The World’s Most Secure Buildings: Area 51

Chances are you know at least one conspiracy theory surrounding Area 51. The near-mythical U.S. military research facility in the Nevada desert is protected by motion sensors, a patrol of armed guards, and a no-fly zone throughout the entire site. It is one of the most secure places in the world.

Entering Area 51

The CIA only acknowledged its existence in 2013, although its history, as detailed in documents released around the same time, dates to 1955. The mission of Area 51 is to develop and test state-of-the-art aircraft technology. This makes it a target for foreign intelligence services. 

Security is tight at this U.S. Air Force base, with a guard patrol authorized to use deadly force on trespassers and long-range motion detection to warn them of new arrivals on foot or spinning in space.

What makes Area 51 in Nevada, U.S. one of the world’s most secure buildings? Read on to find out.

Facilities in Area 51

Area 51 is a high-security military research facility well-known for housing some of the world’s biggest secrets and coverups. To many conspiracy theorists, it is also famous for hiding information on aliens and UFO sightings. We may never know the complete story of what occurs at Area 51 because the level of security is so high. The depth of what happens on the inside remains a mystery. Motion sensors and patrols of armed guards are a constant, always on the lookout for invasive forces. 

Aerial View of Area 51

The entire range of Area 51 covers more than 2.9 million acres of land. According to the U.S. military, it represents “a flexible, realistic and multidimensional battle-space to conduct testing, tactics development, and advanced training”. 

The facility is next to two other restricted military areas: the Nevada Test Site, where U.S. nuclear weapons were tested from the 1950s to the 1990s, and the Nevada Test and Training Range.

Area 51

Despite the lack of cultural attractions, nightlife, or vegetation, Area 51 quickly became a favorite location for the CIA’s classified airborne espionage ops. However, as projects became more technically complex, the bare-bones facility required major advancements. By 1964, the military renovated Area 51 into a fully functional spy-plane factory.

Contractors poured a new asphalt runway to accommodate faster planes, replacing the old, 5,000-foot strip with one extending to over 8,500 feet. Workers transported disassembled Naval housing units and plane hangars to Groom Lake. Construction teams dug a new water well and set up recreational facilities. They added essential warehousing, shop space, and fuel storage.

Today, though official information is sparse, it is believed the U.S. military continues to use Area 51 to develop cutting-edge aircraft. About 1,500 people are believed to work there, many commuting on charter flights from Las Vegas.

Reportedly, some of the world’s most advanced espionage programs are at the site and Area 51 is now a test and training facility. What began with U-2 spy plane research in the 1950s is now focused on cutting-edge drone technology. 

Facts About Area 51

  • Area 51 refers to a map location and is the popular name of a U.S. Air Force base
  • The base is located at Groom Lake, a dry salt lake bed in the Nevada desert 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Las Vegas
  • What goes on inside Area 51 is extremely secretive
  • Members of the public are kept away by warning signs, electronic surveillance, and armed guards
  • It is illegal to fly over Area 51, although the site is now visible on satellite images
  • Today, the U.S. Air Force uses the 38,400-acre patch of desert as a training site 
  • Sometimes called the Nevada Test and Training Range, the base is home to some of the longest runways in the world
  • Area 51 is features runways up to 12,000 feet (2.3 miles/3.7 kilometers) long

Why Was Area 51 Constructed?

Area 51 was built during the Cold War as a testing and development facility for aircraft, including the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance planes.

In March 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was concerned America’s lack of knowledge of Russia’s military developments might leave the nation vulnerable to attack. Eisenhower recruited a panel of experts to figure out how the U.S. could use science to prevent a possible Russian attack.

The U.S. needed eyes in the skies over the Soviet Union, and once America had a blueprint in the works for a leading-edge surveillance plane, a secure location was required to assemble and test it.

An investigation group flew over Groom Lake. From above, they could see it was remote, inconspicuous, and already had an airstrip, which was ideal. That is how Area 51 was born.

Even though it opened in 1955, its existence was only officially acknowledged by the CIA in August 2013. Four months after the CIA’s disclosure, President Obama became the first U.S. president to mention Area 51 in public.

Area 51 Base

Source: BBC

Although the U.S. created Area 51 during the Cold War to spy on the Soviet Union, its clandestine beginnings and leading-edge tech led many Americans to associate the base with extraterrestrial ships and little green men.

Conspiracies Surrounding Area 51

The mystery surrounding Area 51 continues to fuel conspiracy theories. Most famous is the belief the site hosts an alien spacecraft and the bodies of its pilots after a 1947 collision in Roswell, New Mexico. The U.S. government maintains the crashed craft was a weather balloon.

Others claim to have seen UFOs above or near the site, while some say they have been kidnapped by aliens, and even experimented on, before being returned to Earth.

In 1989, a man named Robert Lazar asserted he worked on alien technology inside Area 51. He claimed he saw medical images of aliens and that the government used the facility to inspect UFOs.

Over the years, Area 51 starred in several sci-fi shows, including “The X-Files”, and movies like the 1996 summer blockbuster “Independence Day”. In 2019, this well-known but little-understood location took over social media when one prankster inspired millions of people to RSVP “yes” to trespassing.

Area 51’s association with aliens may have served as a beneficial distraction for the intelligence agencies. According to Annie Jacobsen, who has written about the history of Area 51, “As early as 1950, the CIA developed a UFO office to deal with the sightings of unidentified flying objects over Nevada. When people first saw the U-2 spy plane flying, no one knew what they were seeing. The CIA used that disinformation to their benefit by fostering alien mythology.”

Warning: Military Installation - Off limits to unauthorized personnel - Area 51 sign

What Makes Area 51 One of the World’s Most Secure Buildings?

Located at the border of Southern Nevada, Area 51 is a top-secret military facility for U.S. security. Until recently, the CIA never even acknowledged the existence of such a building. Consequently, many of Area 51’s security measures remain unknown to the general public.

Today, the facility is used by the U.S. Air Force for training activities. It is not open to the public and armed guards constantly patrol the perimeter of the property. Entering the airspace over Area 51 is forbidden without specific permission from air traffic control.

Employees at the base do not commute to the site by car. Air traffic control audio out of a private terminal at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport suggests government-owned passenger jets flying under the name “Janet Airlines” make daily flights to and from somewhere in the Nevada desert.

If you ask air traffic control, that “somewhere” is Homey Airport (KXTA), otherwise known as Area 51. Through the years, the base has been called Dreamland, Watertown, Yuletide, and Paradise Ranch.

Whether the strange stories surrounding Area 51 are true or otherwise, this famous area located in the remote desert of Nevada is more than just a source of rumors. Bizarre and gripping, Area 51 is also one of the most secure destinations on earth. 

As a military base for the U.S., detached from the Edwards Air Force Base in California, Area 51 exists within a world of its own, as no one outside of the center itself has any evidence of what goes on inside.

Area 51 may be a testing ground for experimental and innovative aircraft. But stories also circulate among conspiracy theorists of how truth-seekers have met their fate trying to access the location. 

Some of the identified security measures found in Area 51 include motion sensors implanted around the perimeter of the base. These sensors are capable of identifying and perhaps distinguishing between human and animal movement.

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Identiv World's Most Secure Buildings