How Area 51 was Created
Area 51 is a secret government facility that the CIA set up for testing their top-secret aircraft. It included a runway measuring 5000 feet, three hangars and warehouses as well as trailers for workers. Area 51 was used for the development and testing of the Lockheed U-2 stealth fighter, which was a high-flying aircraft that was unnoticeable by Soviet radar. A fake company called CLJ, created to obscure Lockheed’s involvement, recruited contractors to build up the facilities in the sweltering summer of 1955 at a cost of $800,000.
Project AQUATONE was a top-secret government program. It was designed to create a stealthy aircraft. The F-117 Nighthawk, developed by Lockheed’s Skunk Works, was intended to disrupt radar beams. The F-117 prototype made its first flight at Groom Lake (now called Area 51) in June 1981. The F-117 production aircraft was stationed in Area 51 until it was moved to the Tonopah Testing Range. The Pentagon finally admitted that there was a stealth plane in 1983. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the public actually saw the F-117.
Richard M. Bissell Jr., the project director, knew that Project AQUATONE was so secretive that the flight test and pilot training programs couldn’t take place at a normal location like Edwards Air Force Base or Lockheed’s Palmdale facility. He began searching for a suitable testing site under the same extreme security measures as the rest of the project, which is how Area 51 was created.
Just a few months after it was created, in Reno, Nevada, the Reno Evening Gazette published a story titled “More Flying Objects Seen in Clark. The article described how Sergeant Wayne Anderson of the local sheriff’s office and several other locals reported seeing an object that was “bright green in color and descending toward the earth at a speed too great to be an airplane.”