The news site of Bakersfield College

The Renegade Rip

The news site of Bakersfield College

The Renegade Rip

The news site of Bakersfield College

The Renegade Rip

View All
Voices through art

Transfer Celebration

May 8, 2024

BC’s 110 Commencement preview

May 8, 2024

View All
BC Swim Conference and State Championships
BC baseball ends their regular season

BC baseball ends their regular season

April 29, 2024

UFC 300

April 15, 2024

View All
Archives

Speaker reveals details on Area 51’s shady past

By Adam Cree

Reporter

At Minter Field in Shafter, something out of this world was talked about on Saturday at Minter Field in Shater. About 150 people attended a lecture about the declassified history of Area 51.

Speaking at the Minter Field Air Museum, Peter Merlin gave a lecture about the history of Area 51. His latest book, titled “Dreamland: Secrets of Area 51,” covers thousands of recently declassified government documents about the site and its history.

In the early ‘50s, due to fear of Russian planes and nukes, the CIA and Air Force teamed up with Lockheed Martin’s “Skunkworks” division to produce a high-altitude reconnaissance plane to spy on the Russians. They chose a location away from prying eyes. The first airstrip at Groom Lake, the eventual site of Area 51, cost a mere $832,000 according to Merlin.

Area 51 is 85 miles outside of Las Vegas and right next door to the Yucca Flat. In fact, Area 51 is downwind from the site and was under construction and early use while Yucca Flat was still being used as a testing ground for nuclear weapons.

Originally dubbed by the workers as “Paradise Ranch” but officially named “Watertown,” the Area 51 test facility was home to the first U-2 spy planes and was their testing ground.

In 1960, Fancis Gary Powers’ U-2 was shot down over the United Soviet States of Russia (USSR). Project Oxcart began in order to design the A-12 a precursor to the SR-71.

In 1959, according to Merlin, EG&G built a radar cross section (RCS) to study the radar signature of mock-up designs for the next reconnaissance plane. Full-scale models were tested on a 50-foot pole, built out of welded together destroyer propeller shafts.

From September 1960 to June 1964, a new runway was built at Area 51 for the A-12. This new runway was 85,000 feet long. Support aircraft for the project, chase planes and refueling aircraft began arriving in 1962. At the time, all the security around the base was contracted to private security firms.

A fire station to deal with air crashes was built and manned at all times as well as a meteorological office to study the weather patterns.

The A-12, according to Merlin, had its first test flight in 1962 at Area 51. In 1967, testing began on the D21 Tagboard. A small, unmanned aircraft would be dropped from a modified A-12. It would then fly to a preprogrammed destination, take photographs then fly to a designated zone, dropping off the camera and film before self-destructing.

Testing went on through 1971 before being cancelled for two reasons according to Merlin. A D21 crashed into its launching A-12, killing the pilots. The other reason was that the military could never recover the jettisoned camera suit. Not only was the plane lost but so was the information it had gathered.

Area 51 also hosts a very important project for the military, says Merlin. Since the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force has been testing the capabilities of Russian and foreign aircraft at Area 51 in mock dogfights. This continues today.

Aside from supposed aliens, Area 51 has had a major controversy in the past 30 years. In 1989, hundreds of workers at the site filed suit against the federal government over health concerns about toxic waste being burned in pits at the site. In reaction, President Clinton sealed Area 51 from the Freedom of Information act and other means of gaining information about the site.

One of the last publically known things about Area 51 is a land seizure. In 1995, the federal government seized 5,000 acres of land. The reason was so that people couldn’t climb a local peak and look down on the base. Actions such as those had caused the cancelation of dozens of test flights in the previous years.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

All The Renegade Rip Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *