'Area 51' exists, but no UFOs: CIA paper

A newly declassified CIA document confirms the existence of famed "Area 51" in Nevada
Illustration of the Nevada desert. A newly declassified CIA document confirms the existence of famed "Area 51" in Nevada, but conspiracy theorists will be disappointed the spy agency offers no proof of alien spaceship landings at the site.

A newly declassified CIA document confirms the existence of famed Area 51 in Nevada, but conspiracy theorists will be disappointed the spy agency offers no proof of alien spaceship landings in the desert.

Area 51 has long been fodder for science fiction films and wild UFO tales claiming the US government imposed secrecy over the site northwest of Las Vegas to cover up evidence of extra-terrestrials touching down on Earth.

Instead of encounters with flying saucers, the documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday recount a less sensational history of Area 51—as a testing range for the government's U-2 spy plane during the Cold War.

The CIA in-house history makes no mention of the legendary "Roswell incident," when a crashed in New Mexico in 1947. UFO true believers allege it was an alien spacecraft that went down, and that Area 51's hangars had hidden evidence of extra-terrestrial corpses.

But according to the CIA, the surrounding Area 51 was not about Martians but about hiding a new spy plane from the Soviets.

The U-2 reconnaissance aircraft was designed to snoop on the Soviet Union at , and its development was top-secret.

In April 1955, the CIA chose a remote dry lakebed in the Nevada desert as a testing ground, which was designated on maps as Area 51.

Test flights for the U-2 aircraft were conducted at a much higher altitude than or other military planes.

In the 1950s, flew at between 10,000 and 20,000 feet and warplanes such as B-47 reached altitudes of less than 40,000 feet.

A US-made U-2 spy plane
File photo of a US-made U-2 spy plane. Instead of encounters with flying saucers, the documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency on Thursday recount the history of "Area 51" as a testing range for the government's U-2 spy plane during the Cold War.

The U-2 planes flew at above 60,000 feet, and reports of unidentified flying objects in the Nevada desert started to roll in, the report said.

"High altitude testing of the U-2 soon led to an unexpected side effect—a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)," it said.

The reports of UFOs often came from pilots from commercial airliners in the early evening hours, with the U-2 plane's silver wings reflecting the rays of the sun.

The surveillance planes appeared to be "fiery objects" high in the sky, it said.

"At this time, no one believed manned flight was possible above 60,000 feet, so no one expected to see an object so high in the sky," it said.

The commercial pilots and other observers on the ground wrote letters to an Air Force unit in Dayton, Ohio charged with investigating such sightings.

Anxious to avoid exposing the ultra-secret U-2 program, Air Force officers explained the sightings as merely due to natural phenomena, though they knew the high-flying U-2 was the true cause.

U-2 and other surveillance flights "accounted for more than one-half of all UFO reports during the late 1950s and most of the 1960s," it said.

The 400-page report, titled "Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead reconnaissance: The U-2 and Oxcart Programs, 1954-1974," was released as a result of a Freedom of Information request dating to 2005 from the National Security Archives at George Washington University.

The study was published in classified form for spy agencies in 1992 and a heavily censored version was published in 1998.

Area 51's location has been an open secret for years but government documents released previously had not acknowledged its existence and role in such a detailed way. Officials also had referred to a location "near Groom Lake."

The CIA report said at the time officials decided to nickname the site "Paradise Ranch" to make it sound more attractive to potential workers.

The in-house history refers to Area 51 in passing, as the report is devoted mainly to recounting how the CIA developed the U-2 "Dragon Lady" and other "eyes in the sky" to spy on the Soviets.

Other stealthy planes have been tested at the site, including the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117A fighter and the B-2 bomber.

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© 2013 AFP

Citation: 'Area 51' exists, but no UFOs: CIA paper (2013, August 17) retrieved 20 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-08-area-ufos-cia-paper.html
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User comments

Aug 17, 2013
Some more intriguing facts about this CIA base are yet to be revealed:

Aug 17, 2013
I have heard that in the Soviet era, people believed in UFOs because the government said they did not exist. That was all the proof they needed. Whether true or not, a similar situation exists in the U.S. today, in which the government is so mistrusted that the assumption is that any denial is a coverup.

Aug 17, 2013
Well I was the pilot of the UFO's, that transported secret nazi alien technology from Atlantis to the far side of the moon, and to the Martian base inside the centre of the hollow earth.

Damn this reptilian shape changing technology!

Area 51 is just a hoax. True! Totally fake.

It's the under surface tunnels criss crossing the planet that you have to worry about.

Aug 17, 2013
@Humpty: Hail Eris!

Aug 17, 2013
Claudius, in a university stat course, we studied polls from the 60's and 70's showing (within standard deviation) that there were more people who believed the government was covering up aliens and UFO's, than there were people who believed in aliens or UFO's. ultimately it was probably the way the question was asked (as many poll results are), but funny nonetheless.

Aug 17, 2013
This article forgot to mention how an incident involving the crash of a U-2 spy plane was the inspiration behind the name of the Irish post-punk band U2. They are of course no longer post-punk, and all of their music after the Joshua Tree is really not as compelling, but they did begin as a punk band. This article says none of that.

Aug 17, 2013
There are more than 300 Areas under surveillance. One of them comes after Area 50 and before Area 52. It seems very credible that hiding stealth planes would be a just cause for a "conspiracy" to hide the truth from the public and ultimately to the Soviets.

50% of classified leads come by means to the US press -- whether knowing or unknowingly damaging the intent of secrecy of classified government programs. Thus, a foreign embassy merely needs to buy US papers to achieve a low cost but reasonably effective Spy program. Thus, it is easy to see why the US government would tolerate a mis-perception of Area 51 by the public.

Aug 17, 2013
The government has merely revealed information that is now harmless.If they are actually in possession of extraterrestrial technology,I seriously doubt they will ever admit it. This subject brings to mind a comment by Wilbert Smith,a senior radio engineer with Canada's "Project Magnet" in the 50s.He was told by Canadian embassy staff in Washington that the subject of UFOs was classified even higher than the H-bomb by the Americans,which to me speaks volumes.

Aug 17, 2013
I'm very skeptical about this article.

Aug 18, 2013
Its a semantic difference.
Area 51 is home to UFOs in the sense that UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object. Since it's building test planes that no one outside of the facility would have any knowledge of if a person saw one it most certainly would be an "object" that is "flying" and "unidentifiable".

Aug 18, 2013
Yes,I am aware that UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object,which includes,as you state, aircraft not generally known to the public,but my post dealt with supposed extraterrestrial/inter-dimensional vehicles.Having said that,there is a great likelihood that alien spacecraft don't exist at all,and people that think otherwise are delusional at best,liars at worst.Even proof of any kind of life off the earth is still an open question.

Aug 19, 2013
Area 51 stands for extreme commie scare paranoia and conspiracy theory. All that secrecy just to keep the Russians from knowing anything about those secret spy plane development projects like the U-2 and the Blackbird. Even now that "the cold war is over", there are lingering, festering psychological effects created by that paranoia. That and the fact that people just like to feel important, and they can cause some serious side effects, like some seriously disturbed minds in high places, or some seriously high minds in disturbing places.

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