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The Air Force test facility at Groom Lake, Nevada—better known as Area 51—has harbored a wide variety of experimental aircraft the Pentagon would rather keep away from the prying eyes of the public. While fanciful stories of alien spaceships continue to captivate the public, as recent internet memes attest, there’s little doubt that Groom Lake’s actual activities are of considerable interest—sufficiently so that in April 2019 Russia even dispatched one of its treaty-authorized Tu-154M Open Skies surveillance planes to spy on the base.

The facility has considerably expanded from the small, remote landing field adjacent to a salt flat first used to test the Lockheed U-2 spy plane in 1955. Now it lies within a twenty-three by twenty-five-mile perimeter of restricted airspace located within the larger 4,500-square mile Nevada Training and Test Range. Other nearby bases include Nellis Air Force Base and Tonopah Test Range—the latter which also has hosted numerous “black project” programs.

While a companion piece looks at Area 51’s original role in developing the CIA’s U-2 and A-12 spy planes, here we’ll look at the “black projects” known to have been flown there in the 1970s, to those speculated to be there in the present day.

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