Wednesday, May 18, 2016


The name ‘Area 51’ derives from its marking on 1950’s Nevada Test Site maps. Today, the official name of Area 51 is Air Force Flight Test Center, Detachment 3, or AFFTC Det. 3 for short.
  • Area 51 was also referred to as Groom Lake (the name of the dry lake Area 51 was built around), Paradise Ranch (a half-serious way to entice employees to accept positions at the remote, rustic base), Watertown (the official name of the test site, given in 1956), and Dreamland (after an Edgar Allan Poe poem).

  • Area 51’s nickname DREAMLAND was allegedly derived from an Edgar Allan Poe poem by the same name.  It admonishes that “the traveler, traveling through it, may not-dare not openly view it; Never its mysteries are exposed, to the weak human eye unclosed.”

  • Flying at 2,200 mph, it took OXCART pilot 186 miles just to make a U-turn. To accommodate the plane, an additional 38,400 acres of land around the base had to be withdrawn from public access and the restricted airspace expanded to create a 440-square mile box.

  • Early on, the only entertainment at Area 51consisted of a single cement tennis court and a small bowling alley. There was no television, and radio signals only made it through the surrounding mountains in the evening.

    • The Area 51 mess hall sometimes served lobsters and oysters. Once a week it was steak night.

    • There is a sliver of truth to the conspiracy theory that the moon landing was staged at Area 51. Various space equipment – including land rovers and life support systems – were tested by the astronauts at the adjoining nuclear testing grounds.

    • After an increase in UFO sightings in 1952, the CIA concluded that “there is a remote possibility that they may be interplanetary aircraft,” and that it was necessary to investigate each sighting.

    • 90% of reported UFO sightings could be easily debunked, while the other 10% were “a number of incredible reports from credible observers.”

    • Over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights (namely the U-2) over the United States.

    • The A-12 OXCART required special fuel in order to fly at such extreme speeds and heights. The fuel was made to withstand extremely high temperatures and would not ignite even if someone threw a match into a barrel full of it

    • The OXCART cruised at 2200 miles per hour, but because the plane was secret it was kept out of official speed competitions.

    • The A-12 OXCART consisted of more than 90% titanium.  It was the world’s first titanium plane.
    • An A-12 spy plane was used when the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea to photograph the area and determine the ship's location.
    • The OXCART's engines acted as vacuum cleaners, sucking up any debris left on the runway.  So personnel would vacuum the runway before each test flight.

    In a statement, the Nellis Air Force Base said the action was necessary because “the property’s location inside the NTTR (Nevada Test And Training Range) and the increasing security demands have made it impossible for the Air Force to test and train securely and safely while civilians are present.”

    New Book on Area 51 WHERE you are your own TOUR GUIDE!
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    Friday, November 1, 2013


    Ever since Lockheed’s unsurpassed SR-71 Blackbird was retired from U.S. Air Force service almost two decades ago, the perennial question has been: Will it ever be succeeded by a new-generation, higher-speed aircraft and, if so, when?
    That is, until now. After years of silence on the subject, Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works has revealed exclusively to AW&ST details of long-running plans for what it describes as an affordable hypersonic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike platform that could enter development in demonstrator form as soon as 2018. Dubbed the SR-72, the twin-engine aircraft is designed for a Mach 6 cruise, around twice the speed of its forebear, and will have the optional capability to strike targets.
    Guided by the U.S. Air Force’s long-term hypersonic road map, the SR-72 is designed to fill what are perceived by defense planners as growing gaps in coverage of fast-reaction intelligence by the plethora of satellites, subsonic manned and unmanned platforms meant to replace the SR-71. Potentially dangerous and increasingly mobile threats are emerging in areas of denied or contested airspace, in countries with sophisticated air defenses and detailed knowledge of satellite movements.
    A vehicle penetrating at high altitude and Mach 6, a speed viewed by Lockheed Martin as the “sweet spot” for practical air-breathing hypersonics, is expected to survive where even stealthy, advanced subsonic or supersonic aircraft and unmanned vehicles might not. Moreover, an armed ISR platform would also have the ability to strike targets before they could hide.
    Although there has been evidence to suggest that work on various classified successors to the SR-71, or some of its roles, has been attempted, none of the tantalizing signs have materialized into anything substantial. Outside of the black world, this has always been relatively easy to explain. Though few question the compelling military imperative for high speed ISR capability, the astronomical development costs have made the notion a virtual nonstarter.
    But now Lockheed Martin believes it has the answer. “The Skunk Works has been working with Aerojet Rocketdyne for the past seven years to develop a method to integrate an off-the-shelf turbine with a scramjet to power the aircraft from standstill to Mach 6 plus,” says Brad Leland, portfolio manager for air-breathing hypersonic technologies. “Our approach builds on HTV-3X, but this extends a lot beyond that and addresses the one key technical issue that remained on that program: the high-speed turbine engine,” he adds, referring to the U.S. Air Force/Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) reusable hypersonic demonstrator canceled in 2008.
    The concept of a reusable hypersonic vehicle was an outgrowth of Darpa’s Falcon program, which included development of small launch vehicles, common aero vehicles (CAV) and a hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV). As structural and aerodynamic technologies for both the CAV and HCV needed testing, Lockheed Martin was funded to develop a series of unpowered hypersonic test vehicles (HTV).
    In the midst of these developments, as part of a refocus on space in 2004, NASA canceled almost all hypersonic research, including work on the X-43C combined-cycle propulsion demonstrator. The Darpa HTV effort was therefore extended to include a third HTV, the powered HTV-3X, which was to take off from a runway on turbojet power, accelerate to Mach 6 using a scramjet and return to land.
    Despite never progressing to what Leland describes as a planned -HTV-3X follow-on demonstrator that “never was,” called the Blackswift, the conceptual design work led to “several key accomplishments which we didn’t advertise too much,” he notes. “It produced an aircraft configuration that could controllably take off, accelerate through subsonic, supersonic, transonic and hypersonic speeds. It was controllable and kept the pointy end forward,” adds Leland.

    Fundamental lessons were learned, particularly about flight control systems that could maintain stability through the transonic speed regime. Lockheed Martin’s work proved the configuration could “take off without departing,” Leland notes. “We were able to drive down the takeoff speed and keep it stable and controllable. We proved all that in a whole series of wind-tunnel tests.”
    Just as importantly, the Skunk Works design team developed a methodology for integrating a working, practical turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) propulsion system. “Before that, it was all cartoons,” Leland says. “We actually developed a way of transforming it from a turbojet to a ramjet and back. We did a lot of tests to prove it out, including the first mode-transition demonstration.” The Skunk Works conducted subscale ground tests of the TBCC under the Facet program, which combined a small high-Mach turbojet with a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet, and the two sharing an axisymmetric inlet and nozzle.
    Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s parallel HiSTED (High-Speed Turbine Engine Demonstration) program essentially failed to produce a small turbojet capable of speeds up to Mach 4 in a TBCC. “The high-speed turbine engine was the one technical issue remaining. Frankly, they just weren’t ready,” recalls Leland. This left the Skunk Work designers with a familiar problem: how to bridge the gap between the Mach 2.5 maximum speed of current-production turbine engines and the Mach 3-3.5 takeover speed of the ramjet/scramjet. “We call it the thrust chasm around Mach 3,” he adds.
    Although further studies were conducted after the demise of the HTV-3X under the follow-on Darpa Mode-Transition program, that fell by the wayside, too, after completion of a TBCC engine model in 2009-10. So, Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne “sat down as two companies and asked ourselves, ‘Can we make it work? What are we still missing?’” says Leland. “A Mach 4 turbine is what gets you there, and we’ve been working with Rocketdyne on this problem for the last seven years.”
    Finally, he says, the two achieved a design breakthrough that will enable the development of a viable hypersonic SR-71 replacement. “We have developed a way to work with an off-the-shelf fighter-class engine like the F100/F110,” notes Leland. The work, which includes modifying the ramjet to adapt to a lower takeover speed, is “the key enabler to make this airplane practical, and to making it both near-term and affordable,” he explains. “Even if the HiSTED engines were successful, and even if Blackswift flew, we’d have had to scale up those tiny turbines, and that would have cost billions.”
    Lockheed will not disclose its chosen method of bridging the thrust chasm. The company funded research and development, and “our approach is proprietary,” says Leland, adding that he cannot go into details. Several concepts are known, however, to be ripe for larger-scale testing, including various pre-cooler methods that mass-inject cooler flow into the compressor to boost performance. Other concepts that augment the engine power include the “hyperburner,” an augmentor that starts as an afterburner and transitions to a ramjet as Mach number increases. Aerojet, which acquired Rocketdyne earlier this year, has also floated the option of a rocket-augmented ejector ramjet as another means of providing seamless propulsion to Mach 6.
    Although details of the proposed thrust-augmentation concept remain under wraps, Leland says a large part of a successfully integrated mode-transition design is the inlet. “That’s because you have to keep two compressor systems [ramjet and turbine] working stably. Both will run in parallel,” he adds.
    Lockheed has run scaled tests on components. “The next step would be to put it through a series of tests or critical demonstrations,” Leland says. “We are ready for those critical demonstrations, and we could be ready to do such a demonstration aircraft in 2018. That would be the beginning of building and running complete critical demonstrations. As of now, there are no technologies to be invented. We are ready to proceed—the only thing holding us back is the perception that [hypersonics] is always expensive, large and exotic.”
    The 2018 time line is determined by the potential schedule for the high-speed strike weapon (HSSW), a U.S. hypersonic missile program taking shape under the Air Force and Darpa (see page 36). “We can do critical demonstrations between now and then, but we don’t believe it will be until HSSW flies and puts to bed any questions about this technology, and whether we can we truly make these, that the confidence will be there.” In spite of the recent success of demonstration efforts, such as the X-51A Waverider, Leland observes that “hypersonics still has a bit of a giggle factor.”

    The timing also dovetails with the Air Force hypersonic road map, which calls for efforts to support development of a hypersonic strike weapon by 2020 and a penetrating, regional ISR aircraft by 2030 (AW&ST Nov. 26, 2012, p. 40). Key requirements for the high-speed ISR/strike aircraft is the ability to survive a “day without space”—communication and navigation satellites—and to be able to penetrate denied areas. With a TBCC propulsion system, the Air Force has pushed for increasingly greater speeds since defining Mach 4 at initial planning meetings in December 2010. The latest requirements are thought to be at least a Mach 5-plus cruise speed and operation from a conventional runway.
    The path to the SR-72 would begin with an optionally piloted flight research vehicle (FRV), measuring around 60 ft. long and powered by a single, but full-scale, propulsion flowpath. “The demonstrator is about the size of the F-22, single-engined and could fly for several minutes at Mach 6,” says Leland. The outline plan for the operational vehicle, the SR-72, is a twin-engine unmanned aircraft over 100 ft. long (see artist’s concept on page 20). “It will be about the size of the SR-71 and have the same range, but have twice the speed,” he adds. The FRV would start in 2018 and fly in 2023. “We would be ready to launch the SR-72 shortly after and could be in service by 2030,” Leland says.
    According to Al Romig, Skunk Works engineering and advanced systems vice president, “speed is the new stealth.” This is perhaps just as well, given the inherent challenges involved in reducing the signature of hypersonic vehicles. With large engine inlets and aerodynamic requirements overriding most considerations, the SR-72 concept shows little in the way of stealthy planform alignment. Although the surfaces could be coated with radar-absorbing material, the requirement for thermal protection along sharp leading edges is likely to be a complicating factor. Like the HTV-3X, the vehicle may also feature hot metallic leading edges and a “hot/warm” metallic primary structure designed to handle the high thermal flux loads.
    The deep nacelles, mounted close inboard, indicate the “over-under combined cycle” engine configuration outlined for the HTV-3X, as well as integrated inward-turning turbo-ramjet inlets. “One of the differences with this demonstrator compared to the HTV‑3X is that with that, we were limited to small turbines with a low-drag design,” Leland says. “With fighter engines, we accelerate much more briskly. It’s a significant improvement in adding margins. It is also very important [that] you have a common inlet and nozzle because of the significant amount of spillage drag in the inlet and the base drag in the nozzle.”
    Aerodynamically, the forebody appears to be shaped for inlet compression at high speed, but without the characteristic stepped “wave-rider” configuration of the X-51A. “We are not advocates of wave riders,” Leland says. “We found that, in order for a wave rider to pay off, you have to be at cruise and be burning most of your fuel at cruise. But these designs burn most fuel as they accelerate, so you want an efficient vehicle that gets you to cruise. You end up with a vehicle that is hard to take off and land, has little fuel volume and high transonic drag.”
    The planform is characterized by chines that blend into a sharply swept delta extending back roughly halfway along the hump-backed fuselage. The chine and delta are likely designed to provide increased directional stability as well as a larger amount of lift at high cruise speeds. Outboard of the engine inlets, the leading-edge angle abruptly aligns with the fuselage before the wing extends into a trapezoid. The angle of the cranked wing would provide vortex lift to assist with low-speed flight.
    The SR-72 is being designed with strike capability in mind. “We would envision a role with over-flight ISR, as well as missiles,” Leland says. Being launched from a Mach 6 platform, the weapons would not require a booster, significantly reducing weight. The higher speed of the SR-72 would also give it the ability to detect and strike more agile targets. “Even with the -SR-71, at Mach 3, there was still time to notify that the plane was coming, but at Mach 6, there is no reaction time to hide a mobile target. It is unavoidable ISR,” he adds. Lockheed envisages that once the FRV has completed its baseline demonstrator role, it could become a testbed for developing high-speed ISR technologies and supporting tests of the SR-72’s weapons set, avionics and downlink systems.
    “It is time to acknowledge the existence of the SR-72 because of the HSSW going forward,” says Leland. Together with the strategic “pivot to the Pacific,” the concept of high-speed ISR is “starting to gain traction,” he notes. “According to the hypersonic road map, the path to the aircraft is through the missile, so now it is time to get the critical demonstration going.” These would test individual elements of the propulsion system, which would then be integrated for the full-scale FRV evaluation.
    “We have been continuing to invest company funds, and we are kind of at a point where the next steps would require large-scale testing, which would significantly increase the level of investment we’ve had to make to-date. Between Darpa and the Air Force, it would be highly likely they’d have to fund the next steps,” Leland says. The FRV will also give the Skunk Works a better idea on overall development costs, he adds.

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    It's No Secret - Area 51 was Never Classified

    Roadrunners Internationale expressively credits Joerg Arnu, webmaster of for sharing this article authored by our mutual friend and associate, Peter W. Merlin

    It's No Secret - Area 51 was Never Classified
    By Peter W. Merlin

    The U-2 prototype (Article 341) as it appeared early in its career epitomized the concept of elegant simplicity. The biggest secret about Area 51 is that it was never secret.

    It's true. The "base that doesn't exist" has always been public knowledge. Construction of the airfield at Groom Lake, Nevada was announced by the government, and its existence has been repeatedly acknowledged by official sources. It has appeared on numerous unclassified maps produced by government agencies and contractors. Test Site insiders, government officials, military personnel, and the general public have, however, unknowingly conspired to perpetuate the myth that the existence of the base is a closely guarded secret.

    Birth of a "Secret" Base

    The origin of the Groom Lake test facility can be traced to the Central Intelligence Agency's Project AQUATONE that encompassed the development of the Lockheed U-2. Capable of flying at high altitude while carrying sophisticated cameras and sensors, the U-2 was equipped with a single jet engine and long, tapered straight wings. The CIA did not want to test fly the new aircraft at Edwards AFB or Palmdale (A.F. Plant 42) in California. For security reasons, a more remote site was required. At the request of U-2 designer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson of the Lockheed Skunk Works, project pilot Tony LeVier scouted numerous locations around the southwestern United States for a new test site.

    Richard M. Bissell Jr., director of the AQUATONE program, reviewed fifty potential sites with his Air Force liaison, Col. Osmond J. "Ozzie" Ritland. None of the sites seemed to meet the stringent security requirements of the program. Ritland, however, recalled "a little X-shaped field" in southern Nevada that he had flown over many times during his involvement with nuclear weapons tests. The airstrip, called Nellis Auxiliary Field No.1, was located just off the eastern side of Groom Dry Lake, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas. It was also just outside the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) nuclear proving ground at Yucca Flat.

    In April 1955, LeVier, Johnson, Bissell, and Ritland flew to Nevada on a two-day survey of the most promising lakebeds. After examining Groom Lake, it was obvious that this was an ideal location for the test site. It offered excellent flying weather and unparalleled remoteness. The abandoned airfield that Ritland had remembered was overgrown and unusable, but the lakebed was a different story. Bissell later described the hard-packed playa as "a perfect natural landing field ... as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done to it."

    Kelly Johnson had originally balked at the choice of Groom Lake because it was farther from Burbank than he would have liked, and because of its proximity to the Nevada Proving Ground (later renamed Nevada Test Site). Johnson was understandably concerned about conducting a flight test program adjacent to an active nuclear test site. In fact, Groom Lake lay directly in the primary "downwind" path of radioactive fallout from aboveground shots.

    Johnson ultimately accepted Ritland's recommendation because AEC security restrictions would help shield the operation from public view. Bissell secured a Presidential action adding the Groom Lake area to the AEC proving ground.

    During the last week of April, Johnson met with CIA officials in Washington, D.C. and discussed progress on the base and the AQUATONE program. His proposal to name the base "Paradise Ranch" was accepted. It was an ironic choice that, he later admitted, was "a dirty trick to lure workers to the program." The U-2 became known as "The Angel from Paradise Ranch." The base itself was usually just called "The Ranch" by those who worked there.

    In May, LeVier, Johnson, and Skunk Works foreman Dorsey Kammerer returned to Groom Lake. Using a compass and surveying equipment, they laid out a 5,000-foot, north-south runway on the southwest corner of the lakebed. They also staked out a general area for buildings and then flew back to Burbank.

    On 18 May 1955, Seth R. Woodruff Jr., Manager of the AEC Las Vegas Field Office, announced that he had "instructed the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Co., Inc. [REECo] to begin preliminary work on a small, satellite Nevada Test Site installation." He noted that work was already underway at the location "a few miles northeast of Yucca Flat and within the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range." Woodruff said that the installation would include "a runway, dormitories, and a few other buildings for housing equipment." The facility was described as "essentially temporary." The press release was distributed to 18 media outlets in Nevada and Utah including a dozen newspapers, four radio stations, and two television stations. This was, in effect, Area 51's birth announcement.

    Watertown and the U-2

    CIA, Air Force, and Lockheed personnel began arriving in July 1955, and the test site soon acquired a new name. During the 1950s, the site appeared in all official documents as Watertown. According to some accounts, the site was named after Watertown, New York, the birthplace of CIA Director Allen Dulles. To this day, Watertown is listed as a member of Alamo Township in Lincoln County, Nevada.

    In October 1955, a reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal requested a progress report on the Watertown project. On 17 October, Col. Alfred D. Starbird at AEC Headquarters issued a statement through Kenner F. Hertford of the Albuquerque Operations Office.

    "Construction at the Nevada Test Site installation a few miles north of Yucca Flat which was announced last spring is continuing. Data secured to date has indicated a need for limited additional facilities and modifications of the existing installation. The additional work which will not be completed until sometime in 1956 is being done by the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, Incorporated, under the direction of the Atomic Energy Commission's Las Vegas branch office."

    On 17 November, a C-54M transporting AQUATONE project personnel from Burbank to Watertown crashed near the top of Mt. Charleston, about 20 miles west of Las Vegas. Nine civilians and five military personnel were killed. There were no survivors. The accident was front-page news for several days in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Officials told reporters that the plane was destined for the airfield at Indian Springs, but the commanding officer at Indian Springs told Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Dennis Schiek that the C-54 was not expected there. Schieck speculated that it might have been heading to "Groom Lake, a top secret base ... some 115 miles northwest" of Las Vegas. "Spokesmen at the secret base confirmed the plane was missing, but said no further information could be given," Schieck added. Another article, two days later, stated unequivocally that the C-54 was "bound for the super-secret 'proving grounds within the proving grounds' - Groom Dry Lake."

    In December, the Air Force completed the accident investigation. The unclassified report confirmed that the C-54 was "on a scheduled transport mission" to "Watertown Airstrip in the Nevada Proving Ground area." The report noted that in accordance with standard operating procedure, the aircraft and crew were "under the operational control of the Commander, Watertown Airstrip." Of all the numerous reports, statements, and supporting documents, only the Rescue Mission Report was classified SECRET.

    At the direction of the CIA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) drafted a press release regarding the U-2. It was part of an elaborate and flimsy cover story to conceal the airplane's actual mission: strategic reconnaissance. On 7 May 1956, NACA Director Dr. Hugh L. Dryden issued a statement announcing a program in which U-2 aircraft would conduct high-altitude weather research for the NACA with Air Force support while operating "from Watertown Strip, Nevada." The statement added that "USAF facilities overseas will be used as the program gets underway, to enable gathering research information necessary to reflect accurately conditions along the high-altitude air routes of tomorrow in many parts of the world."

    On 19 December 1956, Robert J. Ericson was flying a U-2A at 35,000 feet when he suffered an oxygen failure. Ericson was forced to bail out over the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. Air Force officials told reporters that the U-2 was "a civilian plane owned by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics" and was engaged in "high-altitude research." The U-2 "was flying from Watertown Strip in Nevada," according to a spokesman at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque.

    In 1956, the U-2 prototype (known as Article 341) was modified for a series of anti-radar tests called Project RAINBOW in which Lockheed technicians attempted to reduce the RCS of the U-2 using radar-absorbent materials. Another U-2, Article 344, was strung with piano wire of varying dipole lengths between the nose and wings of the aircraft to reduce the radar signature. These methods created extra drag with a resultant penalty in range and altitude. The U-2 aircraft modified under Project RAINBOW were known as "dirty birds."

    During a RAINBOW test flight on 4 April 1957, Article 341 crashed, killing Lockheed test pilot Robert L. Sieker. Several days later, aerial searchers from Civil Air Patrol reported that the wreckage of the U-2 had been located in a valley west of Pioche, Nevada. News stories reported that "Lockheed said its mission was secret research on high-altitude turbulence."

    On 1 May 1957, the AEC issued an information booklet called "Background Information on Nevada Nuclear Tests" to news media covering the Operation Plumbbob atomic test series. It noted that during 1955, "construction of a small facility at Watertown, in the Groom Lake area at the northeast corner of the Test Site, was announced. The area has been joined to the air closure space over the Test Site in which unauthorized aircraft may not fly, but it has not been made a part of the Test Site." Under the heading of "Watertown Project" it also reiterated earlier statements about the facility and included the NACA cover story. Specifically, it said that "U-2 jet aircraft with special characteristics for flight at exceptionally high altitudes have been flown from the Watertown strip with logistical and technical support by the Air Weather Service of the U.S. Air Force to make weather observations at heights that cannot be attained by most aircraft." So, this official government document not only mentioned Watertown by name, it also gave its location and described the U-2 operation. Only the "weather research" cover story was bogus and only just barely. Although the U-2's primary mission was reconnaissance, the airplane was actually used to collect weather data during training flights.

    The early part of the Plumbbob nuclear test series at the Nevada Test Site caused some interruptions in activities at Watertown. Because the airstrip was downwind of the nuclear proving ground, Watertown personnel were required to evacuate the base prior to each detonation. The AEC closely monitored radiation levels in the Groom Lake area and tried to ensure that expected fallout from any given shot would be limited so as to permit re-entry of personnel within a few weeks. Air sample logs for Watertown were unclassified and the information was compiled in a database with sample data from various locations around Nevada and neighboring states.

    The Groom Lake base had always been intended as a temporary facility. As testing began to wind down and CIA pilot classes completed training, Watertown became a virtual ghost town. By mid-June 1957, the U-2 test operation had moved to Edwards AFB North Base and operational U-2 aircraft were assigned to the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas. The Watertown facility was put into caretaker status.

    Meanwhile U-2 aircraft at CIA detachments overseas prepared to deploy airplanes equipped with RAINBOW anti-radar materials. To obscure the true purpose of these configurations, the CIA provided the NACA with a cover story to release. Using the unclassified nickname THERMOS in place of the RAINBOW code name, the cover story stated that the airplanes were being used in "a data-gathering program designed to measure ... certain physical phenomena which could be affected by nuclear explosions." According to the statement: "Early experimental tests of this nature were conducted at Watertown, Nevada, in order that initial studies and early flight tests might benefit from the advice, guidance, and facilities of the Nevada Test Site of the AEC."

    Watertown was back in the news the following month. On 28 July 1957, a civilian pilot was detained when he made an emergency landing at the Watertown airstrip. Edward K. Current Jr. had been on a cross-country training flight when he became lost, ran low on fuel, and decided to land at Groom Lake. Current, a Douglas Aircraft Company employee, was held overnight and questioned. The following day the Nevada Test Organization's Office of Test Information issued a press release describing the incident in detail, adding: "Nevada Test Organization security officials reported the incident to the Civil Aeronautics Board, which administers the air closure over the Test Site."

    In August, the NACA released its second report on results of weather research using the U-2. The first had been issued in March, with no mention of the Groom Lake base. The second report noted that data "were obtained from 24 flights during operations from Watertown Strip, Nevada, between May 1956 and March 1957 with about one-half of these flights being made during the three-month winter season from December 1956 to February 1957." The NACA research memorandums were unclassified.

    On 20 June 1958, 38,400 acres of land encompassing the Watertown base was officially withdrawn from public access under Public Land Order 1662. This rectangular addition to the Nevada Test Site was designated "Area 51." It is interesting to note that the boundaries encompassing Area 51 left nearly the entire northern half of the lakebed outside the perimeter. Part of the lakebed fell within the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range, but that still left one-and-a-half square miles of the playa on public land. It was easily accessible by unpaved roads from Tikaboo Valley and was frequently used by miners with claims in the Groom Mountains and by local ranchers looking for errant cattle.

    Area 51, OXCART, and the Roadrunners

    It may seem odd that the seizure of over 30,000 acres of land would take place as the need for a facility at Groom Lake was at an apparent end. Perhaps it was simply bureaucratic inertia. The wheels had been set in motion years earlier. At any rate, it turned out to be a worthwhile effort.

    As it became apparent that the U-2 would soon be vulnerable to hostile missiles, the CIA sought a successor that could fly higher and faster and be less visible to radar. Once again, Lockheed was selected to build a new reconnaissance aircraft. The CIA ironically named the project OXCART. Lockheed's new airplane was designated A-12, with the "A" standing for "Archangel." It was a sleek, powerful-looking aircraft with a long tapered forward fuselage with blended chines. A rounded delta wing supported two turbo-ramjet engines capable of boosting the aircraft to Mach 3.2 at altitudes in excess of 80,000 feet. Twin, inwardly canted tails, a sawtooth internal structure in the leading edges, and special composite materials contributed to a low overall radar signature. The airframe was constructed primarily of titanium.

    The Lockheed Skunk Works team built a full-scale mock-up of the A-12 during the spring of 1959 for radar cross-section (RCS) tests to be performed by Edgerton, Germeshausen & Grier (EG&G). On 10 September, EG&G agreed to move its radar test facility to Groom Lake for security reasons. A special pylon was constructed on a paved loop road on the west side of the lakebed. The A-12 mock-up was moved from Burbank to Groom Lake on a specially designed trailer truck. On 17 November, an AEC spokesman announced: "Sheet metal workers needed at the Groom Lake Project 51 in the Nevada Test Site are constructing a butler-type building." The spokesman said that the building would be used to "house data reduction equipment for use by Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier in an Air Force program."

    The announcement was made because of publicity generated by a labor dispute. The sheet metal workers union was upset because the contract had been negotiated without being let for bid. REECo, primary contractor for the AEC, "obtained a court order to force the union to provide half a dozen sheet metal workers for the top-secret project, then agreed to arbitration of the dispute prior to an injunction hearing in district court." An article in the Las Vegas Review Journal noted that Groom Lake "is ideally suited to secret projects because experimental aircraft can take off and land without detection from any outside point."

    A secret test base was needed for the new triple-sonic A-12 spyplane, but the old Watertown airstrip was not suitable and the infrastructure for such a program was not available at Groom Lake. A new airbase would have to be built at great expense. At first, the CIA did not consider this a viable option. Ten U.S. Air Force bases programmed for closure were considered as possible alternatives, but none provided the required security and annual operating costs for most were prohibitive. Groom Lake was ultimately selected although it lacked personnel accommodations, fuel storage, and an adequate runway. Lockheed made an estimate of requirements for monthly fuel consumption, hangars, maintenance facilities, housing, and runway specifications. The CIA then produced a plan for construction and engineering.

    The stage was now set to make Area 51 a permanent facility. On 15 January 1960, the N.T.S. Bulletin, an unclassified newsletter for Test Site workers published new Area 51 telephone numbers on the front page. The announcement included contact numbers for the Base Commander's Office, Security Office, and REECo. Base construction began in earnest on 1 September 1960 and continued on a double shift schedule until 1 June 1964.

    The essential facilities at "the Area" were completed by August 1961. New hangars and housing units were erected. Facilities in the main cantonment area included workshops, buildings for storage and administration, a commissary, control tower, and fire stations. By early 1962 a fuel tank farm was ready for use. Recreational facilities included a gymnasium, movie theatre, nine-hole golf course, and a softball diamond. The Area 51 softball team was called the 8-Ballers. The Bulletin Board, an unclassified newsletter published by REECo for NTS employees regularly posted articles about Test Site sporting events. Throughout the 1960s, headlines such as "Area 51 Wins Slow-Pitch Tournament" were common and many of the players were listed by name.

    The prototype A-12 made its first flight in April 1962. Unlike the U-2, there was no official acknowledgment of the program and no cover story. As far as the public was concerned, the airplane did not exist. All 15 A-12 aircraft were initially based at Groom Lake, although some later deployed to Japan to perform reconnaissance flights over Southeast Asia. Lockheed pilots conducted most of the test work while CIA aircraft were operated by the 1129th Special Activities Squadron (Roadrunners).

    Operational A-12 pilots built up hours while conducting flight tests. On 24 May 1963, the OXCART program suffered the first loss of an A-12. Ken Collins was forced to bail out when his airplane pitched and entered an inverted spin during a subsonic engine test sortie. The A-12 impacted south of Wendover, a town on the Utah-Nevada border. To preserve the secrecy of the OXCART program the CIA arranged for Air Force officials to tell the press that a Republic F-105 had crashed. The ruse worked. It effectively protected both the OXCART program and its connection to Area 51 from exposure.

    In August 1963, an interceptor variant of the A-12, called the YF-12A, made its first flight at Area 51. Its existence was announced seven months later, but the public was told that the YF-12 was operating from Edwards AFB. Subsequently, two YF-12A airplanes were moved from Area 51 to Edwards to support that statement and ultimately provide a plausible cover for any sightings of OXCART aircraft flying over the western deserts.

    On 22 December 1964, two new members of the A-12 family made their first flights. At Area 51, the M-21 "mothership" made its first mated flight carrying a D-21 drone. The flight took place in complete secrecy. The SR-71A, however, completed its maiden flight in full view of the public during a short hop from Palmdale to Edwards. The SR-71 would also serve as a cover for OXCART. It was, in fact, a better one than the YF-12 because it more closely resembled the A-12.

    On 5 January 1967, tragedy stuck the OXCART program. While returning to Area 51 from a routine training flight, Walt Ray's A-12 ran out of fuel and crashed 70 miles short of Groom Lake. Ray ejected, but failed to separate from his seat, and was killed. Air Force spokesmen told the news media that "an experimental model" of the SR-71 had crashed on a flight originating from Edwards.

    Several A-12 airplanes were deployed from Area 51 to Kadena, Japan, for Operation Black Shield reconnaissance flights over Southeast Asia in 1967. The surviving airframes were retired in June 1968 and placed in storage at a Lockheed facility in Palmdale. The A-12 remained unknown to the public for 12 more years while the YF-12A and SR-71 became some of the most famous airplanes in the world.

    Following the end of the OXCART program, project officer John Parangoski (writing pseudonymously as Thomas P. McIninch) wrote "The OXCART Story" for Studies In Intelligence, a classified CIA internal publication. In May 1971, an official at Air Force Headquarters sent a letter to the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office (an organization so secret that even its name was classified). He wrote: "I cannot concur with the CIA intention to publish subject story in a collateral security channel which will obviously be disseminated outside of NRO agencies." The official was particularly concerned that "the article exposes the existence of Area 51, ADP covert methodology, and names of individuals with extensive backgrounds in covert reconnaissance."

    Certainly, covert methodology and names of intelligence personnel ("sources and methods," in intelligence community parlance) are sensitive issues. The existence of Area 51, however, was already widely known and publicly acknowledged. Ultimately, "The OXCART Story" was withheld from publication until the summer of 1982. By then, the existence of the A-12 had been declassified. A version of the article, with many names and all references to Area 51 deleted, was released to the public several years later.

    Putting Area 51 on the Map

    Over the years, Area 51 has appeared on numerous unclassified maps and documents. Some of these have been produced for internal use and others for the general public and news media. The existence and location of Area 51 were no secret and, following the 1958 land acquisition by the AEC, the new area was added to maps of the Nevada Test Site.

    An unclassified NTS road map, produced by Holmes & Narver, Inc., was updated in January 1961 to include mileage between various points. One notation read: "10.3 MILES TO AREA 51" and was followed by the words "GROOM LAKE."

    In December 1962, President John F. Kennedy visited the Nevada Test Site. While he was there, he toured the area where nuclear propulsion systems were being developed for spacecraft. An unclassified map of the Test Site titled "Visit of the President to the Nuclear Rocket Development Station, Nevada - December 8, 1962" shows Groom Lake and Watertown. The Area 51 boundary is shown (but not labeled) as an extension of the Test Site. There is, as yet, no evidence to indicate that Kennedy actually visited Area 51.

    One map of the Nevada Test site produced in December 1967 by REECo shows the western edge of Area 51. The Area number is clearly marked and man-made features are shown in detail. The airfield and the dry lakebed, unfortunately, fall outside the edge of the map.

    In 1969, the University of California Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory published a report on Archeological Investigations at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission's Nevada Test Site and Nuclear Rocket Development Station. It included two maps of the Test Site. One of these included the western edge of Area 51, clearly labeled, with an arrow pointing toward Groom Lake. A second map omitted the Area 51 boundary, but showed the historic route of the "Forty-niners" across Groom Lake and through the Test Site region en route to Death Valley.

    Throughout the 1970s, the Atomic Energy Commission (later, Department of Energy) handed out maps of the NTS with public relations brochures and press releases. These maps showed how the Test Site was divided into numbered areas and included details of all the major facilities. The western half of Area 51 and west edge of Groom Lake were included, both clearly labeled. The main base and runways were just outside the edge of the map.
    In March 1977, the U.S. Geological Survey published a report on Lithologic Logs of Selected Exploratory and Emplacement Drill Holes in Areas 2 and 8, Nevada Test Site. The unclassified report included an Index Map of the NTS., but without internal details.

    A large, undated map of the Test Site fails to include the Area 51 boundary. There is, however, a road heading northeast that is labeled "Groom Lake AREA 51."

    By September 1978, Area 51 had disappeared from maps of the NTS produced by the Department of Energy (DoE). The maps were nearly identical to earlier editions, but with updated information. Although the western edge of Groom Lake was still visible and labeled, the boundary of Area 51 and its number had been removed.

    Ironically, a of the Pahranagat Range quadrangle was produced by the Bureau of Land Management in 1978 showing more detail than any previous map. Area 51 was shown as an extension of the NTS boundaries. None of the areas within the NTS were defined or labeled, but roads and airfields were identified. The roads and runways at Groom Lake were illustrated in detail and the main runway was labeled "LANDING STRIP." Beyond the NTS boundaries, the land was shaded different colors to denote the Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR), public lands, and private holdings. The northeastern part of Groom Lake was still public land, accessible to anyone willing to drive the unpaved road from Tikaboo Valley.

    The Department of Defense and the Air Force were apparently not consistently shy about the location of the Groom Lake facility during the 1990s. Around 1991, officials at Nellis AFB produced a set of photomaps of the entire NAFR using satellite images. The Groom Lake facility was plainly visible, in all its glory, at the center of the range.

    Although most air navigation charts for the Nellis Range showed the dry lakebed, most did not include the airfield at Groom Lake. An exception can be found in . Produced by the Defense Mapping Agency in March 1992 (using data collected in 1990), this chart features an airfield symbol at the southern end of Groom Lake. It shows the runway pattern but does not include the airfield name, elevation, or runway length.

    Stealth Technology at Area 51

    In November 1977, the first Lockheed HAVE BLUE low-observables ("stealth") technology demonstrator was delivered to Groom Lake. It was the first airplane specifically designed to be virtually invisible to radar. The single-seat jet looked like a faceted arrowhead with two inwardly canted tail fins. Its boxy, angular fuselage and wings contributed to its low radar cross-section or "stealth" characteristics. Two HAVE BLUE demonstrators were built. They were so secret that every time a HAVE BLUE was rolled out of its hangar, uncleared personnel at the base were sequestered to prevent them from seeing the aircraft. Both airplanes were lost in non-fatal accidents.

    In March 1978, DoE Information Officer David F. Miller received an information request from Bob Stoldal, news director for KLAS-TV. Stoldal was seeking information about alleged "serious security leaks" regarding a classified airplane being operated on the Nellis Range. One of these "leaks" was the information that "Area 51 was a secret Air Force installation that has been hiding behind the NTS for years." Miller told Stoldal that "any information about Area 51 would have to come from the Pentagon." Stoldal proceeded with his "expos

    of Area 51, claiming later that "informed sources" told him that a tape of his broadcast was studied by the government and that his phone had been tapped.

    On 17 January 1981, the Lockheed test site at Groom Lake accepted delivery of the first SENIOR TREND Full Scale Development prototype (later designated YF-117A). Like the HAVE BLUE, it resembled a faceted arrowhead, except that the tails were canted outward in a "V" shape. The YF-117A made its maiden flight on 18 June 1981. Every YF-117A and production F-117A made its first flights from Groom Lake. The operational airplanes were later deployed to Tonopah Test Range. Air Force officials denied the airplane's existence until November 1988, but rumors of "stealth fighters" at Groom Lake and Tonopah persisted in the popular press.

    A "stealth" technology demonstrator built by Northrop came to Groom Lake in 1982. Codenamed TACIT BLUE, it provided important data that aided in the development of the B-2 advanced technology bomber, AGM-137 Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile, and the PAVE MOVER program (which led to development of the E-8 Joint-STARS aircraft). TACIT BLUE was the first aircraft to demonstrate a low RCS using curved surfaces. TACIT BLUE made a total of 135 sorties, with a final flight on 14 February 1985. The airplane remained a closely guarded secret for many years. Rumors of a secret Northrop stealth plane at Area 51, nicknamed "Shamu" because of its whale-like appearance, persisted until it was unveiled by the Air Force in 1996.

    In March 1984 Lt. Gen. Robert M. Bond, Vice Commander of Air Force Systems Command, visited Groom Lake for two orientation flights in a YF-117A. Bond returned the following month for a similar orientation in a Russian-built MiG-23 fighter, one of a number of foreign aircraft tested at Groom.

    On 26 April, he was killed while making his second flight in the swing-wing MiG-23. Bond apparently lost control and crashed on the Nevada Test Site. Because Air Force officials told the press only that it was a "specially modified test aircraft" and refused to identify the type, there was speculation that it could have been the rumored "stealth" airplane. Spokesmen confirmed that it had crashed within the boundaries of the NTS. Phil Pattee, writing for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, noted that a "portion of the site, known as Area 51, is used for top-secret military tests."

    The Groom Lake facility has continued to serve as a haven for stealthy test aircraft. These have included such vehicles as the Lockheed SENIOR PROM stealthy cruise missile, Northrop AGM-137 Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile (TSSAM), McDonnell Douglas/Boeing Bird of Prey manned technology demonstrator, and various unmanned air vehicles. All operational low-observable U.S. aircraft, including the F-117A, B-2, and F/A-22A, verify their RCS measurements on the range at Groom Lake.

    Taking Area 51 Off the Map

    Beginning in 1979, the Air Force "began actively discouraging, and at times preventing, any public or private entry to the Groom Range," according to an archeological reconnaissance report written by Ronald Reno and Lonnie Pippin for the Desert Research Institute in 1986. Air Force personnel claimed it was "in the interest of public safety and national defense." This was about the time the Air Force took control of the Groom Lake facility from the CIA. Not only were hunters and hikers excluded from the mountains north of Groom Lake, but also citizens with mining claims in the area. In 1981, the Air Force discreetly requested that 89,600 acres of land encompassing the range be legally withdrawn from public use. The process of approving this request took several years. It also resulted in a battle between the government, citizens, and various special interest groups (such as the Sierra Club). In the end, the government won.

    By March 1984, according to Gary Paine in an article for Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, "government security units prohibited travel and controlled access along the Groom Lake road." It was no longer possible to visit the northeastern corner of the lakebed. In August 1984, the Groom Mountains withdrawal was approved subject to an environmental impact statement (EIS) and public hearings. Congress officially authorized the withdrawal in 1987, and the following year President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the Groom Mountains part of the Nellis Air Force Range until 2003. None of the documentation (EIS, archeological surveys, etc.) mentioned Area 51 or the Groom Lake test facility.

    The Groom Lake base received more unwanted publicity in 1994 as a number of former workers from the site sued the government. They claimed that their health had been damaged by inhaling toxic fumes from the burning of waste materials in open trenches near the main base. For four months after the suit was filed, the government denied the existence of the base itself. Finally, the government admitted that there was "an operating location at Groom Lake," but refused to provide a legal name for it on the basis of "national security" concerns.

    Air Force secretary Sheila Widnall declared that the facility "has no actual operating name per se." This was partially true. Since the Air Force had taken control of the facility in 1979 they had not used the name "Area 51," but instead simply referred to the operating location as Detachment 3 of the Air Force Flight Test Center (DET 3, AFFTC), a remote arm of its parent unit at Edwards AFB. Attorney Jonathan Turley tried on behalf of the plaintiffs to get the government to provide a legal name for the site, but was stymied at every turn. Ironically, the answer may have been available the whole time. The DoE published Development of the Town Database: Estimates of Exposure Rates and Times of Fallout Arrival Near the Nevada Test Site in September 1994. It lists Watertown as a member of Alamo Township in Lincoln County and gives specific geographic coordinates.

    The lawsuit forced the government to formally acknowledge the Groom Lake facility in order to keep its secrets. On 29 September 1995, President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Determination No. 95-45, which stated in part: "I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location."

    Invasion of the Saucer Men

    The secret nature of the base has bred rumor and speculation among fringe groups that believe the U.S. government is hiding captured extraterrestrial spacecraft, or even aliens (dead or alive) at the site. Such stories have been circulating since at least the late 1970s. Starting in 1989, groups of UFO believers began to camp out near the Nellis Range boundaries near Groom Lake to watch for "flying saucers."

    The quirky nature of these "saucer base expeditions" caught the attention of the news media. Print and television publicity coupled with stony silence and terse denials from the Air Force guaranteed that the situation would escalate. Air Force officials elected to simply deny the existence of the facility, or refuse to comment. This fueled public speculation, spawned new rumors, and attracted more news media. Camera crews from around the world descended on the remote and forbidding Nevada desert. A cottage industry soon developed to produce all manner of Area 51 souvenirs, videos, and visitor's guides.

    The DET 3 security force, comprised of Air Force and civilian contractor personnel, worked overtime watching the watchers. A few people discovered that some nearby hilltops with a bird's-eye view of the secret base had been overlooked in the Groom Range land grab. Word quickly spread. Tourists were sometimes camped on the hilltops 24 hours a day for days at a time. Flight test operations and even ground activities had to be postponed or cancelled. In April 1995, the Air Force seized 5,000 more acres of public land to prevent civilians from viewing the base.

    The Elephant in the Living Room

    Conventional wisdom has it that Area 51 is so secret that its existence was not acknowledged prior to 1995. Generally speaking, most people believe that everything about Groom Lake is classified. This is clearly a myth. Documentary evidence proves that the Groom Lake facility has been officially and publicly acknowledged since its inception. Ironically, the mythical secrecy of Groom Lake has done the most to expose its secrets.

    In an October 1987 article for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Christopher Beall described Area 51 as "a place with a history of dark rumors and speculation, and a name that has even now become an object of folklore." This is exactly why Area 51 has so captured the public's attention. People love mysteries. The less that is known about Area 51, the more it can be used as a blank slate for the public imagination. "It's a perfect blackboard on which to write your dreams and your fears," said Popular Science editor Stuart Brown in a 1997 interview.

    The news media has exploited this aspect of the Area 51 mythos by promulgating the idea that it is an officially "non existent" facility. Print and television reporters have shied away from historic facts in favor of reporting the more sensationalistic rumors. Hypersonic spyplanes and alien bodies attract viewers and sell magazines better than stealth cruise missiles and electronic countermeasures ever could. As the fictional reporter said in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

    The CIA took the right approach at the beginning. They (through the AEC) announced construction of the facility and even revealed that it was a test site for the U-2. They provided just enough information to satisfy the public's curiosity without revealing classified operational details about the U-2's mission. Only the fact that security surrounding the U-2 belied the innocuous cover story ("weather research") created additional speculation. During the OXCART program, there was no mention of the A-12 at all. The base, however, was given a plausible reason for its continued existence and growth. It was also treated as just another area of the Test Site and therefore retained its anonymity.

    The Air Force, taking charge of the facility in the 1970s, took a more heavy-handed approach. They used anonymous security guards to close off access to public land, cryptically citing "national security." They refused even to acknowledge the existence of a facility that had been public knowledge for years. Such denials fueled public speculation and caused ordinary citizens to spend inordinate amounts of time trying to learn all they could about the history of Groom Lake. Serious researchers unearthed declassified and unclassified official documents, maps, and aerial photographs. Through simple sleuthing they have managed to "connect the dots" and learn details of many Area 51 projects. Modern technology has allowed ordinary citizens access to high-resolution satellite images that reveal the facility's growth over time, providing yet more information about the "non-existent" base.

    Operational details of many of the projects that have taken place at Groom Lake are still classified, with good reason. It is, however, silly to deny the existence of a facility that is so well documented and clearly visible from public land. The Air Force is asking us to ignore the elephant in the living room and to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Perhaps by revealing more about the Groom Lake facility, the Defense Department can more effectively shield its secrets.

    In a 1997 interview, independent researcher and gadfly Glenn Campbell suggested that more openness on the part of the Air Force would be helpful. "I think that a lot of the tension surrounding Area 51 would be reduced if the government simply gave the base a name, said they were doing secret projects there and left it at that. It's the idea of a nameless, nonexistent base that really grabs the public's attention."

    What can be done to alleviate this problem? A message left on an Internet bulletin board asks: "What would happen if the U.S. government opened its doors to us and let us see all that was going on [at Area 51]? Depending on what is there, we'd either be vindicated or disappointed, but we would also rapidly lose interest. What would we focus our attentions on? Where would we go next? The greatest thing about Area 51 is its mystery; otherwise, nobody would care."

    The story of the U-2 is well documented. All of the surviving A-12 airplanes are in museums. In recent years, several programs that took place at Groom Lake were declassified. Photos of HAVE BLUE, TSSAM, and even Soviet aircraft flown at Groom have been released. The F-117A, TACIT BLUE, and Bird of Prey all hold places of honor in the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. The Air Force refuses, however, to say where these planes were tested.

    These programs are between a decade and half century old. What purpose is served by concealing information that is already common knowledge? Why are the unclassified terms "Watertown" and "Area 51" deleted from declassified documents? Why are Air Force spokesmen and historians constrained to respond with "No comment" when asked about Groom Lake?

    If the government were more open about the mundane details of Groom Lake's history, perhaps public interest would wane. Hard facts would dispel bizarre rumors. Truth would replace mythology. Perhaps the best starting point is one undisputable, documented fact: Area 51 was never secret.

    Saturday, September 28, 2013

    Janet Airlines Terminal - Transportation to Area 51 (Groom Lake)


    The Janet Airlines Terminal @ Gold Coast - transportation to Area 51 (Groom Lake) The majority of Area 51's workers live in Las Vegas and are flown to the base from the "Janet" terminal of McCarran International Airport. The terminal is unmarked, fenced and guarded by the same security unit that guards the perimeter of Area 51. Janet Airlines has a fleet of unmarked 737-200's. Each weekday there are from 10 to 20 flights that take workers to and from Area 51 and the Tonopah Test Range (Area 52). Tonopah Test Range is also within the restricted area, about 60 miles to the northwest of Area 51.

    Janet aircraft
    The Janet terminal is clearly seen from the main terminal area of McCarran, and from the larger casinos on the south Strip. If you are staying in the Tropicana Hotel, Island Tower, with a window to the south you will have a direct view of the Janet Terminal and is also visible to (discreet) visitors across from elevators on the 10th to 21st floors. Other locations to view the terminal are: Luxor: East side; Excalibur: South and East sides of Tower 1; Hacienda: East side, and also visible to (discreet) visitors from the north stairwell: Take the elevator to top floor then walk down hall to stairs; MGM Grand: South side (not surveyed); San Remo: South side (not surveyed).

    Janet terminal from hotels
    The workers arrive and depart from the terminal in civilian clothing, get on the planes and go to work. At night there are 20-50 cars in the parking lot. In the day time there are several hundred cars in the lot. The main population of workers seem to fit on four 737 airplanes, which are gone all day. A total of six 737s and two large commuter type turboprops, and two small King Air type planes seem to be the usual group stationed at the terminal. The 737s are white with a single red stripe, the small planes are mostly white.

    Janet apron from helicopter
    The exact location for GPS programming is:
    Latitude(deg): 36 degrees, 05.602
    Longitude(deg): -115 degrees 09.888
    N36 05.602, W115 09.888
    The address is: 400 block of S. Haven Street, Las Vegas, NV 89109 - east side of the street.
    The following information as to tail numbers was found on the web site at:
    Tail # Reg.# Last Seen Owner
    ------ ----- --------  ---------------------------
    Boeing 737-200s        (red stripe on white body, no name)
    N4508W 19605           Great Western Capital Corp
    N4510W 19607           Great Western Capital Corp
    N4515W 19612           Great Western Capital Corp
    N4529W 20785 950902gc  First Security Bank of Utah
    N5175U 20689 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N5176Y 20692 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N5177C 20693 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N5294E 20691 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N5294M 20694 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    Beechcraft King Air    (blue and gray stripe on white body, no name)
    N20RA  UB-42 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N27RA  UB-37 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N654BA BL-54 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    N661BA BL-61           Dept. of the Air Force
    N662BA BL-62 950902gc  Dept. of the Air Force
    Another series of information on Janet Airlines is at:
    It lists the operator as:
    EG&G Special Projects (Member of the EG&G Group)
    PO Box 93747, Las Vegas, NV 89193-3747, USA
    Phone (702) 369-3000   
    Fax (702) 796-7453
    Head:  John Hall
    A Private company conducting corporate & contract project air operations for federal organisations - for info on EG&G see the link at:
    N4529W Boeing 737-275 Advanced. Construction no 20785 (line no 335). Ex CFPWB of Pacific Western Airlines (Canada), first flew Dec 7, 1973. To EG&G Feb 3, 1983. Max Take Off Weight 53070kg. Leased from FSBU Trustee.
    N5175U Boeing 737-200 Advanced. Construction no 20689 (line no 334). Ex 72-0282 of USAF, first flew Dec 12, 1973. To EG&G Sep 92. MTOW 52390kg. Leased from Dept of the Air Force. Converted T-43A.
    N5176Y Boeing 737-200 Advanced. Construction no 20692 (line no 339). Ex 72-0285 of USAF, first flew Feb 6, 1974. To EG&G Sep 92. MTOW 52390kg. Leased from Dept of the Air Force. Converted T-43A.
    N5177C Boeing 737-200 Advanced. Construction no 20693 (line no 340). Ex 72-0286 of USAF, first flew Feb 7, 1974. To EG&G Sep 92. MTOW 52390kg. Leased from Dept of the AIr Force. Converted T-43A.
    N5294E Boeing 737-200 Advanced. Construction no 20691 (line no 337). Ex 72-0284 of USAF, first flew Jan 24, 1974. To EG&G Apr 94, MTOW 52390kg. Leased from Dept of the Air Force. Converted T-43A.
    N5294M Boeing 737-200 Advanced. Construction no 20694 (line no 343). Ex 72-0287 of USAF, first flew 28 Feb, 1974. To EG&G Apr 94, MTOW 52390kg. Leased from Dept of the Air Force. Converted T-43A.
    Other sources of information on the Janet Terminal @ Gold Coast

    Security guards for 'nowhere' strike for contract, higher pay

    A group of 70 security guards known as the "camo dudes" walked off their jobs Monday in Las Vegas and at the covert military installation known as Area 51, a place they said they can't talk about.
    "Use your imagination," union President Vernell Hall said when asked where he worked as he and more than a dozen other striking security officers displayed "On Strike" signs on Haven Street near McCarran International Airport.
    That is where nondescript passenger jets, known as Janet planes, routinely take the guards and other workers to the installation on the dry bed of Groom Lake, 90 miles north of Las Vegas, a place they referred to only as "nowhere" and "out of town."
    Hall, leader of the Security Police Association of Nevada, an in-house collective bargaining unit, said the association's members decided to go on strike after three months of negotiations for a new contract with their employer, EG&G Technical Services Inc., ended in a stalemate.
    Hall said the issues include lack of adequate wages and benefits.
    "There's been too much overtime since Sept. 11. Overtime on top of overtime," Hall said.
    Greg Rentchler, security manager for EG&G, confirmed that about 70 guards went on strike early Monday at the company's Grier Drive offices and at "remote locations."
    "They work at remote test locations. They support the Nellis (Air Force) ranges," Rentchler said.
    "We have a close relationship with these guys, and they are in negotiations as we speak," he said.
    Rentchler said supervisors are manning the posts vacated by the striking guards.
    He said the guards previously held a contract with another company, EG&G Special Projects, until a new one was signed in 1996 with EG&G Technical Services Inc. He said EG&G Technical Services Inc. holds a contract with the federal government to provide services for the Department of Defense, including a security guard force.
    Although Rentchler would not give details about his reference to "remote locations," a source familiar with the guard force said last week that the guards would strike at 3 a.m. Monday. The source said many of the guards had been assigned to Area 51, the much-publicized, 38,400-acre Groom Lake installation where high-tech U.S. aircraft are tested.
    It is the same place where former workers at the installation have charged that coatings for radar-evading stealth fighter jets were burned in open trenches, sending toxic clouds into the air that made them ill.
    Glenn Campbell, who operates the Internet bookstore Aliens on Earth and formerly directed an Area 51 watchdog group, said he received an anonymous call Monday from a man who said "the camo dudes are on strike."
    Campbell often has referred to the guards as "camo dudes" because of the camouflaged uniforms they wear while patrolling places where public lands border restricted areas around the Groom Lake installation.
    While pickets paraded outside the ramp for Janet planes at McCarran, another group sat in lawn chairs outside EG&G Technical Services offices a few miles away on Grier Drive. One striking security officer at that location, Bill Hull, said he wants "fair and equitable treatment from our company."
    A 17-year employee, Hull said he hasn't received a pay raise in "14 or 15 years" and said he lost at least 25 percent of his pay when the contract was switched to EG&G Technical Services in 1996. (Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier Corporation)
    Hull, wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with a U.S. flag flanked by two alien-face pins, said he is paid $15.05 per hour but should be making at least $16.03 per hour.
    He said the guards work 12-hour shifts, staying four days "out of town," before flying back to Las Vegas and getting three days off.  
    "We don't get break periods," he said.



    Janet terminal looking toward Luxor casino

    Janet terminal gate

    Janet Terminal
    USGS photo 10 Jun 1994

    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    Mysterious New Devices Installed at Border of Infamous Area 51 Base

    Has one of ufology’s favorite top secret bases gotten a mysterious new upgrade to its security?
    Area 51, or Groom Lake as it’s been called, has long been a source of mystery, and its rumors of hidden technology, underground bases, and alien bodies have made it a bottomless well of pop culture conjecture. Even today, the United States military doesn’t like to acknowledge the base, staying as secretive as possible and employing a private contractor to aggressively usher curious conspiracy theorists from the perimeter.
    But while nosy UFO buffs might be easy to turn away in real life, sit them down at a computer monitor and they’ll be a little.. well, a LOT, harder to hush. Thanks to the eagle-eyed observations of two internet sleuths and their subsequent travels to the base border, we know that Dreamland has been getting some mysterious new features.
    A newly updated piece of satellite imagery showing Area 51's new devicesA user with the screen name FosterVS shared an interesting new satellite image with the Above Top Secret message boards yesterday, images that showed evidence of new structures in the forbidden desert land.
    “I saw signs of trenching/cabling from the Area 51 guardshack along a trail to one of the Bald Mountain Gates, in the newer Bing Maps imagery,” he wrote.
    “The spot is 37°29’30.74″N, 115°40’24.69″W. If you follow this trail back towards the guard shack, you will see a number of similar cement pads.”
    His curiosity was piqued so much that he decided to take a trip to the outer limits of Area 51 himself, where his suspicions of new equipment were confirmed. While he was there, he managed to snap the following images of the strange constructions that look almost as if they could be solar panels, if only they were pointed to the sky rather than at the horizon. Interesting to note are what look like attached fire extinguishers.
    Strange new structures at Area 51   Strange new structures erected at the border of the Area 51 base
    Foster explained that he had intended on taking more than just three images of the new structures, but was promptly chased away by security in camouflaged military fatigues.
    I should have taken more/better pictures, but what you can’t see between the first and second pictures was the camo dude truck parked to the left of the new “device”, that started coming after me when I started taking pictures!
    I cannot deduce what this thing is. Looks like a cement pad, with two uprights imbedded in it, 2 -3 crossbeams, and also two pipes coming up support a rectangular something. The fire extinguisher has me baffled.
    The contraptions are definitely a new addition to the land, as the only other visible structures until now were guard shacks and remote control cameras. So, what could the devices be? What is their use?
    Theories have ranged anywhere from a kind of a radar, to a crowd dispersal device, to an emergency exit for one of the base’s rumored underground tunnels, but the most plausible answer seems to be a regular old electrical panel. But don’t worry, fellow mystery mongers, because chances are, it’s powering something very irregular.
    Judging from the two pieces of conduit that head into the ground, its a good guess that whatever underground device it’s feeding is really big, big enough to require very thick cable, meaning lots of power. What could use that much power? Well, a huge network of magnetometers, for one, which would explain how the “camo dudes” are always so eerily swift to bear down on intruders.
    Qual-Tron's Mini Magnetic Sensor
    Qual-Tron’s Magnetic Sensor
    Qual-Tron Incorporated is a government approved provider of magnetometers, or Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS for short) and explains that the tech provides “instantaneous alarms of detected foot and vehicle activity” with ranges of operation from “hundreds of meters to several miles”. The hitch? If the devices get too far from the base they require a relay, something that might account for Groom Lake’s new erections.
    It’s not a stretch to believe that a huge grid of what are essentially “pressure plates” would require some extra juice, so don’t be surprised if your next visit to peep on some alien technology is cut dramatically short… they can probably hear you coming.
    What do you make of the mysterious new structures popping up along the border of Area 51? High tech tourist deterrents or a heat ray emitters? Entrances to underground tunnels or just a convenient place for the Men in Black to charge their cell phones? Let us know what you think!

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Area 51 Timeline

    Area 51 Timeline

    The following is a general timeline of events at the Groom Lake, Nevada, test facility. It covers half a century of history involving a unique national asset.

    Early 1955

    A secure test site was needed for the Central Intelligence Agency's Project AQUATONE (Lockheed U-2). U-2 designer Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson sent project pilot Tony LeVier and Lockheed Skunk Works chief foreman Dorsey Kammerer on a two-week survey mission to scout locations for a new base in an unmarked Beechcraft V-35 Bonanza.
    Richard M. Bissell Jr., "special assistant" to CIA director Allen Dulles, and director of the AQUATONE program reviewed fifty potential sites with his Air Force liaison, Col. Osmond J. "Ozzie" Ritland. None of the sites seemed to meet the stringent security requirements of the program. They rejected Johnson's proposed Site I (possibly Mud Lake) because it was too close to populated areas. Ritland, however, recalled "a little X-shaped field" just off the eastern side of Groom Dry Lake, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada, just outside the Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) nuclear proving ground at Yucca Flat.

    April 1955

    LeVier, Johnson, Bissell, and Ritland flew out to Nevada on a two-day survey of the most promising lakebeds, including Groom Lake. The abandoned airfield that Ritland had remembered was sandy, overgrown and unusable, but the three-mile-wide dry lakebed was perfect.
    Bissell secured a Presidential action adding the Groom Lake area to the AEC proving ground. Ritland wrote three memos to the Air Force, AEC, and the Training Command that administered the gunnery range. Signed by Assistant Air Secretary for Research and Development Trevor Gardner, they insured that range activities would not impinge on the new test site. Security for the project was now assured.
    Johnson met with CIA officials in Washington, D.C. and discussed progress on the base and the AQUATONE program. His proposal to name the base "Paradise Ranch" was accepted. It was an ironic choice which, he later admitted was "a dirty trick to lure workers to the program."

    May 1955

    LeVier, Kammerer, and Johnson returned to Groom Lake in Lockheed's Bonanza. Using a compass and surveying equipment, they laid out a place for a 5,000-foot, north-south runway on the southwest corner of the lakebed. They also staked out the general layout of the base.
    Herb Miller of CIA Development Projects Staff issued $800,000 in contracts for construction of the base. Through the AEC, Miller organized a team of construction crews.
    Seth Woodruff Jr., Manager of the AEC Las Vegas Field Office, announced to the news media that he had "instructed the Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Co., Inc. [REECo] to begin preliminary work on a small, satellite Nevada Test Site installation." He noted that work was already underway at the location "a few miles northeast of Yucca Flat and within the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range." Woodruff said that the installation would include "a runway, dormitories, and a few other buildings for housing equipment." The facility was described as "essentially temporary." The press release was distributed to 18 media outlets in Nevada and Utah including a dozen newspapers, four radio stations, and two television stations.
    LeVier and fellow Lockheed test pilot Bob Matye spent nearly a month removing surface debris from Groom Lake (the area had been used for gunnery practice during World War II). LeVier also drew up a proposal for four three-mile-long runways to be marked on the hard-packed clay. Johnson, however, refused to approve the $450.00 expense, citing a lack of funds. Drilling resulted in discovery of a limited water supply, but trouble with the well soon developed and water had to be trucked in.

    July 1955

    Construction of the base was completed. It consisted of a single paved 5,000-foot runway, three hangars, a control tower, and rudimentary accommodations for test personnel. The base's few amenities included a movie theatre and volleyball court. Additionally, there was a mess hall, and several water wells and fuel storage tanks.
    CIA, Air Force, and Lockheed personnel began arriving at the Groom Lake test site.
    The test site was officially and legally named Watertown after CIA Director Allen Dulles' birthplace: Watertown, New York. It is still listed as a member of Alamo Township in Lincoln County, Nevada.
    Richard Newton of the CIA assigned as base commander.
    The first U-2 (Article 341), disassembled, was flown to "The Ranch" in an Air Force C-124 cargo plane. Base commander Richard Newton expressed his doubts to Kelly Johnson that the new asphalt runway would support the weight of the loaded C-124.
    Tony LeVier piloted the unofficial maiden flight in Article 341 during a taxi test.

    August 1955

    Levier, with the callsign ANGEL 1, made the first real flight in Article 341. Bob Matye flew chase in a C-47 with "Kelly" Johnson on board as an observer.

    September 1955

    LeVier completed Phase I (contractor) testing. His accomplishments included taking the U-2 to 50,000 feet, achieving the maximum design speed of Mach 0.84, and making a successful dead-stick landing.
    LeVier was replaced by Lockheed test pilots Bob Matye and Ray Goudey, who expanded the altitude envelope to 74,500 feet.
    The second U-2 (Article 342) was delivered to Watertown.

    October 1955

    Test pilots Robert Sieker and Robert Schumacher joined the U-2 test team.
    Pursuant to a request by the Las Vegas Review Journal the previous month, the AEC released a statement regarding progress on the "Watertown Project." It stated that "construction at the Nevada Test Site installation a few miles north of Yucca Flat which was announced last spring is continuing. Data secured to date has indicated a need for limited additional facilities and modifications of the existing installation. The additional work which will not be completed until sometime in 1956 is being done by the Reynolds electrical and Engineering Company, Incorporated under the direction of the Atomic Energy Commission's Las Vegas branch office."

    November 1955

    U.S. Air Force C-54M (44-9068) transporting personnel to Watertown crashed near the top of Mt. Charleston, about 20 miles west of Las Vegas. Nine civilians and five military personnel were killed. There were no survivors.
    After the accident, Lockheed took on the responsibility of transporting personnel to the test site. A C-47, owned by Lockheed, was used to bring in pilots, technicians, and special visitors.

    December 1955

    Defense Secretary Charles Wilson visited Watertown for a briefing on the U-2 operation.

    January 1956

    By the beginning of 1956, four U-2 aircraft had been delivered to the Groom Lake test site.

    March 1956

    The fleet consisted of nine aircraft, and six CIA pilots were undergoing flight training at the site.
    Col. Landon McConnell was assigned as base commander at Watertown.
    CIA Director Allen Dulles visited Watertown to personally meet the first training class.

    May 1956

    As Wilburn S. Rose took off on a training flight in U-2A (56-6678), one of the wing pogo wheels failed to separate. Rose flew low over the field, trying to shake it loose. The aircraft, heavy with fuel, stalled and crashed, killing Rose.
    The second class arrived at Watertown. It included Francis G. "Frank" Powers, who would later win dubious fame after being shot down and captured while flying a U-2 over the Soviet Union.
    While Powers' class underwent training, a group of four Greek and one Polish pilot also came to Groom for familiarization in the U-2. The Greek pilots all washed out during training, and the Polish pilot was never allowed to fly the U-2.

    August 1956

    The second U-2 class completed their training.
    The third U-2 training class arrived at Watertown. Among others, it included Frank G. Grace Jr. and Bob Ericson.
    Grace was killed during a night training flight while flying U-2A (56-6687). He became disoriented by lights near the end of the runway, and flew into a telephone pole.

    December 1956

    Bob Ericson was flying U-2A (56-6690) at 35,000 feet when he suffered an oxygen failure. As he began to pass out, the aircraft went out of control. Ericson managed to open the canopy, and parachute to a safe landing on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona.
    Article 341 was modified for a series of radar cross section (RCS) tests called Project RAINBOW. Lockheed attempted to reduce the RCS of the U-2 using radar-absorbent materials.
    Another U-2, Article 344, was strung with piano wire of varying dipole lengths between the nose and wings of the aircraft to reduce the radar signature. These methods created extra drag with a resultant penalty in range and altitude. The U-2 aircraft modified under Project RAINBOW were known as "dirty birds" because they were not aerodynamically "clean."

    April 1957

    During a Project RAINBOW test flight, Article 341 suffered a flameout at 72,000 feet due to airframe heat build-up. Pilot Robert Sieker's pressure suit inflated, but his helmet faceplate failed and he lost consciousness. The aircraft stalled at 65,000 feet and entered a flat spin. Sieker revived at low altitude and attempted to bail out. Without an ejection seat, or enough altitude for a safe manual egress, Sieker was killed. His body was found near the wreck, with his parachute partially deployed. More information here.
    An AEC information booklet called "Background Information on Nevada Nuclear Tests" published in 1957) gave a cover story for the Watertown operation. It stated that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was operating U-2 aircraft at the Groom Lake site "with logistical and technical support [from] the Air Weather Service of the U.S. Air Force to make weather observations at heights that cannot be attained by most aircraft." At that time, the aircraft were unpainted except for fictitious NACA markings in the event that one of them was lost off-site.
    The AEC conducted a safety experiment with an XW-25 warhead just five miles northwest of Groom Lake in Area 13. Called Project 57, the test was part of Operation Plumbbob. The device, with a design yield of one to two kilotons, was involved in a simulated accident without a nuclear detonation. The test spread plutonium over 895 acres.

    May 1957

    AEC Radiological Safety Officer Charles Weaver, Oliver R. Placak, and Melvin W. Carter participated in two meetings held at Watertown. The film Atomic Tests In Nevada was shown and discussed during two meetings. Watertown personnel were briefed on nuclear testing activities, radiation safety, and the possibility of radiation hazards from the Operation Plumbbob test series. Before leaving Watertown, the AEC men met with two Air Force officers, Col. Jack Nole and a Col. Schilling, and Richard Newton to discuss arrangements for radiation monitors to visit the airbase whenever fallout was anticipated in the Watertown area.
    Shot BOLTZMANN, a 12 kiloton blast, was fired from a 500-foot tower on northern Yucca Flat. Watertown personnel were required to evacuate the secret base to avoid fallout.

    June 1957

    Two minor atomic blasts, FRANKLIN and LASSEN, were fired at Yucca Flat.
    CIA pilot classes finished training.
    The U-2 test operation moved to North Base at Edwards AFB, California.
    Operational U-2 aircraft were assigned to the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. 4028th SRS commander Col. Nole led the first of two three-ship U-2 formations from Watertown to their new home at Laughlin, Texas.
    Watertown became a virtual ghost town. The base was apparently in caretaker status with a site manager, security, and minimal complement of personnel present.
    An atomic test code-named WILSON deposited fallout on Watertown. The AEC measured radiation exposure inside the evacuated buildings and vehicles at the base to study the ability of various materials to shield against fallout. In effect, Watertown served as a laboratory to determine the shielding qualities of typical building materials that might be found in any average American small town.
    The 37-kiloton PRISCILLA shot was detonated at Frenchman Flat.
    HOOD, the sixth nuclear shot of Operation Plumbbob, caused substantial damage to the Watertown airbase. The device was lofted by balloon to a height of 1,500 feet over Yucca Flat, about 14 miles southwest of Watertown. On 5 July 1957, HOOD exploded with a yield of 74 kilotons. HOOD's shockwave shattered windows on two buildings at Watertown, and broke a ventilator panel on one of the dormitories. A maintenance building on the west side of the base had its west and east doors buckled, and the south door of the supply warehouse west of the hangars was also buckled.

    July 1957

    A civilian pilot was detained when he made an emergency landing at the Watertown airstrip. Edward K. Current Jr., a Douglas Aircraft Company employee, had been on a cross country training flight when he became lost, ran low on fuel, and decided to land at Groom Lake. He was held overnight and questioned. Nevada Test Organization (NTO) security officials reported the incident to the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), which administered the air closure over the Test Site. The following day, the NTO Office of Test Information issued a press release to the news media, describing the incident. The statement noted that the "Watertown landing strip is in the Groom lake area at the northeast corner of the Nevada Test Site."

    August 1957

    Operation Plumbbob nuclear testing continued. Five additional safety experiments and 18 more full-scale detonations were conducted. Several shots dropped significant fallout on Watertown. They included DIABLO, DOPPLER, SMOKY, and WHITNEY. SMOKY had a yield of 44 kilotons. It was fired on top of a 700-foot tower in Area 8, about 14 miles southwest of Groom Lake. The mushroom cloud was extremely dirty, and spread radioactive debris over the Groom Lake area.

    June 1958

    An area comprised of 38,400 acres of land surrounding the Watertown base was officially withdrawn from public access under Public Land Order 1662. This rectangular addition to the Nevada Test Site was designated "Area 51."

    July 1959

    USAF personnel from Edwards AFB embarked on a two-day survey trip in an L-28 to investigate potential emergency landing sites for the X-15 rocket plane. The L-28 received clearance to land on Groom Lake, the fifth stop on the trip. The crew tested the hardness of the lakebed surface by dropping a 10lb. steel ball from a height of six feet and measuring the diameter of the resulting imprint. The survey report described Groom Lake as follows: "The surface is very smooth and extremely hard. All approaches are good, and runways can be used in any direction with just over three miles of lake available. This lake is considered excellent for emergency use." Groom Lake was designated as a contingency landing site for eleven X-15 missions, but none of the flights had to abort to the secret base.

    September 1959

    EG&G agreed to move its radar test facility to Groom Lake for security reasons. A special pylon was constructed on a paved loop road on the western side of the lakebed.
    Aerial photos of Groom Lake were taken for construction contractor Holmes & Narver, Inc. (H&N).

    November 1959

    The AEC issued a press release regarding construction of a butler-type building for "Project 51" at Groom Lake. The statement indicated that the building would be used to "house data reduction equipment for use by Edgerton, Germeshausen, and Grier [EG&G, Inc.] in an Air Force Program." The construction project led to a labor dispute. REECo obtained a court order to force the union to provide half a dozen sheet metal workers for the project, then agreed to arbitration of the dispute prior to an injunction hearing in district court.
    A full-scale mock-up of the A-12 was shipped to Area 51 for radar signature testing by EG&G.

    December 1959

    Joe Vensel, Forrest Petersen, and Jim McKay flew from the NASA Flight Research Center (FRC) at Edwards to Nevada in a NASA R4D-5 (17136) to re-survey X-15 landing sites. They landed on the northern end of Groom Lake, just outside the restricted area and tested the lakebed surface by taxiing the aircraft across the hard-packed clay. They soon saw jeeps approaching from Watertown, but the R4D took off before the jeeps arrived.
    An Air Force crew attempted a survey following a winter storm. Air Traffic controllers at Area 51 denied landing clearance to the survey aircraft, so it just made a fly-by. The crew noted that there was water on the east half of the lakebed.
    Project High Range was completed to track the X-15. It was a High-Altitude Continuous Tracking Radar range over 400 miles long, and stretching from California to Utah. It included radar facilities and microwave relay units. One of the latter, MRU-4, was placed on top of Bald Mountain, 14 miles north of Groom Lake.

    September 1960

    Base construction began at Area 51 to build facilities to support Project OXCART, the Lockheed A-12. Since the existing 5,000-foot runway (built for the U-2) was incapable of supporting the weight of the A-12, a new airstrip (Runway 14/32) was constructed.
    NASA and AFFTC personnel discussed the idea of using the airspace over Groom as a launch site for the X-15. They determined that Groom had advantages over Mud Lake, near Tonopah, since there were more intermediate contingency landing sites available between Groom and Edwards. The Use of Groom Lake also meant a reduction in AFFTC support requirements since there was already an airfield with emergency equipment and personnel at the site. Ultimately, they agreed to remove Groom from consideration as a launch site due to difficulty obtaining clearance into the area.

    November 1960

    Runway 14/32 was completed. The A-12 required a runway at least 8,500 feet long and 150-feet-wide. A 10,000-foot hard asphalt extension, with a concrete turnaround pad in the middle, cut diagonally across the southwest corner of the lakebed. A semicircle (called "The Hook") approximately two miles in diameter was marked on the dry lake so that an A-12 pilot approaching the end of the overrun could abort to the hard-packed playa instead of running his aircraft into the sagebrush. An unpaved airstrip (Runway 09/27) crossed the lakebed from southwest to northeast. Another strip (Runway 03/21) was laid out as a crosswind runway.

    August 1961

    The essential facilities at Area 51 were completed. Three surplus U.S. Navy hangars were obtained, dismantled, and erected on the north side of the base, just north of the three original hangars. They were designated as Hangars 4, 5, and 6. A fourth, Hangar 7, was also built.
    One hundred and forty surplus U.S. Navy housing units were transported to the base and made ready for occupancy. The original U-2 hangars now served as maintenance and machine shops. Facilities in the main cantonment area included workshops and buildings for storage and administration, a commissary, control tower, fire station, and housing.
    The airspace over Groom Lake became part of a new Restricted Area called R-4808N (replacing the former Prohibited Area P-275), that covered both the Nevada Test Site and Area 51. It prohibited overflights below 60,000 feet.

    September 1961

    CIA Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick arrived at Area 51 for a three-day visit. Afterward, he had some critical comments regarding Area 51 security and OXCART project management.
    In his preliminary summary report Kirkpatrick stated: "The 'Area' in my opinion appears to be extremely vulnerable in its present security provisions against unauthorized observation. The high and rugged northeast perimeter of the immediate operating area, which I visited in order to see for myself, is not under government ownership. It is subject to a score or more of mineral claims, at least one of which is visited periodically by its owner. Several claims are sites of unoccupied buildings or cellars which together with the terrain in general afford excellent opportunity for successful penetration by a skilled and determined opposition."
    Kirkpatrick felt that Area 51 was "already demonstrably vulnerable to air violation including landings," that "major installations are not rigorously protected against sabotage," and that construction of facilities had been undertaken before construction personnel had received a full security clearance.
    Richard M. Bissell thought these points were valid. The assistant to the CIA Deputy Director of Plans noted that Bissell "was particularly interested in why we have not yet been able to eject the various citizens holding property around the Area."

    December 1961

    Col. Robert J. Holbury was named commander of Detachment 1, 1129th Special Activities Squadron Roadrunners and Area 51, with Werner Weiss of the CIA as his deputy.

    January 1962

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expanded the restricted airspace above Groom to 22 by 20 nautical miles. The lakebed now lay at the center of a 440-square-mile box at the heart of the Nellis Air Force Range. Eventually, the airspace was restricted continuously, at all altitudes.

    February 1962

    The first A-12 prototype (Article 121/ AF Serial No. 60-6924) was trucked to the test site.

    April 1962

    Support aircraft began arriving at Area 51. These included: six McDonnell F-101B and two F-101F Voodoos for training and photo chase, two T-33A Shooting Stars for proficiency training, one Lockheed C-130 Hercules for cargo transport, one U-8A for administrative use, one Cessna 180 for liaison use (later replaced with a Cessna 210), and a Kaman HH-43 helicopter for search and rescue (later replaced with a UH-1). Two F-104A/G Starfighters (56-0790 and 56-0801) served as chase planes during the OXCART flight test program.
    Article 121 made its unofficial first flight at Area 51 with Louis W. Schalk at the controls. He flew the aircraft less than two miles at an altitude of about 20 feet.
    The following day, Schalk made a 40-minute flight.
    Schalk's official first flight, several days later, was witnessed by a number of CIA personnel (including Richard Bissell) and Najeeb E. Halaby, head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

    June 1962

    Second A-12 airframe (Article 122) arrives at Groom Lake and is mounted on the RCS pylon for three months of testing.

    July 1962

    SEDAN, a 104-kiloton thermonuclear explosion, created a crater 320 feet deep and 1,280 feet across on Yucca Flat. The radioactive dust cloud drifted northeast over Groom Pass.

    October 1962

    Shot BANDICOOT detonated in a subterranean shaft with a yield of 12.5 kilotons. Dynamic venting deposited fallout on the Groom Lake area.

    November 1962

    A Lockheed test pilot flew a U-2 against radar sites at Area 51 to evaluate its radar cross-section. This was shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and may have been precipitated by the loss of a U-2 to a Cuban SA-2 surface-to-air missile on 27 October.

    May 1963

    During a subsonic engine test sortie in A-12 (Article 123/60-6926), Ken Collins descended into a thick cloud deck. Ice quickly built up in the pitot tube, causing erroneous airspeed readings in the cockpit. The jet suddenly stalled and pitched up, entering an inverted flat spin. Collins ejected, and the A-12 impacted south of Wendover, near the Utah-Nevada border. Secrecy of the OXCART program was maintained by telling the press that a Republic F-105 had crashed.

    August 1963

    The first YF-12A (Article 1001/60-6934) made its maiden flight at Area 51 with James Eastham at the controls.

    October 1963

    A flight of three F-105 Thunderchiefs, led by British exchange pilot Anthony "Bugs" Bendell, was on a practice nuclear weapon delivery sortie about 80 miles north of Nellis AFB when one aircraft experienced an oil pressure malfunction. One F-105 returned to Nellis while Bendell led the stricken craft to the airfield at Groom Lake. After making a pass over the field with no response to distress calls, Bendell advised the student pilot to land. At this point, two F-101 Voodoos intercepted Bendell and forced him to land also.


    Lou Schalk took Kelly Johnson for a ride in the TA-12 (Article 124/60-6927).

    March 1964

    After President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the existence of the YF-12A (intentionally calling it "Lockheed A-11" at Kelly Johnson's request), the YF-12A test program moved to Edwards AFB, California.

    July 1964

    Lockheed test pilot Bill Park flew a high-speed sortie in A-12 (Article 133/60-6939). While on final approach to Groom Lake, the controls locked up, and the aircraft began to roll. Park ejected just 200 feet above the ground. He swung through just one parachute oscillation before touching down.

    December 1964

    Kelly Johnson flew Najeeb Halaby to the Area 51 test site. Halaby was taken up for a flight in the two-seat TA-12 trainer (Article 124/60-6927).
    Bill Park piloted the first mated flight of the M-21/D-21 combination. The M-21 motherships were Article 134/60-6940 and Article 135/60-6941.

    November 1965

    The A-12 was declared ready for operational use.

    December 1965

    After takeoff in A-12 (Article 126/60-6929), Mele Vojvodich was forced to eject as the aircraft went out of control about 100 feet above the ground. The flight lasted only six seconds. Vojvodich parachuted to safety as the A-12 exploded nearby on the frozen surface of the lakebed. The cause was traced to controls that had been accidentally cross-wired during modifications.

    March 1966

    The Lockheed D-21 TAGBOARD ramjet powered unmanned reconnaissance drone was launched for the first time from a dorsal pylon on the M-21 mothership.

    July 1966

    The fourth launch attempt was made from M-21 (60-6941) with 60-6940 flying chase. After leaving Groom Lake, the aircraft flew out over the Pacific Ocean. As the D-21 separated from the launch pylon, it struck the tail of the M-21 resulting in the loss of the aircraft. Pilot Bill Park ejected safely and was rescued 150 miles off Point Mugu, California. His LSO Ray Torick ejected but drowned before he could be rescued.
    Col. Hugh "Slip" Slater takes command of DWT 1, 1129th SAS and Area 51.

    January 1967

    While returning to Area 51 from a routine training flight, A-12 (Article 125/60-6928) crashed near Leith, Nevada. A faulty gauge had allowed the jet to run out of fuel 70 miles short of Groom Lake. Walt Ray ejected, but failed to separate from his seat, and was killed.

    Mid-1967 (?)

    Sam Mitchell (CIA) assigned as commander of Area 51.

    September 1967

    James S. Simon Jr. died while flying chase during a night sortie of the TA-12. As the TA-12 approached the south end of the runway Simon's F-101B (56-0286) struck the ground and exploded near the South Trim Pad.
    Under the SENIOR BOWL program, the D-21 drone was reconfigured for launch from a B-52 and redesignated D-21B. Two B-52H aircraft (60-0036 and 61-0021) from the 4200th Support Squadron were sent to Groom Lake for the test program.
    The unofficial first flight of the D-21B (Article 501) occurred when one of the drones was accidentally dropped due to a mechanical failure.

    November 1967

    The first actual launch of a D-21B was completed successfully from a B-52H over the Pacific Ocean.

    January 1968

    Project HAVE DOUGHNUT, a joint USAF/Navy technical and tactical evaluation of the MiG-21F-13 began at Area 51.

    February 1968

    First test flight of HAVE DOUGHNUT MiG-21.

    March 1968

    Project HAVE DOUGHNUT was completed.

    January 1969

    Project HAVE DRILL/HAVE FERRY evaluation of two MiG-17F airplanes began at Area 51 with delivery of first airplane.

    February 1969

    First MiG-17 test flight completed.

    March 1969

    Second MiG-17 delivered to Area 51.

    April 1969

    First flight of second MiG-17.

    May 1969

    Project HAVE DRILL/HAVE FERRY was completed.

    July 1970

    The CIA began testing a remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) At Area 51 under project AQUILINE. With a six-foot wingspan and pusher propeller, the television-guided RPV was designed to gather intelligence by intercepting electronic transmissions from inside denied territory.

    November 1970

    Project HAVE GLIB, evaluation of foreign radar and threat systems began. A complex of actual Soviet systems and replicas began to grow around "Slater Lake" (the pond, which had been named after the former Roadrunners commander), a mile northwest of the main base. The systems were given names such as Mary, Kay, Susan, and Kathy. They were arranged to simulate a Soviet-style air defense complex.

    December 1970

    BANEBERRY, a 10-kiloton blast was detonated at the bottom of a 910-foot-deep shaft on Yucca Flat. Shortly afterward, radioactive gases erupted from a surface fissure. The plume reached an altitude of 8,000 feet and moved northeast. The fallout cloud arrived at Groom Lake an hour later. Within 20 minutes, radiation levels had reached a peak exposure rate of 0.18mR/hr. (compared to a normal background reading of 0.02 mR/hr.). Within another hour the cloud had passed.


    The Microwave Radar/Repeater Annex (MRU-4) on a three-acre parcel at the summit of Bald Mountain was improved. Construction at the site was sponsored by the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards AFB.

    December 1971

    Project AQUILINE was canceled and the surviving airframes were placed in storage.

    May 1973

    Project HAVE IDEA was initiated to evaluate foreign aircraft at Area 51 and elsewhere. The test aircraft initially included MiG-21 and MiG-17 variants.

    July 1974

    The CIA Office of Special Activities (OSA) filed a Memorandum of Agreement regarding a classified project to be undertaken at Area 51. The top-secret project, with a classified code-name, was expected to last about one year. Six permanent personnel were assigned to the test site, with up to 20 personnel "on site during peak periods of short duration activity." Project personnel planned to use Hangars 13 through 17 at the south end of the test site.

    July 1975

    The 4477th TEF Red Eagles was activated at Nellis AFB to support evaluation of foreign aircraft.

    November 1977

    A C-5 had arrived at Area 51 carrying the Lockheed HAVE BLUE prototype. Also known as the Experimental Survivable Testbed (XST), HAVE BLUE was the progenitor of the Lockheed F-117A. It was the first airplane built to be virtually invisible to radar.

    December 1977

    6513th Test Squadron Red Hats was activated at Edwards AFB to support evaluation of foreign aircraft.
    HAVE BLUE completed its maiden flight with Lockheed test pilot Bill Park at the controls. On hand to witness the event were Skunk Works chief Ben Rich, his predecessor "Kelly" Johnson, and Ken Perko of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The flight was also monitored by the White House Situation Room and Tactical Air Command Headquarters at Langley AFB, Virginia.

    March 1978

    The first HAVE BLUE aircraft (Article 1001) was returned to Burbank for modifications. It was prepared for RCS tests (with RAM coatings and removal of the nose boom).

    April 1978

    HAVE BLUE (Article 1001) returned to Area 51.

    May 1978

    During a test flight in HAVE BLUE a sudden drop caused the airplane to slam down hard on the runway. Fearing he would slide off the runway, Bill Park applied full power and aborted the landing. He climbed to altitude, automatically retracting the gear, and again attempted to land. The chase pilot told Park that his right main gear had failed to come down. As fuel levels became critical, Park decided to eject. He was struck by the seat and knocked unconscious during bailout, suffering injuries that ended his flying career.
    The wreckage was buried near Groom Lake.

    July 1978

    HAVE BLUE (Article 1002), the low-observables technology demonstrator, made its first flight piloted by Lt. Col. Norman K. "Ken" Dyson.

    October 1978

    Lockheed conducted the first test of its stealth cruise missile, code-named SENIOR PROM. Six prototypes were built. They somewhat resembled a subscale, unmanned version of the HAVE BLUE. The demonstrator models were launched from a DC-130 from the 6514th Test Squadron from Hill AFB, Utah. The SENIOR PROM test articles and launch aircraft were housed in Hangar 17 at Area 51.

    July 1979

    Article 1002 was lost due to an engine fire. Dyson noticed two hydraulic system warning lights while flying about 35 miles from Groom Lake. He ejected, and the last HAVE BLUE tumbled end over end to the desert floor. The wreckage was buried near Groom Lake.

    April 1979

    The CIA transferred control of the test site to the Air Force. AFFTC commander B/Gen. Philip J. Conley Jr. originally designated and activated the new unit as the 6516th Test Squadron, under the supervision of the 6510th Test Wing.

    May 1979

    The Special Order designating and activating the 6516th Test Squadron was revoked and the unit was activated as OL-AA, Detachment 3, AFFTC. Col. Larry D. McClain was assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    October 1979

    The 4477th Test and Evaluation Flight sponsored Phase I construction of a new airfield and support facilities at Tonopah Test Range (TTR).
    The $7 million project included construction of a maintenance hangar, a concrete apron, access taxiway, propane tank, a few permanent outbuildings, and 16 mobile homes.
    The original 6,000-foot runway was extended to 10,000 feet. It was laid out with the same heading as the main runway at Area 51.

    May 1980

    The 4477th TEF Red Eagles was upgraded to squadron status as the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron.

    October 1980

    Phase II construction, sponsored by the 4477th TES, began at TTR at a cost of $17 million. It included an expansion of the apron area, construction of a taxiway, fuel tanks, a dining hall, water tank, warehouse, support utilities, and a 42,000-square-foot hangar.

    January 1981

    The Lockheed test site at Groom Lake accepted delivery of the first SENIOR TREND Full-Scale Development prototype (designated YF-117A).

    March 1981

    In preparation for TAC operational test and evaluation of the F-117A, Phase III construction began at TTR.
    At a cost of $79 million, facilities were built for the 4450th Tactical Group, the unit that would operate the aircraft.

    May 1981

    Col. Charles "Pete" Winters became commander of DET 3, AFFTC. Winters had served as McClain's vice commander.

    January 1981

    Lockheed test pilot Hal Farley successfully completed the first YF-117A flight.

    January 1982

    Phase II construction at TTR was completed in January 1982. This provided a new home for the 4477th TES, and began the transition of TTR (also known as Area 52) from a bare base to a standard Air Force base.
    TACIT BLUE, a stealth technology demonstrator built by Northrop, was trucked to the Groom Lake test site in several large crates for final assembly in Hangar 8.

    February 1982

    Northrop test pilot Richard G. Thomas, made the first flight of TACIT BLUE.
    The first production F-117A (80-10785) was delivered to DREAMLAND, disassembled, inside a C-5.

    April 1982

    Test pilot Bob Riedenauer attempted takeoff in the first production F-117A (80-10785) on its maiden checkout flight. Before the first test flight, technicians relocated a servomechanism from one equipment bay to another, and rewired it. Unfortunately, they inadvertently reversed the rate gyros. As Riedenauer lifted off, the aircraft flipped over backwards and crashed. He suffered injuries that left him hospitalized for seven months.
    The aircraft was a complete loss and, since the takeoff had not been successful in any sense, the "flight" was not even included in the test logs.


    Project HAVE GLASS was undertaken to significantly reduce the radar cross-section of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. A series of modifications included RAM coatings and fillings, reflective materials, and component shape changes.

    June 1983

    AeroVironment received CIA sponsorship to build a proof-of-concept high-altitude, solar-powered, radio-controlled UAV called HALSOL. It was essentially a rectangular flying wing made from lightweight materials. Initial test flights were powered by eight electric motors using silver-zinc batteries. HALSOL made nine test flights, beginning in June 1983.
    Col. Ralph H. Graham assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    March 1984

    Lt. Gen. Robert M. Bond, Vice Commander of Air Force Systems Command, visited Groom Lake for two orientation flights in YF-117A (79-10782).

    April 1984

    Lt. Gen. Robert M. Bond made two orientation flights in a Russian-built MiG-23 jet fighter. While making a high-speed run during his second flight, Bond lost control and crashed in Area 25 of the Nevada Test Site. He was killed while ejecting.
    Richard Thomas completed the 100th flight of TACIT BLUE.

    August 1984

    Approximately 89,000 acres of public land and private holdings northeast of Groom Lake were closed to the public for "national security reasons." This area comprised the Groom Mountain Range that overlooks the lakebed. The appropriation was done without fulfilling the legal requirements for an environmental impact statement. Air Force officials denied there would be any significant impact because the area would only be used as a buffer zone.

    February 1985

    TACIT BLUE completed its final flight. Following a highly successful test program, the one-of-a-kind aircraft was stored in the Area 51 "boneyard." Eventually, it was displayed at a classified museum facility in the low bay (called "Dyson's Dock") of Hangar 18.

    April 1985

    Col. Karl M. Jones Jr. assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.


    Maj. Frank T. Birk piloted the first flight of a "classified demonstrator" at Groom Lake. For his work on the project, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots gave Birk the Lieutenant General Bobby Bond Memorial Aviator Award which "recognizes an AFSC military rated crew member for outstanding contribution to AFSC's test and evaluation mission while participating in aerial duties."
    Another project involved a laser system called VINDICATOR that was designed at the Lockheed Skunk Works.
    The U.S. Air Force issued a proposal (ex post facto) for the withdrawal of the 89,000 acres of land in the Groom Mountains that had already been seized in 1984.


    New dormitories were constructed. Several large water tanks were added to supply the base. Hangar 18 was built near the south ramp. Four "Rubber Duck" temporary aircraft shelters were erected near the South end for use by TAC during F-117A OT&E. Many new facilities were built and, by the end of the decade the "Rubber Duck" shelters were replaced with metal hangars (Hangars 20 through 23). Runway 14/32 was extended 4,600-feet further southeast of the lakebed because the north end was subject to flooding during the rainy season.


    Congress officially authorized the withdrawal of the Groom Mountains.

    Spring 1987

    Col. James W. Tilley II assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.


    President Ronald Reagan signed legislation making the Groom Mountains part of the Nellis Air Force Range until 2003. The Desert Research Institute in Reno was contracted to conduct an archeological survey of the area for renewal of the withdrawal.

    Spring 1989

    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    December 1990

    Northrop's stealthy AGM-137 Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile (TSSAM), based on technology from TACIT BLUE, underwent initial tests.


    After several decades of use, Runway 14/32 was becoming too expensive to maintain. AFFTC leadership considered several options, and ultimately decided to build a new parallel runway east of the old one. Construction of Runway 14L/32R began.

    Spring 1991

    Col. William W. Dobbs assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    April 1992

    The F-117A Combined Test Force relocated its operation from Groom Lake to Site 7 at AF Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

    October 1992

    The 6513th Test Squadron Red Hats was inactivated. It was reactivated immediately as the 413th Flight Test Squadron, providing test and evaluation capability for electronic warfare (EW) systems.
    When Runway 14L/32R was completed, the old airstrip became Runway 14R/32L. The new runway had no asphalt extension, but an overrun line, extending to "The Hook" was marked on the lakebed. Most of the northern half of Runway 14R/32L was closed, reducing the active runway length to about 10,000 feet.

    Spring 1993

    Col. Craig P. Dunn assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    October 1993

    The U.S. Air Force filed a notice in the Federal Register seeking to withdraw 3,972 acres of land from public on the eastern perimeter of the Area 51 section of the Nellis Air Force Range.

    January 1994

    The 412th Test Wing at Edwards began formation of an EW Directorate to encompass all aspects of ground and flight test of EW assets and act as a "gateway" to DET 3, AFFTC, providing technical guidance on how to use their capabilities for electronic combat testing.
    Several workers filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming damages from exposure to toxic fumes from burning waste at the Groom Lake facility.

    September 1994

    Gen. Ronald W. Yates, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, visited DET 3, AFFTC for two days.

    October 1994

    The EW Directorate was unofficially established, consisting of the Electronics Research Division, 413th FLTS, Avionics Test and Integration Division, and Electronic Combat Development Flight.
    A unique Electromagnetic Test Environment (EMTE) was created to support open-air development test and evaluation and operational test and evaluation of electronic combat systems.

    January 1995

    The NC-130H (87-0157), with a dorsally mounted rotating radar dish, was modified under the Advanced Simulation and Training Initiative (ASTI). ASTI provided enhanced threat density of open-air combat training ranges by injecting virtual targets from a ground-based simulator through real-time data links.

    April 1995

    The Air Force seized 5,000 more acres of public land to prevent civilians from viewing the base from nearby hilltops that had been overlooked in previous seizures. This occurred in the midst of increased public scrutiny of the secret base.
    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.


    The YF-113G "classified prototype" made its first flight.

    September 1995

    On 29 September 1995 President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Determination No. 95-45. It stated in part: "I find that it is in the paramount interest of the United States to exempt the United States Air Force's operating location near Groom Lake, Nevada from any applicable requirement for the disclosure to unauthorized persons of classified information concerning that operating location."

    April 1996

    TACIT BLUE was declassified and delivered to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, for permanent display.


    McDonnell Douglas test pilot Rudy Haug piloted the maiden flight of the "Bird of Prey" (also known as the BoP). The classified technology demonstrator showcased low-observables ("stealth") and lean manufacturing capabilities. Over a three-year period, the "Bird of Prey" completed 38 test flights. The Boeing Company purchased McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and continued funding for the BoP. Besides Haug, the BoP was flown by Air Force test pilot Doug Benjamin and Boeing test pilot Joe Felock.

    Spring 1997

    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    Spring 1999

    Col. Mark A. Stubben assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

    August 1999

    There was a large fire, possibly caused by an aircraft accident, on the southern slopes of the Groom Mountains north of Groom Lake.

    October 1999

    Air Force takes official ownership of Area 51 in a land swap deal, signed by President Clinton.
    The white Jeep Cherokee security vehicles are being replaced by Ford F-150's, and later Chevy 2500 4x4 pickup trucks.


    The Transient Parking ramp (JANET ramp) was excavated and re-paved.

    October 2000

    Area 51 North Gate (Back Gate) is upgraded with a chain link fence, double gate and a new guard shack.


    F-22A (91-4004) was flown through the Dynamic Coherent Measurement System (DYCOMS) airborne RCS range (known on-site as Project 100 or simply P-100) to verify the low-observable characteristics of the Lockheed Martin F/A-22A Raptor.
    All but two of the original tanks in the fuel farm were removed and two new large tanks were installed.

    April 2001

    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.
    The South Delta Taxiway was marked as Runway 12/30. It is approximately 5,420-feet-long and 150-feet-wide, with convenient access to the South end ramp. Runway 14R/32L was closed in its entirety.

    December 2001

    DET 3 security personnel from EG&G Technical Services went on strike for two days, citing low wages and excessive amounts of overtime in the three months since the terrorist strikes in September. Supervisors were forced to man posts vacated by the 70 striking guards.

    Early 2003

    Construction of the two new fuel tanks is completed.
    A new Center Taxiway, providing access to Runway 14L/32R, is constructed. It includes a new access way to Hangar 19 (the "Scoot-n-Hide shed"). Construction is completed by July 2003.

    Spring 2003

    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.


    The Southend ramp in front of Hangars 9 through 16 was similarly replaced in the summer of 2003.

    March 2004

    A Beech 1900 (N27RA), operated by EG&G, crashed on a flight from Groom to TTR. The civilian pilot, David D. Palay, and passengers Derrick L. Butler, Michael A. Izold, Daniel M. Smalley, and Roy A. Van Voorhis (contractors with JT3 LLC) perished.

    May 2004

    The 413th Flight Test Squadron was inactivated as part of a consolidation and realignment of EW assets.

    Spring 2005

    Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.
    50th Anniversary of establishment of Groom Lake test facility.