Every weekday morning, at least 500 people arrive at the guarded terminal
owned by EG&G on the northwest side of McCarran Airport in Las Vegas,
Nevada. Here they board one of a small fleet of unmarked Boeing 737-200s.
Using three digit numbers prefixed by the word "Janet" as their
callsigns, the 737s fly off North every half hour.
Their destination is Groom Lake, also known as Area 51, an installation
so secret, its existence is denied by the government agencies and contractors
that have connections there. By late 1955, the facility had been completed
for flight testing of Lockheed's U-2 spyplane. Since that time, Groom
Lake has undergone vast expansion, catering to the needs of testing the
most advanced aircraft projects in the world. Forty-four years after it
was created, Groom Lake has hosted flight testing of the aforementioned
Lockheed U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117 stealth fighter, Northrop's
B-2 stealth bomber, the mysterious Aurora Project, and possibly even alien
Tony LeVier, Lockheed's test pilot assigned to test-fly the U-2 spyplane,
claims the credit for recognizing Groom Dry Lake as a suitable test site.
The CIA gave U-2 designer Kelly Johnson the task of choosing and building
a secure test site. In March 1955, Johnson sent LeVier and Skunk Works
foreman Dorsey Kammerer to visit potential test sites in the deserts of
southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. After two weeks, LeVier presented
Johnson with his impressions, and Johnson chose Groom Lake.
The Groom Lake facility has been known by many names since its construction.
Kelly Johnson named the place "Paradise Ranch". When his flight
test team arrived in July 1955, they simply called it "The Ranch".
In fact, the secret base was formally named Watertown Strip, after the
town in upstate New York where CIA director Allen Dulles was born. In
June 1958, it was officially designated Area 51 by the Atomic Energy Commission
(AEC). The adjacent AEC proving grounds became known as the Nevada Test
Site and divided into such numbered areas. The base is now known worldwide
as "Area 51" (thanks to numerous mentions in Hollywood shows
and movies), though officially this designation was dropped in the 1970s.
By 1970, the USAF Systems Command took over the operation of Groom Lake.
At this time, the U-2 and A-12/SR-71 spyplanes had both been tested and
in service on reconnaissance missions. Unmanned high-speed drones were
also being tested, including the Model 147 Lightning Bug, Model 154 Firefly,
and D-21 Tagboard. In 1967, the United States acquired its first Soviet
MiG-21 and the US efforts to acquire Soviet weapons technology expanded.
In 1975, the Red Flag series of realistic air warfare exercises started
at Nellis AFB, using large portions of the ranges surrounding Groom Lake.
The box of airspace surrounding Groom Lake was strictly off-limits to
Red Flag aircrews. It became known as "Red Square" at this time,
but later acquired the semi-official title of "Dreamland" as
a series of new exotic aerospace projects evolved in the late 1970s. These
included the Have Blue and Tacit Blue stealth technology demonstrators.
The testing of these aircraft brought extreme security measures at Groom
The Groom Lake base was considerably expanded in the 1980s. The main
runway (14/32) was extended to the south, and then a huge northernly extension
built out onto Groom Dry Lake, today having a length of 27,000 feet. A
smaller parallel runway was built in the early 1990s. Semi-recessed "scoot
and hide" shelters were built on the main taxiway so that secret
aircraft could be more easily hidden from spying satellites overhead.
New radars, satellite telemetry and other communications facilities were
installed, and extra warehouse and assembly areas constructed. The base
housing area was completely rebuilt, accomodating up to 2,000 people,
and an extensive recreational facility provided. Today, Groom Lake seems
to be administered by Detachment 3 of the Air Force Flight Test Center
at Edwards AFB.
Perimeter securtiy was also increased. Until 1984, it was easy to view
the base from Bald Mountain and other hills in the Groom Range to the
north of the lakebed. The USAF then extended the Nellis range military
reservation to cut off the view...or so they thought! Two hillsides to
the south of the Groom Range still offered a view of the base from 12
miles away. White Sides Peak and Freedom Ridge, these points were annexed
by authorities in 1995.
Clearly marked but not actually fenced, the entire boundary of the base
is patrolled by an anonymous security force equipped with high-tech surveillance
gear. Remote electronic sensors detect movement along known dirt tracks
and roads leading towards the installation. It has been thought for quite
a while now that the surveillance equipment is so advanced that certain
sensory equipment has the ability to smell a person coming near the boundary,
and distinguish him/her from other animals nearby. The ground patrols,
often called "Cammo Dudes", are assisted by FLIR-equipped Sikorsky
MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.
Since the Tacit Blue flights ended in 1985, only two further black projects
which were presumably test-flown from the secret base, have since been
officially acknowledged. These were both stealth air-launched missiles:
the Lockheed Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM), cancelled in 1992, and the
Northrop Tri-Service Stand-Off Attack Missile, cancelled in 1994. So what
activities are taking place at Groom Lake?
In 1989, a man named Bob Lazar appeared on a Las Vegas television station
and claimed that he had been employed at Area 51 for the purpose of "reverse
engineering" alien flying saucers. He alledged that nine of these
disc-shaped craft were flown from a highly secure facility named "S-4"
at Papoose Lake, 10 miles southwest of Groom Lake.
Lazar's story has been widely criticized and a more credible link to
disc-shaped objects is that they are testbeds for anti-gravity propulsion
systems, being tested at Groom Lake. Such technology would represent an
unprecedented leap worthy of the most extreme secrecy. So would an operational
hypersonic spyplane with another new propulsion system, such as Pulse
Detonation Wave Engines or hydrogen-powered scramjets.
There is much circumstantial evidence to link Groom Lake with (at the
very least) experimental high-Mach vehicles. It has even been claimed
that a new mother/daughter combination like the A-12/D-21 has been flown,
known as the Super Valkyrie. Evidence from base-watchers and elsewhere
also suggests other top-secret, Special Accesss Programs that have been
conducted at Groom Lake in recent years:
* High Altitude Stealth Reconnaissance: Large subsonic long-endurance
vehicle jointly developed by Lockheed and Boeing to replace the SR-71's
ability to overfly denied territory at will. Based on the Skunk Works
failed bid for the Advanced Tactical Bomber (ATB) - the B-2, it was cancelled
in 1992 after at least $300 million had been spent, and replaced by the
Tier 3 Minus UAV (Lockheed's Darkstar).
* Covert Assault Transport: Probably a delta configuration with advanced
V/STOL capabilities but with very low noise as well as radar signature.
Probably cancelled in 1993 in favor of further Bell/Boeing V-22 Osprey
* Stealth Helicopter: Different designs with emphasis on low blade and
transmission noise, also exploring new technology to reduce blade and
efflux signature. (Sikorsky's new attack helicopter, the successor to
the Apache - the Comanche, incorporates stealth technology, but this is
being tested elsewhere.)
* Cloaking Technology: Cloaking technology in the form of electrochromatic
panels mounted to aircraft has been revealed as being tested at the Area
Recently, a new theory which is of a very good basis has risen which
gives an idea as to the glowing objects seen above the Groom Lake installation.
Researcher Tom Mahood has mentioned his theory that the objects moving
at incredible speeds with sudden directional changes, emitting an unusual
glow, could in fact be the result of experimental proton beam systems.