A joke Facebook event encouraging people to band together and storm the highly secretive Area 51 site in Nevada has gone viral, inspiring alien memes on Facebook and Instagram.
Area 51 is a US Air Force base; an Air Force spokesperson told INSIDER, "any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous."
US Navy pilots said they saw UFOs during training exercises, and Navy officials met with members of Congress to deliver a classified briefing on UFOs in June.
The US Air Force is issuing a warning after Facebook jokesters encouraged people to band together to storm Nevada's secretive Area 51 in search of aliens.
"The United States Air Force is aware of the Facebook post," Air Force spokesman Maj. Ethan Stroker told INSIDER via email.
"The Nevada Test and Training Range is an area where the Air Force tests and trains combat aircraft. As a matter of practice, we do not discuss specific security measures, but any attempt to illegally access military installations or military training areas is dangerous," he added.
The Air Force's statement is meant to deter the more than 1 million Facebook users who have responded to an event about storming Area 51 on September 20.
"We will all meet up at the Area 51 Alien Center tourist attraction and coordinate our entry," the Facebook post says, joking that interested parties can "run faster than their bullets."
"Lets see them aliens."
Area 51 has long been regarded by conspiracy theorists as a repository for the government's knowledge about extraterrestrials and unidentified flying objects. It was confirmed as an Air Force base in 2013, and declassified CIA documents showed that the military was testing the aerial surveillance programs U-2 and OXCART. The secrecy around the area was not to keep alien life from the American public, but to keep the Soviets from seeing American technology.
Navy pilots said they saw UFOs while training off the East Coast between 2014 and 2015, and in 2017. The New York Times reported that the government had spent $22 million on the secretive Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which investigated reports of UFOs and which the Pentagon said shut down in 2012.
More recently, Navy officials met with members of Congress to give them a classified briefing on UFOs. A spokesperson for Sen. Mark Warner, who attended the briefing, told INSIDER at the time, "If pilots at Oceana or elsewhere are reporting flight hazards that interfere with training or put them in danger, then Senator Warner wants answers. It doesn't matter if it's weather balloons, little green men, or something else entirely — we can't ask our pilots to put their lives at risk unnecessarily."
A Facebook user clarified in a post about the September event that the entire thing was a joke, saying "P.S. Hello US government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet." Indeed, many users have posted alien-centric memes on the event page, and a flurry of Area 51 memes hit Instagram, as well.