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The United States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51 is a remote detachment of
Edwards Air Force
Base, within the Nevada Test and Training Range. According to the Central
Intelligence Agency
(CIA), the correct names for the facility are Homey Airport (ICAO:
KXTA) and Groom
Lake, though the name Area 51 was used in a CIA document from the
Vietnam War.[4] Other names used for the facility includeDreamland,[5] and nicknames
Paradise Ranch,[6] Home Base and Watertown.[7] The Special use airspacea round the field
is referred to as a Restricted Area 4808 North (R-4808N).[8]
The base's current primary purpose is publicly unknown; however, based on historical
evidence, it most likely supports development and testing of experimental aircraft and
weapons systems.[9] The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent
subject of conspiracy theories and a central component tounidentified flying object (UFO)
folklore. Although the base has never been declared a secret base, all research and
occurrings in Area 51 are Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI).[10] In
July 2013, following a FOIA request filed in 2005, the CIA publicly acknowledged the
existence of the base for the first time, declassifying documents detailing the history and
purpose of Area 51.[12]
Area 51 is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles
(134 km) north-northwest of Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of
Groom Lake, is a large military airfield. The site was acquired by the United States Air
Force in 1955, primarily for the testing of the Lockheed U-2aircraft.[12] The area around
Area 51, including the small town of Rachel on the aptly named "Extraterrestrial Highway", is
a popular tourist destination.

U.S. government's positions on Area 51

The amount of information the United States government has been willing to provide
regarding Area 51 has generally been minimal.
The USGS topographic map for the area only shows the long-disused Groom Mine. A civil
aviation chart published by the Nevada Department of Transportation shows a large restricted
area, defined as part of the Nellis restricted airspace.[40]The National Atlas page showing
federal lands in Nevada shows the area as lying within the Nellis Air Force Base.[41]
Higher resolution (and more recent) images from other satellite imagery providers
(including Russian providers and the IKONOS) are commercially available.[3] These show
the runway markings, base facilities, aircraft, and vehicles.

Although federal property within the base is exempt from state and local taxes, facilities
owned by private contractors are not.
When documents that mention the Nevada Test Site (NTS) and operations at Groom are
declassified, mentions of Area 51 and Groom Lake are routinely redacted.[citation needed]
One exception is a 1967 memo from CIA director Richard Helmsregarding the deployment
of three OXCART aircraft from Groom to Kadena Air Base to perform reconnaissance over
North Vietnam. Although most mentions of OXCART's home base are redacted in this
document, as is a map showing the aircraft's route from there to Okinawa, the redactor
appears to have missed one mention: page 15 (page 17 in the PDF), section No. 2 ends
"Three OXCART aircraft and the necessary task force personnel will be deployed from
Area 51 to Kadena."
In July 2013, CIA released an official history of the U-2 and OXCART projects that officially
acknowledged the existence of Area 51. The release was in response to a Freedom of
Information Act request submitted in 2005 by Jeffrey T. Richelson of George Washington
University's National Security Archives, and contain numerous references to Area 51 and
Groom Lake, along with a map of the area.

Security and operations

The area surrounding the lake is permanently off-limits both to civilian and normal military
air traffic. Security clearances are checked regularly; cameras and weaponry are not
allowed. Even military pilots training in the NAFR risk disciplinary action if they stray into
the exclusionary "box" surrounding Groom's airspace. Surveillance is supplemented using
buried motion sensors. Area 51 is a common destination for Janet, the de facto name of a
small fleet of passenger aircraft operated on behalf of the United States Air Force to
transport military personnel, primarily from McCarran International Airport.