Reporter Richard Urey of KLAS TV uncovers the development of secret stealth technology being used in aircraft in this segment of “Area 51, The 30 Year Secret.” Also, test flying Soviet MiG aircraft is uncovered. Aired on July 10, 1984, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas. Part 2 of a 4-part series.
The Test Range that gave birth to high altitude reconnaissance planes over the past three decades is again pregnant with the most sophisticated military systems. State Highway 375 cuts across south central Nevada, about 150 miles north of Las Vegas. From the road can be seen the Groom Mountains and the jumbled hills, which obscure the Groom Dry Lake bed, the heart of Area 51, perfect topography for the nation’s most secret proving ground.
High level civilian sources speculate on a number of projects that may be underway at Area 51. Most prominently mentioned is research and development of aircraft technology capable of neutralizing radar beams. The Pentagon will not release photographs of planes utilizing the so-called stealth technology, but the consensus of aviation experts is that when it becomes operational before the end of the decade, it will look something like the flying wing developed 35 years ago, at least in the bomber configuration.
Stealth technology often thought to be earmarked for the new bomber can be used on almost any type of plane. The key is that radar-reflecting metal is not used in construction. Stealth planes will be made of the type of material that goes into fishing rods and tennis rackets, a super strong carbon epoxy. Engines will be made of metal but would be shielded with radar resistant, synthetic and aluminum mesh.
It sounds rather elementary, but details of the research are among the most protected military secrets. Lockheed Corporation has been a prime contractor for stealth, the same company that developed high altitude reconnaissance planes at Area 51. Other projects may include work on new optical guidance systems that will provide precision accuracy for missiles fired from U.S. warplanes, accuracy to be essential if a ground war ever erupted in Europe, where friendly and hostile troops could be fighting at close range.
Area 51 is also a thought to deploy Soviet MiG fighters for test purposes. It’s speculated that the latest U.S. electronic technology may be added to the MiGs to test their capabilities if equipped with state-of-the-art gear. Lieutenant General Robert Bond may have taken off in a MiG from Area 51 for a flight that ended in a fatal crash adjacent to the Nevada Test Site in April 1984.
Because of Area 51’s near total seclusion, it reportedly was the training site for U.S. commandos who unsuccessfully tried to free U.S. hostages in Iran in 1980.
While facts about Area 51 programs cannot be confirmed through the military, the townsfolk in Alamo, the nearest community, say they’ve seen an influx of newcomers who work at Area 51.
It’s a fine line that Lincoln County residents must walk when dealing with the Air Force. They recognize the military spending can be a substantial boost to the local economy. They also know the military can be a threat to more traditional revenue sources. Especially upsetting is what many are calling a land grab next to Area 51.
Alamo resident Bob Sheehan is unhappy with the land grab, “When we found this out, it extremely upset us. You know, we couldn’t believe that we were going to be handled that way.”