National security academics at George Washington University have some good news and bad news for UFO buffs — the US government has finally confirmed the existence of Area 51 in Nevada, but it makes no mention of little green men or alien spaceships.
The government acknowledged the existence of the mysterious aviation test site known as Area 51, a remote installation about 130km northwest of Las Vegas, in a newly declassified CIA history of its U-2 spy plane program.
After decades of extreme secrecy surrounding the site, stoking conspiracy theories about UFOs and experiments on alien spacecraft, the CIA lifted its veil on Area 51 in response to a public records request from George Washington University academics in Washington.
Publicly released online on Thursday by the university’s National Security Archive, the 400-page CIA history contains the first deliberate official references to Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, as a site developed by the intelligence agency in the 1950s to test-fly the high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance plane.
Other top-secret aircraft were tested there later, including the supersonic reconnaissance A-12 aircraft, code-named OXCART, and the F-117 stealth ground-attack jet, said archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson, who asked for the CIA’s U-2 history in 2005.
A newly revised document restoring numerous references to Area 51 that had been redacted in earlier versions was furnished by the CIA a few weeks ago, he said.
“It’s the first time that there must have been a senior-level decision to acknowledge the term ‘Area 51’ and its specific location,” he said on Friday.
Richelson said he could recall at least two previous government documents in which an incidental reference to Area 51 appeared, but he assumed those were inadvertent.
“What readers of the CIA study will find is that CIA tests its U-2 and A-12 reconnaissance aircraft at the site in Nevada sometimes referred to as ‘Area 51,’” CIA spokesman Edward Price said. “What they won’t find are any references to aliens or other conspiracy theories best left to the realm of science fiction.”
Among the more sensational pieces of UFO conspiracy lore linked to Area 51 is that the remains of a flying saucer that supposedly crashed near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947, were brought to the site for reverse engineering experiments that attempted to replicate the extraterrestrial spacecraft.
Richelson said the CIA document makes no mention of any such theories. However, he pointed to one passage that discusses the relationship between U-2s and unidentified flying objects “in the sense that people sighted U-2s in a time that they were very secretive and at very high altitude and didn’t know what they were, and in that sense they were UFOs.”