Area 51. It’s the most famous military institution in the world that doesn’t officially exist. If it did, it would be found about 100 miles outside Las Vegas in Nevada’s high desert, tucked between an Air Force base and an abandoned nuclear testing ground
Then again, maybe not– the U.S. government refuses to say. You can’t drive anywhere close to it, and until recently, the airspace overhead was restricted–all the way to outer space. Any mention of Area 51 gets redacted from official documents, even those that have been declassified for decades.
It has become the holy grail for conspiracy theorists, with UFOlogists positing that the Pentagon reverse engineers flying saucers and keeps extraterrestrial beings stored in freezers…
The problem is the myths of Area 51 are hard to dispute if no one can speak on the record about what actually happened there. Well, now, for the first time, someone is ready to talk–in fact, five men are, and their stories rival the most outrageous of rumors.
Kenneth Collins, 80, a CIA experimental test pilot, was given the silver star.
On May 24, 1963, Collins flew out of Area 51’s restricted airspace in a top-secret spy plane code-named OXCART, built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. He was flying over Utah when the aircraft pitched, flipped and headed toward a crash. He ejected into a field of weeds.
Almost 46 years later, in late fall of 2008, sitting in a coffee shop in the San Fernando Valley, Collins remembers that day with the kind of clarity the threat of a national security breach evokes: “Three guys came driving toward me in a pickup. I saw they had the aircraft canopy in the back. They offered to take me to my plane.” Until that moment, no civilian without a top-secret security clearance had ever laid eyes on the airplane Collins was flying. “I told them not to go near the aircraft. I said it had a nuclear weapon on-board.” The story fit right into the Cold War backdrop of the day, as many atomic tests took place in Nevada. Spooked, the men drove Collins to the local highway patrol. The CIA disguised the accident as involving a generic Air Force plane, the F-105, which is how the event is still listed in official records.
As for the guys who picked him up, they were tracked down and told to sign national security nondisclosures. As part of Collins’ own debriefing, the CIA asked the decorated pilot to take truth serum. “They wanted to see if there was anything I’d for-gotten about the events leading up to the crash.” The Sodium Pento-thal experience went without a hitch–except for the reaction of his wife, Jane.
“Late Sunday, three CIA agents brought me home. One drove my car; the other two carried me inside and laid me down on the couch. I was loopy from the drugs. They handed Jane the car keys and left without saying a word.” The only conclusion she could draw was that her husband had gone out and gotten drunk. “Boy, was she mad,” says Collins with a chuckle.
At the time of Collins’ accident, CIA pilots had been flying spy planes in and out of Area 51 for eight years, with the express mission of providing the intelligence to prevent nuclear war. Aerial reconnaissance was a major part of the CIA’s preemptive efforts, while the rest of America built bomb shelters and hoped for the best.
When Frances Gary Powers was shot down over Sverdlovsk, Russia, in 1960, the U-2 program lost its cover. But the CIA already had Lovick and some 200 scientists, engineers and pilots working at Area 51 on the A-12 OXCART, which would outfox Soviet radar using height, stealth and speed.
Colonel Hugh “Slip” Slater, 87, was commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s.
“I was recruited for the Area after working with the CIA’s classified Black Cat Squadron, which flew U-2 missions over denied territory in Mainland China. After that, I was told, ‘You should come out to Nevada and work on something interesting we’re doing out there.’ ”
Even though Slater considers himself a fighter pilot at heart–he flew 84 missions in World War II–the opportunity to work at Area 51 was impossible to pass up. “When I learned about this Mach-3 aircraft called OXCART, it was completely intriguing to me–this idea of flying three times the speed of sound! No one knew a thing about the program.
In all, 2,850 OXCART test flights were flown out of Area 51 while Slater was in charge. “That’s a lot of UFO sightings!” Slater adds. Commercial pilots would report them to the FAA, and “when they’d land in California, they’d be met by FBI agents who’d make them sign nondisclosure forms.” But not everyone kept quiet, hence the birth of Area 51’s UFO lore. The sightings incited uproar in Nevada and the surrounding areas and forced the Air Force to open Project BLUE BOOK to log each claim.
Since only a few Air Force officials were cleared for OXCART (even though it was a joint CIA/USAF project), many UFO sightings raised internal military alarms. Some generals believed the Russians might be sending stealth craft over American skies to incite paranoia and create widespread panic of alien invasion. Today, BLUE BOOK findings are housed in 37 cubic feet of case files at the National Archives–74,000 pages of reports. A keyword search brings up no mention of the top-secret OXCART or Area 51.
Project BLUE BOOK was shut down in 1969–more than a year after OXCART was retired. But what continues at America’s most clandestine military facility could take another 40 years to disclose.
Edward Lovick, 90, featured in “What Plane?” in LA’s March issue, spent three decades radar testing some of the world’s most famous aircraft (including the U-2, the A-12 OXCART and the F-117).
Thornton “T.D.” Barnes, 72, was an Area 51 special-projects engineer.
Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base’s half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels.
So, what of those urban legends–the UFOs studied in secret, the underground tunnels connecting clandestine facilities? For decades, the men at Area 51 thought they’d take their secrets to the grave. At the height of the Cold War, they cultivated anonymity while pursuing some of the country’s most covert projects. Conspiracy theories were left to popular imagination. But in talking with Collins, Lovick, Slater, Barnes and Martin, it is clear that much of the folklore was spun from threads of fact.
As for the myths of reverse engineering of flying saucers, Barnes offers some insight: “We did reverse engineer a lot of foreign technology, including the Soviet MiG fighter jet out at the Area”–even though the MiG wasn’t shaped like a flying saucer. As for the underground-tunnel talk, that, too, was born of truth. Barnes worked on a nuclear-rocket program called Project NERVA, inside underground chambers at Jackass Flats, in Area 51’s backyard. “Three test-cell facilities were connected by railroad, but everything else was underground,” he says.
And the quintessential Area 51 conspiracy–that the Pentagon keeps captured alien spacecraft there, which they fly around in restricted airspace? Turns out that one’s pretty easy to debunk. The shape of OXCART was unprece-dented, with its wide, disk-like fuselage designed to carry vast quantities of fuel. Commercial pilots cruising over Nevada at dusk would look up and see the bottom of OXCART whiz by at 2,000-plus mph. The aircraft’s tita-nium body, moving as fast as a bullet, would reflect the sun’s rays in a way that could make anyone think, UFO
But Clarke and Roberts, whose research is to be published this week in a book called Out of the Shadows , did uncover evidence that the American Secret Service, with the possible connivance of the British, looked at ways of using the public panic over UFOs as a psychological weapon against the Russians.
In CIA memos marked 'secret' and seen by The Observer, top officials consider exploiting the UFO craze. 'I suggest that we discuss the possible offensive or defensive utilisation of these phenomena for psychological warfare purposes,' wrote CIA director Walter Smith in 1952.
The Tacit Blue (Whale) aircraft was built to test the advances in stealth technology. The USAF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Northrop Corp. worked together from 1978 to 1985 to demonstrate that curved surfaces on an aircraft result in a low radar return signal from ground radar. With such a low radar return signal, Tacit Blue demonstrated that such an aircraft could operate close to the battlefield forward line without fear of being discovered by enemy radar. It could continuously monitor enemy forces behind the battlefield and provide targeting information to a ground command center.
The aircraft made its first flight in February 1982, and by the conclusion of the program in 1985, had flown 135 times. It had a digital fly-by-wire flight control system to help stabilize the aircraft. Tacit Blue had a single flush inlet on the top of the fuselage to provide air to its two engines.
The aircraft was placed on display at the museum in May 1996.
Unacknowledged Aviation articles explain evidence for the existence of highly advanced, classified aircraft that have been developed by the U.S. government. The UFO community should be interested in these top-secret aircraft because an unknown, yet significant, percentage of UFO sightings may be explained by their existence.
We provide documentation from pilots and test pilots, engineers, contractors and eyewitnesses. This documentation indicates that most of these top-secret aircraft were built during the height of the Cold War by U.S. Department of Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop and Boeing. In fact, most of these vehicles have reached legendary status in reputable aerospace literature, and within the UFO community. Because these aircraft do not exist on record, it may be assumed they are funded by the U.S. government’s so-called “black budget,” which means they are exempt from congressional oversight and public scrutiny.
Recent disclosures by retired engineers (reported in the Seattle Times on March 27th 2010), have shed new light on the operations at Area 51. During a meeting held at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas on October 7th-8th 2009, former Area 51 workers provided general details on how they were contracted by the CIA to work at the secret base during the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, operations of classified aerospace prototypes directly involved with protecting the national security of the United States are still ongoing at the remote test site today. Therefore, engineers such as those mentioned above, may not have been “read into” the programs highlighted in the article below, since they were test flown after these engineers left employment at the base. As a general rule of thumb, within the military industrial complex, once you retire from a particular program or facility, you no longer have a “need to know” regarding the specific details of the program. This article will highlight three specific programs which were test flown in the 1980’s, 1990’s, and one which is still ongoing today.
The Boeing Phantom Works “Bird of Prey” technology demonstrator was officially declassified on October 18th, 2002. Measuring 47 feet long, and having a wingspan of 23 feet, the Bird of Prey pioneered new technologies in low-observable aircraft design. A total of 38 test flights were made from 1996-1999, at the remote test site, aka “Area 51”. Powered by a single Pratt and Whitney JT15D-5C turbofan engine with 3,190 pounds of thrust, the Bird of Prey had an operational speed of 260 knots, and a maximum operating altitude of 20,000 feet.
The TASK Vantage aka “Sneeky Pete”, was an advanced technology demonstrator built by TASK Research Inc. of Santa Paula California in 1982, and was built to test early avionics/electronic equipment that could fly a plane remotely (forerunner of today’s advanced UAV’s, RPV’s and UCAV’s). This single pilot manned test-bed was built by Jim Kern (president of TASK) which supplied many composite structures/components for the Rutan designed Long-EZ, Defiant, and Voyager aircraft during the early to mid 1980’s. Task Research Inc., was also involved in many military projects including the Northrop F-20 Tigershark, Lockheed TR-1 program, and supplied materials for U.S. Army helicopter blades. Note: Rutan Aircraft Factory/Scaled Composites was NOT involved in the construction/building process of the Vantage aircraft.
It’s believed the flight test program for Sneeky Pete took place at the remote test site in Nevada (aka Area 51/AFFTC DET. 3) starting in late 1982 and is still ongoing. The aircraft has been put into seclusion at various times, but has never been officially retired. During its “down time”, Sneeky Pete was most likely stored in a TOP-SECRET facility known as “Dyson’s Dock” at Groom Lake, which was also the location of the Northrop “Tacit Blue” technology demonstrator after it was retired in 1985. In its later variants, Sneeky Pete flew under jet power, and may have contributed to today’s advanced UAV’s and UCAV’s, which include: The Northrop/Grumman Global Hawk, General Atomics Predator, Boeing X-45, Northrop/Grumman X-47 Pegasus. Now that the Lockheed “Senior Trend” (F-117 Nighthawk), Northrop “Tacit Blue”, “Project Senior C J” (Northrop ATB stealth Bomber), and the Boeing Phantom Works “Bird of Prey” have been declassified and reside at the USAF museum (Dayton Ohio), it’s time for “Sneeky Pete” to come out of the “black”, as declassifying this aircraft no longer poses any threat to the national security of the United States.
Originally posted by FritosBBQTwist
I have been 5 feet away from the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range sign...got a picture too!
There is an SUV positioned maybe 70 yards away from the exact "entrance" that just watches you.
Cool read. I am more interested in the technology we have created that people do not know about than the whole "secret cover up" aspect of it.
Originally posted by Libertygal
reply to post by malcr
Good points you make, except that there is only so much that is humanly tolerable on earth. Space is a different story, as we know the shuttle cruise speed is what? Between 17-25k mph?
G- force on earth is a different story though, and unless we presume that there is a real anti-gravity capability, no one can survive high mach speeds.