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The Area 51 File: Secret Aircraft and Soviet MiGs

Declassified Documents Describe Stealth Facility in Nevada: “The CIA’s history of the U-2 spy plane, declassified this past summer, sparked enormous public attention to the U-2′s secret test site at Area 51 in Nevada, but documents posted today by the National Security Archive show that Area 51 played an even more central role in the development of the U.S. Air Force’s top secret stealth programs in the 1970s and 1980s, and hosted secretly obtained Soviet MiG fighters during the Cold War. Compiled and edited by Archive senior fellow Jeffrey T. Richelson, today’s e-book posting includes more than 60 declassified documents. Some of the documents specifically focus on Area 51 and the concern for maintaining secrecy about activities at the facility. Included is a 1961 memo from the CIA’s inspector general raising the issue of security, and a response reporting the shared concerns of the CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell. Security concerns led to consideration of photographing the area with U.S. reconnaissance assets and a debate over the possible release of a photograph of the facility taken by SKYLAB astronauts. Other documents focus on the aircraft tested at the facility (and their operational use) — particularly the stealth F-117. Those documents include a variety of histories of the F-117 squadron, with details on participation in operations and exercises. In addition, there are extracts from two reports on accidents involving F-117 aircraft, as well as histories and assessments of F-117 deployment in operations DESERT STORM and IRAQI FREEDOM. Also included are fact sheets concerning three programs, at least two of which were tested at Area 51 — the Bird of Prey and TACIT BLUE. In addition to documents on F-117 operations, a number of documents focus on the development of stealth capability. One of those, is the mathematical analysis by Russian physicist and engineer P. Ya. Ufimtsev that former Lockheed Skunk Works director Ben Rich called “the Rosetta Stone breakthrough for stealth technology.”

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