August 16, 2013
CIA Declassifies Area 51 As Top Secret Spy Plane Testing Site
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
If you are into conspiracy theories then you may very well be interested in this following tidbit of information. It seems the government, namely the CIA, has released new declassified documents acknowledging the existence of Area 51.
Area 51 has been the subject of conspiracy theories for decades, with reports the government has been working on top-secret alien technology and has even been in contact with otherworldly beings at the facility ever since the mid-1950s. In fact, many still believe the controversial Roswell UFO crash mystery is directly tied to Area 51.
This new acknowledgment may in fact spur a new round of conspiracy theories; with many offering up a well-timed “I told you so.” However, the CIA isn’t going so far as to say anything about UFOs or aliens in its released documents, but rather that the site was opened for a much different reason.
According to the newly released documents, the CIA says Area 51 was in fact started as a testing facility for the government’s U-2 spy plane. These U-2 spy planes were commonly used by the US during the Cold War in reconnaissance missions around the world.
The new report is titled “Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974” and totals more than 400 pages in all. While the CIA has in the past acknowledged the existence of the facility, this is the first time the US government has openly referred to Area 51 and given specific details on the operations at the site. The new report also features a map of the area.
But while the report details the history of the U-2 spy plane program, there is no mention of what has gone on at Area 51 post-1974. So it is likely the news will not offer too much solace to those conspiracy theorists who think they really know what is going on at the highly secretive government base.
The new report was obtained by George Washington University via a Freedom of Information Act request and was released to the public on Thursday, August 16. National Security Archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson had first reviewed the history of Area 51 in 2002, but soon after all mentions of the site were redacted.
According to ABC News, citing an AP source, Richelson said he had requested the history again in 2005 but only received a new version of the report just a few weeks ago with Area 51 mentions restored. According to Richelson, the CIA is becoming less secretive about the existence of Area 51 and, perhaps, what goes on at the facility located 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
According to Richelson, the report makes references to a CIA history document about the U-2 spy plane program written in 1992. While the document includes previously redacted materials, it also includes new information that was not previously released.
In the report, CIA project director Richard Bissell and Air Force Col. Osmund Ritlandt recalled the first time they flew over the site, determining it “would make an ideal site for testing the U-2 and training the pilots.” The site was originally an old airstrip near Groom Lake salt flats.
At the time, the U-2 spy plane was being developed by Lockheed at its top-secret “Skunk Works” plant in Burbank, California. The airstrip, which initially became known as the Nevada Test Site, was approved by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower, offering a new home for the plane, testing and training.
In keeping with controversial topics, the U-2 was flown at much higher altitudes (60,000 ft.) than most planes of the time. This alone may have kick started the UFO controversy in the mid-50s. Many local residents who witnessed these tests feared Earth was being visited by UFOs and aliens.
According to the document, these high-altitude tests soon led to an unexpected increase in UFO reports. This subsequently led Air Force investigators to try and play off the sightings as naturally occurring phenomena, which in turn led to a rise in conspiracy theories about the government covering up UFO encounters.
The documents added that “U-2 and later OXCART flights accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s."
As development and testing increased at the site since its inception in 1955, “a major logistic problem arose:” Government officials needed to work out how they could transfer Lockheed employees from California to Area 51 without drawing too much attention and curiosity.
"The project staff decided that the simplest approach would be to fly the essential personnel to the site on Monday morning and return them to Burbank on Friday evening," reads the document. To make the site sound more attractive to workers who were essentially flying to the “middle of nowhere,” officials had referred to Area 51 as “Paradise Ranch” or just “the Ranch.”
While the move to declassify Area 51 is a big step for the CIA, it will likely not appease everyone, including the many conspiracy theorists who still believe Area 51 is home for research in alien technology.
Image Below: Early U-2 spy plane in flight. Credit: CIA