The United States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51 is a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, within the Nevada Test and Training Range. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the correct names for the facility are Homey Airport and Groom Lake,though the name Area 51 was used in a CIA document from theVietnam War.
The base’s current primary purpose is publicly unknown; however, based on historical evidence, it most likely supports the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems (black projects).The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories
and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore.
Its secretive nature and undoubted connection to classified aircraft research, together with reports of unusual phenomena, have led Area 51 to become a focus of modern UFO and conspiracy theories. Some of the activities mentioned in such theories at Area 51 include:
- The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft (including material supposedly recovered at Roswell), the study of their occupants (living and dead), and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology.
- Meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials.
- The development of exotic energy weapons for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or other weapons programs.
- The development of means of weather control.
- The development of time travel and teleportation technology.
- The development of unusual and exotic propulsion systems related to the Aurora Program.
- Activities related to a supposed shadowy one world government or the Majestic 12 organization.
The amount of information the United States government has been willing to provide regarding Area 51 has generally been minimal. The area surrounding the lake is permanently off-limits both to civilian and normal military air traffic. Security clearances are checked regularly; cameras and weaponry are not allowed.Even military pilots training in the NAFR risk disciplinary action if they stray into the exclusionary “box” surrounding Groom’s airspace. Surveillance is supplemented using buried motion sensors.Area 51 is a common destination for Janet, the de facto name of a small fleet of passenger aircraft operated on behalf of the United States Air Force to transport military personnel, primarily from McCarran International Airport.
The USGS topographic map for the area only shows the long-disused Groom Mine.A civil aviation chart published by the Nevada Department of Transportation shows a large restricted area, defined as part of the Nellis restricted airspace.The National Atlas page showing federal lands in Nevada shows the area as lying within the Nellis Air Force Base. Higher resolution (and more recent) images from other satellite imagery providers (including Russian providers and the IKONOS) are commercially available.These show the runway markings, base facilities, aircraft, and vehicles.
When documents that mention the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and operations at Groom are declassified, mentions of Area 51 and Groom Lake are routinely redacted. One exception is a 1967 memo from CIA director Richard Helms regarding the deployment of three OXCART aircraft from Groom to Kadena Air Base to perform reconnaissance over North Vietnam. Although most mentions of OXCART’s home base are redacted in this document, as is a map showing the aircraft’s route from there to Okinawa, the redactor appears to have missed one mention: page 15 (page 17 in the PDF), section No. 2 ends “Three OXCART aircraft and the necessary task force personnel will be deployed from Area 51 to Kadena.”