Friday, November 01, 2013

The Area 51 File: Newly Declassified Documents Describe Stealth Facility & Secret Aircraft

Top Secret (NRO)

The Area 51 File: Secret Aircraft and Soviet MiGs

Declassified Documents Describe Stealth Facility in Nevada

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 443

By Jeffrey T. Richelson
National Security Archive

Area 51 Map
Washington, D.C., October 29, 2013 – The CIA's history of the U-2 spy plane, declassified this past summer, sparked enormous public attention to the U-2's secret test site at Area 51 in Nevada, but documents posted today by the National Security Archive ( show that Area 51 played an even more central role in the development of the U.S. Air Force's top secret stealth programs in the 1970s and 1980s, and hosted secretly obtained Soviet MiG fighters during the Cold War.

Compiled and edited by Archive senior fellow Jeffrey T. Richelson, today's e-book posting includes more than 60 declassified documents. Some of the documents specifically focus on Area 51 and the concern for maintaining secrecy about activities at the facility. Included is a 1961 memo (Document 1) from the CIA's inspector general raising the issue of security, and a response (Document 2) reporting the shared concerns of the CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Bissell. Security concerns led to consideration (Document 3) of photographing the area with U.S. reconnaissance assets and a debate (Document 4, Document 5) over the possible release of a photograph of the facility taken by SKYLAB astronauts.

Bird of Prey
Bird of Prey. Photo credit: National Museum of the United States Air Force
Other documents focus on the aircraft tested at the facility (and their operational use) — particularly the stealth F-117. Those documents include a variety of histories of the F-117 squadron, with details on participation in operations and exercises. In addition, there are extracts from two reports (Document 15, Document 16) on accidents involving F-117 aircraft, as well as histories and assessments (Document 17, Document 18, Document 23, Document 36) of F-117 deployment in operations DESERT STORM and IRAQI FREEDOM. Also included are fact sheets (Document 58, Document 59, Document 60) concerning three programs, at least two of which were tested at Area 51 — the Bird of Prey and TACIT BLUE.

In addition to documents on F-117 operations, a number of documents focus on the development of stealth capability. One of those (Document 10), is the mathematical analysis by Russian physicist and engineer P. Ya. Ufimtsev that former Lockheed Skunk Works director Ben Rich called "the Rosetta Stone breakthrough for stealth technology."

Also represented in the posting is another type of activity at Area 51 — the exploitation of covertly acquired Soviet MiGs. Included is a 300-page Defense Intelligence Agency report (Document 50) on the exploitation of the MiG-21, a project titled HAVE DOUGHNUT. Other documents (Document 51, Document 52) concern the exploitation effort concerning two MiG-17s, efforts named HAVE DRILL and HAVE FERRY. . . .

Document examples:

DARPA - Technology Transition

For more information contact:
Jeffrey T. Richelson 202/994 7000 or

These materials are reproduced from with the permission of the National Security Archive.

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