Often associated with UFO lore, Area 51 is the former designation by Department of Energy of a plot of land in Nevada. Sometimes referred to as Groom Lake or Dreamland, the United States government is believed to operate some sort of research and development center there. (Some claim that the facility is now closed.) The U2 spy plane was tested near Area 51.

There are satellite photos availible from fas.org. The newest imagas have a 1-meter resolution and were made the IKONOS Satellite.

You see a runway and a lot of hangars on the images. UFO-Fans will say, that the really interesting things are below the surface and not visible for a satellite. Perhaps they should start digging...

General

Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, is a 8 by 10 mile plot of land which borders the Nevada Test Site, and is smack in the middle of Nellis Air Base. There has been much controversy surrounding Area 51, from theories of aliens feasting on humans in an underground base, to alien aircrafts being held in underground facilities. Most of these are, of course, just a lot of speculation and don't carry much credibility. Even the most famous case of Bob Lazar, who claimed to be involved in the reverse engineering of alien craft, has significant evidence of his fraudulence.

Apart from the off-the-wall conspiracy theories, it is an accepted and well-known fact that Area 51 is a location where ultra-high-tech military equipment is tested and researched. Area 51 is known to have housed, at one time, aircrafts such as: U-2 reconnaissance plane, A-12 Blackbird, D-21 Drone, several types of MiGs, and the F117A stealth fighter. It is probably safe to say that many more aircraft than the U.S. public has never even heard of, has been tested here.

Security is expectantly tight around the area. Starting in March of 1984, numerous armed guards were placed around the perimeter of Groom Lake. Of course, this would not deter groups from trying to get a peek at Area 51. One of the more notable attempts took place in April of 1983, when four Greenpeace protesters were caught trespassing just south of the facility. Also, in 1995, the Air Force was granted the right to close Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak to the public. The Air Force considered these places as security risks since one is reportedly able to see the facility from certain points.

Location
                       
                         * Warm Springs         
                             
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    /     NELLIS RANGE         |           
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      \_                    __     |______   * Alamo
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            \     | NEVADA |             |
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   Beatty *    |  |(NUKES) |             |
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                Indian Springs *    \_ |
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                                          * Las Vegas

Area 51 and its surroundings

History

1941-1945
Two dirt landing strips which measure approximately 5,000 and 7,000 feet in length are engraved into the east side of Groom Lake. They are mainly used as a training strip for planes based at the Nellis Air Force Base. At the end of World War II, the strips are abandoned.

1955
Starting in April, under the orders of engineering guru Kelly Johnson, searches for a location to test the new U-2 reconnaissance plane was needed. A runway is placed at the south end of Groom Lake after approval from the CIA. Not long after that, Lockheed, an aerospace corporation that does much work with the U.S. Government, starts construction on a facility in that vicinity. The Skunk Works division of Lockheed, which produces ultra-advanced military hardware, is appointed to the project.
Two months and $800,000 later, the facility contains three hangars, one control tower, one mess hall, one runway, and a good amount of mobile homes. It is given the official name of "The Ranch." Not long after completion, the first U-2 prototype arrives and completes it first flight in early August. At around this same time, President Eisenhower signs an Executive Order which restricts the airspace over Groom Lake for the first time.

1956
Strategic Air Command (SAC), which was responsible for conduct of nuclear war, sends six pilots to The Ranch to start training with the U-2.

1958
On June 20, Roger Ernst, the Assistant Secretary of Interior, withdraws 60 square miles for use by the Atomic Energy Commission. This 6 by 10 mile area forms the first box around the base.

1959
A prototype for the A-12 blackbird, which will later be one of the fastest planes in the world, is shipped to the base for radar signature testing.

1960
Starting in September, a major construction project is started on the facility to accommodate the new A-12 OXCART program on behalf of the CIA. The expansion to the facility is expected to be completed in four years. On top of the OXCART expansion program, the existing 5,000 foot runway that was built in the 40s is lengthened to 8,500 feet.

1962
In early 1962, the construction of a huge fuel tank farm is completed; it has a capacity of 1,320,000 gallons. Around this same time, a more capable A-12 Blackbird is brought to the base, and a flight test takes place shortly after.

1963
This year was marked by a lot of testing, research, and accidents with the A-12. In February, the first CIA A-12 pilots arrive at the base for training. Though it came at a price of two crashes, an A-12 achieves a speed of Mach 3 during testing.

1965
The population of the base reaches 1,835 as the OXCART construction program, which was started in 1960, is finally completed.

1966
In early March, the first flight test of a D-21 drone takes place. The D-21 drone was unmanned plane that was attached to the A-12, and once deployed, it was able to take reconnaissance photos. The cool part about the D-21 was that it would drop the camera at a pre-determined point and then self-destruct.

1967
The base acquires a MiG 21, a plane manufactured by the Soviet Union, from the Defense Intelligence Agency. Testing starts immediately under a program called "Have Doughnut." The Have Doughnut research program was a precursor to the rumored still-existent MiG testing program.

1968
In a decision to phase out the A-12 in favor of the modern SR-71 blackbird, the entire fleet of A-12 planes are put into secret storage.

1977
The F-117A, which was a stealth fighter nicknamed "Have Blue," arrives at the base for flight testing. Shortly after that, the first F-117A takes off from Groom Lake. It took four years of testing for the F-177A to go into production.

1982
In early April, after more than 10 years, the existence of the A-12 aircraft was finally confirmed.

1983
A two month test program starts in the beginning of June on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The prototype was called HALSOL.

1984
During the month of March, The Air Force posts numerous armed guards along the access points of the 89,000 acre area of Groom Lake. This came under a lot of scrutiny because the guards were not allowing the public to enter, which meant illegally closing the land to public use. This issue came up in August during Congressional hearings concerning land seizure. John Rittenhouse, the Air Force representative, stated that the Air Force had no legal authority to seize the land, but the orders to do so were given by a level that was higher than his.

1987
It takes three years, but Congress authorizes the Air Force to seize the land, and close it to the public.

1989
An appearance that would spark worldwide interest in Area 51 takes place when the interviews of Robert Lazar are broadcasted on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. According to the interviews, Lazar was hired to reverse engineer an extraterrestrial craft at a facility that was in close vicinity to Groom Lake.

1993
The Air Force, in the interest of security, files a notice to the Federal Register to seize 3972 acres of land. Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak are contained in with this area. Apparently, you can get a clear view of the base from these points, and this wasn't to the liking of the Air Force.

1995
On April 10, Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak is seized by the Air force and officially closed to the public.

1996
It is rumored that the Bechtel Corporation extended the second runway started in the 1940s by 5,000 feet.

Sources:
http://www.ufomind.com/area51/ -- The biggest Area 51 info repository
http://www.area51zone.com
Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed, by Ben Rich
Various issues of the Groom Lake Desert Rat, by Glenn Campbell

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