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Reports of base closing may be premature [news]

From: "Paul and Carrie Drabek" 
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 12:03:52 -0800
Subject: Reports of base closing may be premature [news]


Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Reports of the demise of a top secret base in the
Nevada desert may be premature, according to a Washington source and
folks at the Little A'Le'Inn.

Popular Mechanics magazine, in a cover story in its June issue, said
the top-secret facility known as Area 51 has been abandoned and
operations moved to a site in eastern Utah.

``That's ridiculous,'' said a congressional source in Washington, D.C.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it would cost $5
billion to move the operations and such an expenditure is unthinkable
when Congress and the Pentagon are weighing another round of base
closings nationwide.

The public affairs office at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas
referred inquiries on Area 51 to the Air Force media relations office
in the Pentagon. Repeated phone calls to the office went unanswered

Residents in the tiny hamlet of Rachel, Nev., some 20< miles from the
secret base, say it apparently is still operating. Area 51, a remote
base 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has been the site of
development of America's top-secret aircraft, dating back to the U-2
spy plane more than 40 years ago. The SR-71 Blackbird and F-117A
stealth fighter were also tested at the desolate location adjoining
the nation's nuclear testing grounds. A new generation aircraft, known
as Aurora, is believed to be undergoing tests there.

The site was so secret that Air Force officials refused to acknowledge
its existence until recent years when a federal lawsuit by former
workers forced their hand. Now they acknowledge simply that training
and testing activities take place at Groom Lake, a dry lake bed at
Area 51.

Popular Mechanics science/technology editor Jim Wilson said Area 51
operations were being moved to a location in eastern Utah known as
Area 6413.

He said the Utah site would be used for testing of a military version
of NASA's X-33, the next generation of space shuttle being developed
by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif.

The X-33, known as Venture Star, will have vertical takeoff and
horizontal landing capabilities and will be able to deliver payloads
of up to 40,000 pounds to low earth orbit.

The magazine said the Air Force has an assets-sharing agreement with
NASA on future use of the X-33, and that Skunk Works designers are
researching ways to adapt it for military use.

The magazine said Area 51 had been closed because of radioactive
residues from nearby nuclear weapons testing and growing public
exposure of the base. For years, under an open skies treaty, Russia
has been able to photograph the base with spy satellites while curious
Americans were kept seven miles away by armed guards.

The reported closing was met with skepticism by Pat Travis, 53, who
operates the Little A'Le'Inn, a cafe in Rachel.

``I think the thing about the base closing is supposition,'' Travis
said in a telephone interview. ``We get people in here every day who
work out there. I think the report is a way to get people to not come
out here.''

Travis' cafe, filled with UFO lore, is a gathering point for people in
the town of 100, as well as workers at Area 51and the nearby Tonopah
Test Range, where the F-117A operated under a shroud of secrecy for

UFO aficionados claim that research involving space aliens has been
conducted at Area 51.

Travis' daughter, Connie West, 29, reported seeing activity at Area 51
when she and her husband escorted a television crew to a site several
miles from the base two weeks ago.

She said guards flashed spotlights on them as they approached the
restricted area. She said the base lit up briefly, then went dark

``It was like as if someone were turning lights on in a room, then
back off again,'' West said. ``They're still out there, they're still
playing their games. It's mind-boggling what they do out there.''

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