The Strategic Air Command arrived at RAF Alconbury on 1 October 1982 when the 17th Reconnaissance Wing (17th RW) was activated. The 17th RW was assigned to SAC’s Eighth Air Force, 7th Air Division. The operational squadron of the 17th RW was the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron, flying the TR-1A, a tactical reconnaissance version of the Lockheed U-2. In 1992 all TR-1s were designated U-2Rs.
The arrival of the U-2 led to a large remodelling of the northern section of the airfield to accommodate these aircraft and their specialised mission. Work included the construction of five prefabricated ‘Ready Sheds’, thirteen extra-wide hardened aircraft shelters, a squadron headquarters, a massive Avionics and Photography Interpretation Centre, and new concrete aprons and taxiways. In addition, in order to ensure that the 17th Reconnaissance Wing would always have a command post for its TR-1A aircraft, a nuclear-hardened command post facility was constructed with its own power plant, communications facilities, air supply, and decontamination facility, to help the wing continue operations during a nuclear war. During its operation, it was officially known as Building 210, but was better known by its nickname, ‘Magic Mountain’. It was closed in 1991, is now open to the public under the care of English Heritage. It has been refurbished, with plans for it to be used as an emergency facility in the event of a natural disaster.