Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Eyeballing the Nevada Test Range Part 1: Area 51 & S-4

Overview of the area we'll be discussing in Part 1 (above)

We've reached a point in our society where anyone with an internet connection and a web browser can play armchair satellite imagery analyst. Google Earth and the availability of high quality, relatively inexpensive commercial imagery has empowered a new generation of online explorers. How many of us have gotten lost in Google Earth for countless hours? The world has been revealed to all of us and personally I can't imagine what we ever did without it.

But not everyone is thrilled about such transparency in the public eye. There are countless articles about the US government requesting the censorship of certain sensitive areas, mostly military installations and key buildings and facilities in Washington DC. Sometimes it's hard to follow the government's logic on what gets censored and what doesn't. For instance, the ultra secret Mount Weather underground bunker outside Washington which would serve as a continuity of government facility in the event of a nuclear war can be clearly explored in satellite imagery. However, the roof structure details of the White House have quite obviously been digitally obscured. Area 51--a facility that officially doesn't exist--is there for the world to see and it's even been recently updated, yet we're not allowed to see Dick Cheney's digs! The guys over at IT Security have compiled a list of 51 other things we're not allowed to see on Google Earth, worth checking out.

The Desert Holds Many Secrets

Since The Object Report is first and foremost about full disclosure, I decided it might be interesting to do a multi-part piece on one of the most secretive areas in the world: the Nevada Test Range, an area encompassing 4,687 square miles and the largest military range in the northern hemisphere. This range includes the Groom Lake facility, aka: Area 51, as well as the Yucca Flats nuclear test range, Rainer Mesa underground nuclear test facility and the lesser known Tonopah flight research facility. Together these facilities form what was previously known as the Nellis Air Force Range (NAFR), but in 2001 it was renamed to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). NTTR borders (on three sides) the Department of Energy's Nevada Test Site; between them the two complexes control much of the land in southern Nevada. NTTR is operated from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. The National Wildhorse Management Area is entirely enclosed inside the NTTR, and much of the eastern section of the NTTR overlaps with the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.

Peeking at "The Ranch"

No military facility has historically garnered as much attention as the base that doesn't exist: Area 51. Much like the Roswell story, it has become iconic in Ufology lore over the past two decades thanks in part to the testimony of Robert Lazar, a physicist employed by the US military to help reverse-engineer 'foreign technology' they had acquired. If you're not familiar with Lazar's story, I highly recommend exploring his entire detailed backstory here. Regardless of what your stance on Lazar's claims are, there's no doubt the facility exists and we can only speculate about what kind of exotic hardware is being tested there. I won't delve too much further into Area 51 because there's already plenty of great information and analysis available on the web. I would just like to point out a few key items that I find interesting.

Note: I suggest clicking the "view full size image" link for each of these, I wanted to keep these very large and detailed for the sake of this article. Each image should open in a new browser window. 

Groom Lake Facility Closeup, Northern Hangars (37°14'41.64" N 115°48'53.23" W) - View full size image here
Zooming in on the northern portion of the air base we can see the four main hangars. Contrary to popular Area 51 folklore, these are not "massive" hangars with "two hundred foot tall doors" that some researchers have speculated. They're approximately 220' long by 130' wide and maybe 60-70' tall at best. You'd have to shear a couple feet off the wingtips of a C-130 Hercules to cram it into one of these hangars. Note the distances between them and the amount of room on the concrete apron surrounding them--nothing overly large is going in and out of these hangars.

Groom Lake Facility Closeup - Janet 737's (37°14'20.72" N 115°48'44.22" W) - View full size image here

Moving south through the base we see a couple Janet flights parked on the tarmac (above). "Janet" is the de facto name for a small fleet of passenger aircraft operated for the United States Air Force. Their aircraft transport military and contractor employees and currently serve mostly the Nevada National Security Site (most notably Area 51) from their terminal at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport. The origin of the term "Janet" is obscure and, while it is used as a radio callsign, it is not known whether it is an official name, code word or acronym. Currently, the Janet fleet consists of six Boeing 737-600s painted white with a prominent red cheatline. There are also five smaller executive turboprops (two Beechcraft 1900s and three Beechcraft 200Cs) painted white with less prominent blue trim stripes. One of these turboprops can be seen in the satellite image above.

Groom Lake Facility Closeup - Central Hangar (37°14'09.36" N 115°48'47.47" W) - View full size image here

Centrally situated is a larger 'drive-through' hangar (above) which can accommodate larger aircraft than the first four. You could tuck a C-17 Globemaster into this hangar very comfy, possibly even a C-5 Galaxy if you greased up the wingtips, but it would be quite the squeeze. Granted, do all aircraft really need to be inside hangars while at Area 51? Probably not...but for anything classified it would certainly be the norm. I'd be pretty surprised if Russia and China didn't have eyes in the sky that routinely peek at this facility.

Groom Lake South Hangar Closeup (37°13'44.31" N 115°48'38.72" W) - View full size image here

At the far south side of the base sits the newest hangar, a 350' wide, 185' deep beast large enough to swallow everything but the largest aircraft. A C-5 Galaxy is 247' long, so keep in mind that the tail section would still poke outside the doors. I keep bringing up dimensions here because none of these hangars (at least what we're allowed to see) is large enough to accommodate some ultra exotic football-field sized craft which, it has been speculated, operate from Groom Lake. I simply don't see any giant black delta's that are 300' on a side being safely stashed away here.

Groom Lake South Hangar Under Construction (37°13'44.31" N 115°48'38.72" W) - View full size image here

This newest hangar began construction around October/November of 2006 (above), and I would like to point out that there does not seem to be any indication of a recessed sub floor or any machinery that would indicate an underground storage area or elevator. It has been hypothesized that some of these hangars have elevators which can lower aircraft into a secret underground level. That may still be true, but I would venture to guess that the US government is far too busy to spend time photoshopping their various new construction projects to conceal details such as these. In the time it takes someone to notice it, the construction project is already done and the imagery has been updated.

Eyeballing Tips & Tricks

When investigating remote locations such as these facilities within the NTTR you should follow a few basic rules which can help you discover various points of interest:
  • Always follow the paved highways to see where they lead. Often they'll connect one large facility to another. It's inadvisable to transport sensitive equipment and materials (like nukes) across a washboard dirt road for dozens of miles.
  • Look for maintenance facilities filled with heavy equipment such as bucket loaders, diggers and graders, this usually points to a nearby excavation or new construction project.
  • Sewage ponds are a telltale sign of long term habitation, especially in the desert.
  • Make use of Google's timeline slider bar. Comparing older satellite imagery to the latest imagery can yield interesting results. You'll be able to determine if a particular location has been worked on recently or whether it has changed over time in an unnatural way.

Groom Lake, West access road (37°14'43.72" N 115°50'11.58" W) - View full size image here
Heading west out of the Groom Lake base leads us to several other interesting locations, most notably the elusive Area S-4 which was popularized by Bob Lazar in the early 90's as the ultra classified location where he worked on reverse engineering alien spacecraft. But before we get to that, let's take a look at something else interesting on the way to S-4...

Unidentified site 7 miles WSW of Groom Lake (37°12'03.48" N 115°55'40.56" W) - View full size image here

This unknown facility located about 7 miles WSW of Groom Lake has existed as far back as June of 2002 but it has since been expanded to roughly double it's original size. What this excavation site represents is still murky at best, all we know is that it involves at least two tunnels large enough to drive a tractor trailer truck into. Interestingly enough, the entrances to the tunnels do not seem to be heavily trafficked as evidenced by the lack of heavy tire tracks into them.

Area S-4: The Phantom Installation?

Note: If you aren't already familiar with the Bob Lazar story, I highly recommend you read that first and then come back here. Go ahead, I'll wait...

Okay, so now that you know there is supposed to be an ultra secret facility comprised of 9 hangars built into the side of a ridge spine on the east side of Papoose Dry Lake, let's take a closer look at this very controversial location. We'll start with an overview of the entire range to put things into better perspective:

Range overview for perspective (37°14'07.00" N 115°41'51.54" W) - View full size image here
According to Lazar's detailed descriptions of his trips to Area S-4 the most logical location would be Papoose dry lake. He described his 20 minute rides in a bus with blacked-out windows as being mostly on a dirt road which then turned to a flat, dry lake bed which was "approximately 15 miles south of Area 51."  Well, Papoose lake certainly fits the bill. Unfortunately for all of us armchair satellite analysts we've never managed to find evidence of the facility. There are a few tantalizing clues that lead us to believe that vehicles do visit Papoose, but nothing concrete. Yet...

Papoose Lake overview (37°06'59.29" N 115°50'38.44" W) - View full size image here

It would make sense that when crossing the dry, hard lake bed any tire tracks would be minimally visible and whatever does show up would be periodically blown away by wind and/or washed away by rains. That caramel colored area in the upper portion of the lake bed is from a recent accumulation of rainwater, so using it to drive on would actually make sense.

But what really makes things difficult is that there is literally ZERO visual evidence of any base being at this location. There isn't even any evidence of tampering with the imagery--no blurring, cloning, patching....nothing. When you think about the fact that this imagery is updated every couple years or so that means IF the image is being obscured they're doing one hell of a good job.

Take a look at this time-lapse animation that spans 2006 to 2011:

4 frame time-lapse of the area where the S-4 facility is allegedly located: 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011. 

I've worked in and around the field of image analysis for quite awhile, and I see no evidence of anything here now or having been here in the past. This leads me to a few possible conclusions about S-4:
  1. Lazar was wrong about the location.
  2. It's been obscured with some of the best image censoring on the planet.
  3. It was there at one point but no longer is.
  4. It never existed to begin with.
I think we'd all love to see something like this on Google Earth, but I'm afraid that's never going to happen...

Illustrative rendering of the S-4 facility. © 2013

In the next part of this Eyeballing series I'm going to cover everything from nuclear materials burial operations to the newly renovated Yucca Flats airstrip to the little-known Rainer Mesa facility. The desert holds many secrets indeed, and we've just gotten started...

Agent K