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The United States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51 is a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, within the Nevada Test and Training Range. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the correct names for the facility are Homey Airport (ICAO: KXTA) and Groom Lake, though the name Area 51 was used in a CIA document from the Vietnam War. Other names used for the facility include Dreamland, and nicknames Paradise Ranch, Home Base and Watertown. The special use airspace around the field is referred to as a Restricted Area 4808 North (R-4808N).

The base's current primary purpose is publicly unknown; however, based on historical evidence, it most likely supports development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore. Although the base has never been declared a secret base, all research and occurrings in Area 51 are Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI). In July 2013, following a FOIA request filed in 2005, the CIA publicly acknowledged the existence of the base for the first time, declassifying documents detailing the history and purpose of Area 51.

UFOs Its secretive nature and undoubted connection to classified aircraft research, together with reports of unusual phenomena, have led Area 51 to become a focus of modern UFO and conspiracy theories. Some of the activities mentioned in such theories at Area 51 include: The storage, examination, and reverse engineering of crashed alien spacecraft (including material supposedly recovered at Roswell), the study of their occupants (living and dead), and the manufacture of aircraft based on alien technology. Meetings or joint undertakings with extraterrestrials. The development of exotic energy weapons for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) or other weapons programs. The development of means of weather control. The development of time travel and teleportation technology. The development of unusual and exotic propulsion systems related to the Aurora Program. Activities related to a supposed shadowy one world government or the Majestic 12 organization.

Many of the hypotheses concern underground facilities at Groom or at Papoose Lake (also known as "S-4 location"), 8.5 miles (13.7 km) south, and include claims of a transcontinental underground railroad system, a disappearing airstrip (nicknamed the "Cheshire Airstrip", after Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat) which briefly appears when water is sprayed onto its camouflaged asphalt, and engineering based on alien technology. Publicly available satellite imagery, however, reveals clearly visible landing strips at Groom Dry Lake, but not at Papoose Lake.

In the mid-1950s, civilian aircraft flew under 20,000 feet while military aircraft flew under 40,000 feet. Once the U-2 began flying at above 60,000 feet, an unexpected side effect was an increasing number of UFO sighting reports. Sightings occurred most often during early evenings hours, when airline pilots flying west saw the U-2's silver wings reflect the setting sun, giving the aircraft a "fiery" appearance. Many sighting reports came to the Air Force's Project Blue Book, which investigated UFO sightings, through air-traffic controllers and letters to the government. The project checked U-2 and later OXCART flight records to eliminate the majority of UFO reports it received during the late 1950s and 1960s, although it could not reveal to the letter writers the truth behind what they saw. Similarly, veterans of experimental projects such as OXCART and NERVA at Area 51 agree that their work (including 2,850 OXCART test flights alone) inadvertently prompted many of the UFO sightings and other rumors:

The shape of OXCART was unprecedented, with its wide, disk-like fuselage designed to carry vast quantities of fuel. Commercial pilots cruising over Nevada at dusk would look up and see the bottom of OXCART whiz by at 2,000-plus mph. The aircraft's titanium body, moving as fast as a bullet, would reflect the sun's rays in a way that could make anyone think, UFO.

They believe that the rumors helped maintain secrecy over Area 51's actual operations. While the veterans deny the existence of a vast underground railroad system, many of Area 51's operations did (and presumably still do) occur underground.

Bob Lazar

Several people have claimed knowledge of events supporting Area 51 conspiracy theories. These have included Bob Lazar, who claimed in 1989 that he had worked at Area 51's "Sector Four (S-4)", said to be located underground inside the Papoose Range near Papoose Lake. Lazar has stated he was contracted to work with alien spacecraft that the U.S. government had in its possession.

Bruce Burgess

Similarly, the 1996 documentary Dreamland directed by Bruce Burgess included an interview with a 71-year-old mechanical engineer who claimed to be a former employee at Area 51 during the 1950s. His claims included that he had worked on a "flying disc simulator" which had been based on a disc originating from a crashed extraterrestrial craft and was used to train US Pilots. He also claimed to have worked with an extraterrestrial being named "J-Rod" and described as a "telepathic translator".

Dan Burisch

In 2004, Dan Burisch (pseudonym of Dan Crain) claimed to have worked on cloning alien viruses at Area 51, also alongside the alien named "J-Rod". Burisch's scholarly credentials are the subject of much debate, as he was apparently working as a Las Vegas parole officer in 1989 while also earning a PhD at State University of New York (SUNY).

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