photo of secret sites in southern Nevada.
Somewhere in the remote Nevada desert is a chunk
of land some six miles wide north to south and ten miles east
to west. On that land is located a paradox: A secret base that
everyone knows about.
Area 51 is a parcel of land in the Nellis Range
Complex located about 30 miles south of the town of Rachel,
Nevada. In Area 51, near the dry bed of Groom Lake, is a test
facility for military aircraft. It is a base was so secret that
even though it had been there over forty years it wasn't until
1994 that the government confirmed that it existed.
At the border of Area 51 are no trespassing signs
that warn that the "use of deadly force is authorized." On the
public land outside the boundaries electronic sensors in the
ground detect foot and vehicle traffic. Unmarked Blackhawk helicopters
that cruise the perimeter, searching for intruders, are ready
to summon unidentified, armed patrols to greet unwelcome visitors.
When curious spectators found a ridge that let
them observe the base from a distance of 12 miles the government
quickly moved to withdraw the hill from public use. Now the
closest public observation point to Groom Lake is now Tikaboo
Peak (7908') some 25 miles away to the east. Even the sky there
is made secure by the "Dreamland" restricted airspace zone that
extends outside the borders of Area 51 and up to space. The
zone is in effect twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week
and not even the military pilots that use the rest of the huge
Nellis range dare to breach it.
de-classified intelligence satellite photos frames that might
have shown Area 51 from the air, have been replaced by the message
"Frames edited from orginal negative" (above).
Why all this security? The Groom Lake, and the
surrounding facilities, have all been host to air tests for
the most secret of military aircraft. Back in the 1950's the
U-2 spy plane was flight tested there. More recently the F-117A
Stealth Fighter flew from Groom Lake's immense six mile long
Typical of the type of advanced aircraft put through
it's paces at Groom Lake was the famous SR-71 "BlackBird." In
the early 60's it became obvious that the U-2 spy plane, despite
it ability to fly at ultra high altitudes, was vulnerable to
attack while doing recon over enemy territory. One, flown by
Gray Powers, was shot down over the USSR, and later one was
brought down over Cuba.
The military decided that they needed a spy plane
that could not only fly high and fast, but was packed with advanced
electronics to fool enemy missile radar. The SR-71 was designed
totally in secret. With a top speed of over Mach 3 (three times
the speed of sound, more than 2,200 miles an hour) it was, and
remains, the fastest aircraft ever built. It went into service
in the mid-sixties and was only recently retired. During that
entire time no SR-71 was ever caught and shot down. Some speculate
that the "Black Bird's" successor is in test at Groom Lake right
Over that last decade Area 51 has also come to
be associated with UFO's. There were stories that a flying saucer,
that allegedly crashed at Roswell,
New Mexico, had been brought to the Nellis Complex and was under
study. This tale as further bolstered by the story of Bob Lazer.
In 1986 a gentleman named Bob Lazer went to the
press. He claimed that he was a former government physicist
and had been assigned to work in a secret underground base,
designated "S4", that was about 15 miles
south of Groom Lake at a place called Papoose Lake. (This is
just north of Yucca and Frenchman Lakes where above and below
ground nuclear testing took place since the 1940s). According
to Lazer the base consisted of a series of hangers containing
nine alien flying saucers that the government was trying to
understand and reproduce.
Most dismissed Lazer when the educational background
he described for himself did not checkout. Still, the incident
helped cement the idea of UFO's and Area 51 in the public's
mind. (For the hobby minded you can purchase a model of the
flying saucers, built to Lazer's specifications, that is marketed
by the Testor Corporation.)
Quite a few UFOs have been reported being seen
near Area 51. Though many locals suspect the sightings are the
result of seeing disc shaped conventional
aircraft, a cottage industry has grown up outside the boundaries
based on the mystique of UFO's and aliens. You can get a burger
at the "Little A'Le'Inn" (pronounced "Little Alien"), a cafe
located in the town of Rachel. Even the legislature of Nevada,
in a fit of whimsy, has gotten into the act, renaming route
375, which runs along the eastern edge of the Nellis Complex,
"The Extra-terrestrial Highway."
Recent reports indicate that the base at Area
51 may have be phased out in favor of a location in the White
Sands Testing Range in Utah. The new location, officially designated
Area 6413, is at a higher elevation. There is speculation that
this extra height may increase the maxium payload of a space
plane the Airforce is rumored to be testing. The craft is a
military version of NASA's X-33.
"Black Bird," owned by NASA, in flight. (NASA)
Copyright Lee Krystek 1996-2007.
All Rights Reserved.