and as such has very special architectural and historic interest.