One fine day over Nevada, during the USAF "Red Flag" exercise, a seemingly innocent picture was taken of a USAF F-22 Raptor in flight.
A nice photo op with a beautiful desert backdrop, and one of the most advanced air superiority aircraft currently in operation. The image as per standard procedure was passed though multiple USAF departments, and finally received approval for public release.
Funny thing is that there was a slight oversight by the USAF staff when releasing this image to the public...located in the background, just overhead the F-22's canopy...is the legendary and until recently not officially existent ultra top secret military complex and dry lake runways of The Untied States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51. A highly classified remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, within the Nevada Test and Firing Range. A base so secret, that even though its existence was known by the public, it was not officially acknowledged until 2005 by the CIA in response to a Freedom Of Information Act request.
How secret was this base? Well, in 1974 the crew of NASA's Skylab caused security chaos when they accidentally photographed the Groom Lake area from orbit, in what became known as the "Skylab Incident". Although the area remained nameless, a memo written in to CIA director by an unknown CIA official reported that there were specific instructions not to do this. <redacted> was the only location on the planet which had such an instruction. Astronauts on board Skylab 4 had inadvertently photographed a location that was considered by the CIA to be more sensitive than any other location on Earth.
Groom Dry Lake, NV began as a U.S. Army AF gunnery range during war time, then became part of the the Atomic Energy Commission's atomic bomb-testing area. In the mid 1950s, Lockheed Skunk Works needed a place where they could test their ultra secret U-2 Spyplane. Edwards had become too high-profile for their intended operations. So Kelly Johnson sent Skunk Works Test Pilot Tony LeVier out to scouting locations in a company-owned Beechcraft. They were looking for a lakebed that offered extreme isolation, space, and terrain that would keep the entire base hidden from the surrounding areas.
Flying his Beechcraft, Tony LeVier came over the mountain range and saw the dry lakebed of Groom Lake. On old AEC test site maps, Groom Lake's general area was listed as "Area 51. It was here that they decided to create the non existent complex.
"We flew over it and within thirty seconds, you knew that was the place… it was right by a dry lake. Man alive, we looked at that lake, and we all looked at each other. It was another Edwards, so we wheeled around, landed on that lake, taxied up to one end of it. It was a perfect natural landing field… as smooth as a billiard table without anything being done to it."
Covertly active for over 50 years in its shrouded operations. Area 51 is also the only runway complex that had never appeared on aviation maps...that is until December 2007, when pilots noticed that the base had suddenly appeared in their aircraft navigation systems, along with the ICAO airport identifier code of KXTA, listed as "Homey Airport" Although now present on maps, pilots are strongly warned to remain clear of the restricted airspace. Even in the event of an emergency, no matter how severe...Area 51 is considered off limits.
One of the crew members of Sierra Hotel Aeronautics was able to snap a picture of the restricted area on his MFD. The restricted area begins at the floor of the desert, and extends into space. That is a clear indication that they do not want visitors, nor overflights at any altitude. Thankfully our crew were armed with our USAF Aircraft Ident chart in case they ran into unexpected traffic.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the correct names for the facility are Homey Airport (ICAO: KXTA) and Groom Lake, though the name Area 51 was used in a CIA document from the Viet Nam War. AREA 51, AKA Groom Lake, Watertown, The Ranch, Groom Box, Neverland, Homey Airport, Paradise Ranch, The Box, or Restricted Area 4808N.
Known well to conspiracy theorists and UFOlogists as the centre of suspicious top secret government programs. We are not as sure about ET as they are, but we can tell you that Area 51 is home to many of the worlds most advanced aircraft, such as the Black Projects of the U-2, A-12, SR-71 and the famed F-117, and B-2 bombers.
The airfield on the Groom Lake site began service in 1942 as Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, and consisted of two unpaved 5000-foot runways aligned NE/SW, NW/SE, and a small grouping of shelters, trailers, workshops, three hangars, and a small control tower.
Since then, Area 51 has grown exponentially in size, and number of buildings...further plans for base expansion are currently underway. We could tell you what, but then we would have to kill you. You can see the base for yourself at 37°16′35″N 115°45′20″W. The base now consists of one 12,000 foot runway, with a substantial overrun from the Oxcart days, and four additional dry lake bed runways.
Below is an actual image from Area 51 in the 1960s with what was then a top secret black aircraft known as the A-12. Have a look at the ground vehicle next to it...it brings to mind a good question. If the planes looked like that in the 60s...what are they flying there today? Aurora?
If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas Nevada, and you notice some all white airliners(737s) with no markings other than a civilian registration and a single red stripe...well, these are known as the Janet jets. The fleet's "Janet" call sign, from which its de facto name comes, is said to stand for "Just Another Non-Existent Terminal"
Due to the airline's secretive nature, little is known about its organization. It is operated for the USAF by infrastructure and defence contractor AECOM. Janet flights operate with a three-digit flight number and a WWW-prefix. In the official publication of ICAO codes, this specific three-letter designator is listed as being blocked. The official airline callsign is simply Janet.
The unmarked highly classified fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft operated for the USAF depart under VFR from McCarren Int, and are immediately handed off by Nellis to Groom Lake controllers. At that time the flight will switch callsigns and continues on to...well, that's classified.