A satellite view of Area 51
©2007 Google Earth™ mapping service/DigitalGlobe

Where is Area 51?

Area 51's coordinates are 37°14'36.52"N, 115°48'41.16"W. You can get a great view of it usingGoogle Earth. Just type "Area 51" into the "Fly To" field and the map does the rest. For decades, the base remained hidden from almost everyone, but in 1988 a Sovietsatellite photographed the base. Several publications acquired the photos and published them. The secrecy of the base is still of paramount importance, but as far as satellite coverage is concerned, the cat is out of the bag.
A dry lake bed called Groom Lake borders the base. To the west is the NTS. The closest town is Rachel, Nevada, which is 25 miles north of the base. The base itself occupies only a fraction of the more than 90,000 acres it sits on. It consists of a hangar, a guard shack, a few radar antennas, some housing facilities, a mess hall, offices, runways and shelters. The shelters are "scoot and hide" buildings, designed so aircraft can quickly move under cover when satellites pass overhead. Some allege that what you can see on the surface is only a tiny part of the actual facility. They believe that the surface buildings rest on top of a labyrinthine underground base. A few claim the underground facility has up to 40 levels and that it is attached via underground railways to other sites in Los Alamos, White Sands and Los Angeles. Skeptics are quick to point out that such a massive construction project would require an enormous labor force, the removal of tons of earth that would have to go somewhere and the need for a huge amount of concrete and other construction material. The lack of evidence convinces skeptics that, for the most part, what you see is what you get. Believers, on the other hand, dismiss the skeptics' doubts.
So what goes on at this base? According to the Air Force, the facility's purpose is for "the testing of technologies and systems training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States." All specifics regarding the facility and the projects housed there are classified. What is known is the Air Force, the CIA and Lockheed have used the base as a staging ground for test flights of experimental, secret aircraft, also known as black aircraft. The base served as the development and testing facility for cutting edge aircraft technology from the U-2 spy plane to the F-117AStealth Fighter.In the next section, we'll look at the known security measures at Area 51.