by Peter W. Merlin

(extracted from "Area 51 - Dreamland - Fifty Years of Secret Flight Testing in Nevada" by Peter W. Merlin)
from Scribd Website

 



Close-up aerial photo of Area 51 from 1965

 

This excellent close-up aerial photo of Area 51 shows the base as it looked in 1965. Most of the buildings are still in place today, as part of what is now the north end of the base. The four large hangars in the foreground are hangars 4-7 (building #200, 202, 206 and 208), which were used for the A-12 and YF-12 development.

 

Later they were used for "foreign technology" items, such as fully operational MiG fighter jets, and became known as "Red Hat Hangars". Behind them are the U-2 hangars, the oldest hangars of the base, followed by a group of administration and operations buildings.

The large building on the left is the Base Supply and Administration Building (building #265). Next to it is the Dining Hall (building #267) and the Base Headquarters (#269). On the far right is the recreation complex, including the building that later became known as "Sam's Place" (building #170), a gym and swimming pool. Behind it, partly out of the frame, is the baseball field.

In the background are the old living quarters, which have since been replaced by more modern and more comfortable quarters. The runway is out of the frame to the left.

 

 

 

New Tall Structure at Area 51, January 2006

 

A new tower structure was built near the RCS range at the north end of Area 51. The shadow of the structure can first be seen on a satellite image taken on January 17, 2006. The tower is not present in a September 28, 2005 photo. So we know that it was built between Sept. 28, 2005 and January 17, 2006.

 

It appears to be a permanent structure, with no visible change between January 2006 and June 2007, when this photo was taken.

The new tower is about 180 ft. tall, with a triangular cross-section (visible on new satellite images). It is too tall and too solid for a drill rig. It is located at approximately N 37 14.782' and W 115 49.396', west of the sump ponds. This location is near the DYCOMMS and Quick Kill radar sites at the south end of Groom Lake. It may hold a new radar array for RCS tests or other radar measurements.

The tower has line-of-sight to a newly expanded remote facility near N37 14' 32" and W115 53' 24". That facility in turn has several tall poles, although not as solid. The remote facility was expanded around the same time our tower was built, so there may be a connection.

The structure looks somewhat similar to the ICECAP tower at the Nevada Test Site, without the siding. See this LVRJ article from December 2000 for more information and some photos. Because of the proximity to the NTS, and the fact that the towers there are no longer used, it may be a re-used tower originally designed for underground nuclear tests. But re-used for what?...

There are also a couple of new structures and tall light poles at the south end of the scraped area in the back. On new satellite photos it looks like a shooting range, located at N 37 14.6' and W 115 50.25'.

 

 

Area 51 Satellite Image, July 18, 2007

 

The photo was taken by the IKONOS-2 satellite on Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 11.43am PDT.

 

 

 

Area 51 Satellite Image, July 24, 2003

5 meter resolution version of a satellite image of Area 51 taken on July 24, 2003 by the Ikonos Satellite.

The most notable change over previous images is the finished new taxiway (with dark shoulders) in the center of the image. The older runway 14/32 on the left is no longer used and marked as closed with large yellow X's. The access ramp to Hangar 19, the arm/de-arm scoot-n-hide hangar, has been extended to the new taxiway.

 

The old E-W taxiway has been partially removed.

The new taxiway is 4625 ft. long and 125 ft. wide. It connects the southern ramp area with the northern section of the new runway 14/32 on the right. This provides a convenient shortcut for Janets, which usually land on Rwy. 32 and take off on Rwy. 14. The Janet ramp is just north of the western end of the new taxiway.

The benefits of the new taxiway are obviously saving taxi time for the Janets, and avoiding the section of the northern taxiway at the north end of the old runway that is prone to flooding after heavy rains. However, both could have been accomplished much easier and cheaper by widening and extending the existing taxiway east of the Red Hat hangars.

Most likely, the new center taxiway and the new ramp to the scoot-and-hide hangar are connected to a new project that is about to move into the South Ramp area, where several construction projects can be observed (see below). Access to Runway 14/32 from the South Ramp would be much faster with the new taxiway. And, as an added advantage, the most likely top secret development does not have to taxi past the entire base, with personnel not briefed on that project.

Other new buildings and construction:

  • A new quonset hut east of the Consolidated Services Facility

  • Two smaller new quonset huts in the complex east of the Shipping and Receiving facility

  • A new building (possibly covering a larger underground structure, possibly a large tank) in the southern area of the base. Buried pipes or cables connect it to the Hangar 8 storage building, to Hangar 17 and to the Steam Plant

  • The southern ramp, north of Hangars 9-16 is being resurfaced

  • Two large new fuel tanks have been set up at the site of the old smaller fuel tanks, which were removed in 2001

  • Runway 14R/32L is now marked as closed over its full length, including the lakebed overrun

  • Two Janet 737's can be seen parked at the Janet terminal, as well as three of the smaller biz-jets. If you look closely you can even see an F-16 parked on the northern ramp, west of Hangar 6.

Most older satellite images were taken on weekends, with most of the base vehicles parked at the Janet terminal. This photo, taken on a weekday, gives a better idea of areas of activity, based on the number of cars parked there.

 

These areas include:

  • The parking lot around and north of the Shipping and Receiving Facility

  • The building complex just west of the Shipping and Receiving Facility

  • The parking lot in the center of the base administration offices

  • The area around the Test Engineering and Support Center

  • The northern ramp area

 

 

Area 51 Satellite Image, June 7, 2002
 

5 meter resolution version of a satellite image of Area 51 taken on June 7, 2002.

This satellite photo, taken on June 7, 2002, shows the beginning construction of a new center taxiway and the extension of the ramp that connects it with the scoot-and-hide Hangar 19. The old center taxiway has been partially removed.

Other new buildings and construction:

  • New foundation for a hangar in the complex east of the Shipping and Receiving facility

  • The surface of the parking lot south of the Test Engineering Support Center has been partially removed. Possibly in preparation of construction of a new building there

  • Beginning construction of two large new fuel tanks at the site of the old smaller fuel tanks, which were removed in 2001

 

 

Area 51 Satellite Image, December 22, 2001

4 meter resolution version of a satellite image of Area 51 taken on December 22, 2001 by the Ikonos Satellite.


This satellite photo was taken on Saturday, December 22, 2001.

 

Construction at the Janet ramp is completed, and now there appears to be some construction at the ramp west of Hangar 20-23. Judging by the piles of snow in front of Hangars 9-16 these are not used at the moment. If you look closely you can see the new markings designating the south taxiway as runway 12/30.

 

Most of the older fuel tanks south of Hangars 9-16 have been removed, and you can see the foundation for two large new tanks.


 

 

Area 51 Satellite Image, April 2, 2000

4 meter resolution version of a satellite image of Area 51 taken on April 2, 2000 by the Ikonos Satellite.


This satellite photo was taken on Sunday, April 2, 2000. The north end of the older runway is marked as closed, while the south end is still in use. The ramp south of the Janet terminal is being re-surfaced.

 

During the construction the Janets were parked on the ramp west of Hangar 20-23.


 


Area 51 and the NTS (December 4, 1991)

This satellite photo was taken on December 4, 1991 by "Landsat 4". It shows Area 51 and Groom Lake in the north-east, Papoose Lake south of it and the craters from the atomic tests in the 60's at Yucca Flat and Frenchman Flat west of Papoose in the Nevada Test Site. The town of Mercury is in the south, and the mysterious Area 19 in the very northwest corner.


You can clearly see the buildings of Area 51 just southwest of Groom Lake, and the first runway across the dry lake.

 

The second runway, visible as a white line south of the lake, is just under construction.