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Ye Olde Nuclear Silo

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Every so often in Science Fiction that takes place in the near, or at least, not-so-distant future, there will be rebels, and all rebels need a suitable hideout. Maybe there's an abandoned warehouse or an empty cave, but that's only for rebels who don't have it in them to be a real rebel army.

If you're about to tell the evil government or the alien invaders who's about to be in charge here, you need a base that really brings the message around.


You need Ye Olde Nuclear Silo. Originally created in the Cold War or in preparation for World War III, nuclear silos provide everything a proper rebel army needs: It's a miniature military base removed from larger settlements and hidden from most observers in the sky, has all the pipes and cables for the industrial feeling, and those gigantic, slow-moving doors! It usually comes conveniently with fully functioning computer equipment since it was already designed to survive armageddon, and it also provides that cozy damp cave atmosphere. If you're really lucky, it may even come with a functional missile and warhead.

Note that this trope extends to cover pretty much any other type of small secret underground military installations. If the lair is more expansive, it's an Elaborate Underground Base. If it's taken over by civilians, it may become an Underground City. The trope does NOT apply to any installation that is still under the control of the military that built it; in such situations, it's just a normal nuclear silo.



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     Anime and Manga  

  • One of the Fist of the North Star movies has Ken run into a monastery built over a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons.

     Comic Books  

  • The Morlocks from the X-Men live in tunnels under New York that were originally built as fallout shelters.


  • In Star Trek: First Contact, Zefram Cochrane's warp ship is kept in a nuclear silo. This is understandable, as the ship sits atop an intercontinental ballistic missile that's set to launch into space.
  • Day of the Dead (1985) had most of the zombie research take place in an old nuclear bunker. Oddly enough, the scientists who ran the place kept the first level of the bunker open and in disrepair, and allowed people to just wander in and out as they pleased, as a way of keeping the labs a secret.
  • The final scenes of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines take place in one of these.



  • The Torturer's Guild headquarters in Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer apparently consists of the disused shells of huge, ancient starships. The torturers sleep in cabins, with portholes, and a throwaway line mentions that the ship's original AI is still functioning, though extremely deranged.
  • Played very straight in the MechWarrior novel Ghost of Winter; the eventual ragged band of resistance fighters against the pirates who have taken over their planet (an ice world with only one major settlement) take shelter in an abandoned secret Clan depot that conveniently included a Star of 'Mechs. (Ironically, rumors of just that little 'treasure cache' were what drew the pirates to their world in the first place.)
  • Ardneh is revealed to be this at the end of Empire of the East.
  • Prince Roger: Thomas "Tomcat" Catrone got one of these as part of the bargain when he bought a plot of land in central Asia to retire and start a horse ranch on. Since his land already had this solid building with plenty of room, he's turned it into a nice, well-appointed home.
  • Early on in A Canticle for Leibowitz, a group of monks is mentioned as having blown themselves (and much of the surrounding area) up investigating one of these.
  • Late in Shadowboy, the Community Fund acquires the last surviving launch facility from the decomissioned Gruefield Missile base to convert into a base for the team.
  • The story "Eleven Hours Out" in the Star Trek Novel Verse anthology Tales Of The Dominion War showed that Starfleet kept a secure bunker underneath Starfleet Headquarters that duplicated all of the functions of Starfleet Command. Picard, Troi and a team of newly-minted Ensigns use it to help coordinate Earth's defense after the primary facility on the surface is destroyed by the Breen ambush from "The Changing Face of Evil".
  • One of The Survivalist novels by Jerry Ahern involves the title character searching for a nuclear missile silo that didn't launch during World War 3, so they can use it as a bargaining chip against the Soviets who have occupied the United States. Unfortunately the US officer who brought him this assignment is secretly a member of The Klan with his own agenda.

     Live Action TV  

  • In Jeremiah, the titular character was based in an underground military facility, from which he ventured out into the post-apocalyptic world.
    • This was Cheyenne Mountain/NORAD again, although they rarely used the name. It seems a pretty popular choice.

     Tabletop Games  

  • In the Paranoia adventure The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues, the Sierra Club secret society has a hidden base outside of Alpha Complex in an abandoned nuclear power plant.

     Video Games  

  • Half-Life series:
    • At least part of the Black Mesa Research Facility in Half-Life is located inside the old facilities of an underground missile research center. Though actually a test room for rocket engines, the room with the tentacle aliens is practically a missile silo. Later there's an actual missile silo that holds a modified rocket that is used to launch a satellite into space, that was supposed to be used in a plan to seal the dimensional rift.
    • Half-Life 2 has the Black Mesa East rebel headquarters. Though apparently not an actual missile silo (it appears to be a hydroelectric dam), it has all the other features of such a place.
    • The White Forest base from Episode 2, which serves as a replacement for Black Mesa East, fits the trope better: It is located in an actual nuclear missile silo, again hosting a rocket that is used to launch a satellite into space to seal a dimensional rift. This time it actually works.
  • The second level in Halo 3 takes place in an old missile silo that serves as the makeshift base for humanity's forces in East Africa. At one point one of the soldiers actually remarks on its very 21st-century style, complete with ancient hydraulic doors.
  • The Fallout games live and breathe this trope. Fallout 3 has at least three literal missile silos. In the backstory of Fallout: New Vegas's Lonesome Road DLC, the Courier destroyed the Divide by delivering an Old World package unknowingly containing detonation codes, causing the dormant missiles to explode in their silos.
  • Quite a few maps in Team Fortress 2 incorporate some kind of missile silo into the Bizarrchitecture.
  • A level in Deus Ex takes place entirely in and around a missile silo — nuke still included.
  • Target Terror has a nuclear silo level.
  • In Star Control 2, the Earth ships rely on digging up leftover nuclear warheads from such silos.
  • The last act of Modern Warfare takes place in and near a Russian missile silo from which the Ultranationalists are launching a nuclear attack against the US in revenge for Zakhaev's son's death.
  • The Journeyman Project uses this trope a few times as well.
    • In the first game, at NORAD VI, you are required to disarm 10 different worldwide missile silos, using nothing but a trackball and a button.
    • The second game, Buried in Time, reveals an abandoned silo converted into the antagonist's hideout, complete with futuristic computers and machinery everywhere.
  • Turns out the government in The House of the Dead: OVERKILL were trying to develop a serum to create Super Soldiers, only it went horribly wrong! The government covered it up and the bunker was forgotten. As you can probably predict it was found by the villain who used the serum to create the mutants you fight in the game.


  • While they can hardly be called rebels, the cast of User Friendly temporarily moved to an abandoned missile silo at one point. Hilarity ensued.

     Western Animation  

  • In Highlander: The Animated Series, one of the first immortals the heroes meet holds the knowledge of nuclear weaponry. Conveniently, he lives in a missile silo.
  • In the Inspector Gadget episode "Down on the Farm", Dr. Claw attempts to launch a nuclear missile from a farm silo. This was during the Cold War, you know.
  • The Autobots of Transformers: Prime are based in a nuclear silo. They have the permission of the government, and it's in the middle of nowhere, hidden underground, fortified and big enough to comfortably hold things on a Cybertronian scale, so it's an ideal base for them.

     Real Life  


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