The United States Air Force base known as Area 51, more properly a part of Restricted Area 4808 North, is hardly a secret any more. The facility’s various names, if not its function, have become part of popular culture.
But a mysterious, mile-long landing strip 12 miles away in the remote Nevada desert is less well-known and potentially more interesting.
It’s thought to be the home of a new breed of top-secret drones with sensors designed to detect terrorist ‘dirty bombs’, but its exact purpose is undisclosed.
A 2008 report filed by the government contractor that built the airstrip at a cost of $9.6 million states:
“The purpose of this facility is to construct, operate, and test a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles. Tests include, but are not limited to, airframe modifications, sensor operation, and onboard computer development. A small, manned chase plane is used to track the unmanned aerial vehicles.”
John Pike, director of defence industry website , told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the site may have been selected because of its similarity to conditions found in countries such as Libya where terrorist groups tend to hide out.
“There is a well-founded fear that evildoers are stalking around out there — ISIS and al-Qaida. You have to imagine that trying to develop targeting signatures in this type of mountainous desert terrain,” he said.
“That’s got to be a really high priority … not constrained by funding.”
“I can’t think about a better place to do it where you wouldn’t have civilians stumbling on what you’re doing.”
The technology used on terrorist-hunting drone could be surprisingly basic. In many cases, arrays of miniature mobile phone cameras are used to detect troop movements on the ground.
Pike said: “If they would let me run the thing, I’d tell [special forces troops] to go out and do the best in terms of infiltration, then turn loose the sensors and see if we could find them, play hide-and-seek.”
Darwin Morgan, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, was evasive when quizzed about the facility by the Review Journal, saying only that the low-key Area 6 facilities had been used by the Defense and Homeland Security departments.
“They come here to test their own sensors. We have controlled airspace and that gives them opportunities to test various types of platforms.”
The platforms in question are almost certainly modified versions of existing Reaper-type drones, and not saucer shaped alien craft.
Although this photo from an Arizona woman who spotted something unusual being hauled between US Air Force bases on a flatbed truck calls that assertion into doubt.
Folks driving on Arizona State Route 77 near Holbrook Friday morning got quite a surprise.
“I was driving north and the truck was headed south to the freeway,” she told our reporter. “It was escorted by three DPS vehicles”.
Her photo shows a large saucer-shaped object, draped in tarps, on the bed of a flatbed semi-hauler. She posted the photo on Facebook and the speculation began.
“UFO,” wrote one person. “ET came home,” commented another.
We contacted the Arizona Department of Public Safety. The Duty Office, which dispatches troopers all over the state, responded cleverly, “UnFOrtunately we do not know what that is but it looks interesting.”
We will keep looking for an explanation. Until then, what do YOU think?