Key Point: Area 51 might be an attractive place to host new hypersonic glide vehicles, which the Pentagon is currently pouring a ton of research money into.
While fanciful stories of alien spaceships continue to captivate the public, as recent internet memes attest, there’s little doubt that Groom Lake’s actual activities are of considerable interest—sufficiently so that in April 2019 Russia even dispatched one of its treaty-authorized Tu-154M Open Skies surveillance planes to spy on the base.
The facility has considerably expanded from the small, remote landing field adjacent to a salt flat first used to test the Lockheed U-2 spy plane in 1955. Now it lies within a twenty-three by twenty-five-mile perimeter of restricted airspace located within the larger 4,500-square mile Nevada Training and Test Range. Other nearby bases include Nellis Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range—the latter which also has hosted numerous “black project” programs.
While a companion piece looks at Area 51’s original role in developing the CIA’s U-2 and A-12 spy planes, here we’ll look at the “black projects” known to have been flown there in the 1970s, to those speculated to be there in the present day.