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On this page: Official Description | History & Field Report | Frequencies | Local Documents | External Links

Basecamp Airfield

"Secret" Auxiliary Airfield in Plain Sight
Presumably Supporting Area 51

Basecamp Airfield is an auxiliary airstrip and support facilities adjacent to Route US-6 about 10 miles northeast of Warm Springs. This is a "secret" facility in plain sight: Signs on the fence say only the "U.S. Government" owns the facility, and personnel there will not divulge any further information. Circumstantial evidence indicates this facility is operated by a government contractor on behalf the Air Force Flight Test Center, probably in support of testing programs at Area 51. Basecamp is in line with the runway at Groom Lake, making it a possible emergency field for aborted take-offs of test aircraft from there.

The Troll in Aggressive Posture
The Troll of Basecamp

Photos of Basecamp

Official Description

Special Nevada Report, the Air Force and DOE's report on planned land use in Nevada, gives this description...

Base Camp and Halligan Mesa

Base Camp and Halligan Mesa are withdrawn by the Air Force and occupy approximately 600 acres in Hot Creek Valley in north central Nye County. Base Camp is located 60 miles east of Tonopah on U.S. 6. A county road passes through Base Camp land. Halligan Mesa is located approximately 15 miles northeast of Base Camp along U.S. Highway 6 and then 3 rniles northwest along a dirt road. There are no proposed changes in ownership, mission, boundaries, or use of Base Camp and Halligan Mesa through the year 2000.

An electronics and communications facility on Halligan Mesa, and an associated support area at Base Camp, are used for collecting data for Air Force testing programs conducted in the vicinity of the Tonopah Test Range (TTR) and the Nellis North Range. Base Camp is used as a staging and support area for field personnel and as a recreation area for military and contractor personnel. Base Camp has a recently extended and improved airstrip, several buildings for sleeping quarters, shop and maintenance buildings, and a recreation building. Base Camp is manned by three to six people. Halligan Mesa is unmanned and a helicopter pad is located near the facility (Source: E. Tilzey, personal communication, 1988).

History & Field Report

Basecamp was once controlled by the Atomic Energy Commission as the base camp for the Project Faultless underground nuclear test to the north. It was later taken over by the Air Force, which built a modern 7300 foot runway. The runway, equipped with modern navigation aids, is shown as "closed" on air charts and is marked with an "X" painted on either end. Adjacent to the southwest end of the runway is a compound of housing a support buildings. The base employs no more than a dozen people, and facilities for aircraft are minimal. There is a well-equipped fire station, and many fire extinguishers are positioned along the runway, but there are no hangars or other places to store aircraft. There appear to be no aircraft at all stationed at this facility.

The support compound is divided in two by a public road, Tybo Road. North of the road is a residential area with several double-wide mobile homes and what look like administration buildings. Here there is a playground set and a gazebo, indicating that children have lived here. (None were apparent, however.) South of Tybo Road is a maintenance compound consisting of the fire station and several large metal buildings. There are about two dozen vehicles parked here, including a treaded vehicle reminiscent of those used on ski slopes. Electricity for the facility is provided by an adjacent transformer substation, fed by power lines along the road.

Measured in the field by GPS, the heading of the airstrip is 29 (NNE), and the length of pavement is 1.38 miles (7285 feet +/-75 feet). The airstrip is freshly paved, and just to the west of the mid-point of the runway is a VOR-TAC navigation beacon. At the south end of the runway, nearest the compound, there is a small tarmac area with a small cinder-block shack and, on last inspection, several parked vehicles. The vehicles include a fuel truck labeled as "Jet Fuel JP-8." There were two portable aviation generators, as would be attached to aircraft after landing. There are no hangers, nor is there any building in the compound with doors big enough to house an aircraft.

Basecamp's location is on open ground adjacent to US-6, so all activities there could be easily observed by motorists. There are few motorists on this remote road, however, so in practice occasional landings there would go unnoticed. The nearest habitation to the south is a hay farm about two miles southwest. The nearest to the north is a Nevada highway maintenance station at Bluejay about 5 miles northeast. No other civilian residence is anywhere close, and the nearest town, Tonopah, is 60 miles away by road.

The runway lines up with a radar dome on a mountaintop about 13 miles northeast, near Sandy Summit on US-6. The land for the radar dome was withdrawn at the same time as the land for Basecamp, in April 1985. The right of way for the road from US-6 to the radar site was withdrawn by "DET 3 AFFTC" providing some circumstantial evidence that AFFTC controls Basecamp.

Basecamp is guarded by a Troll (pictured above) who drives a government vehicle (U.S. Gov. plate 86B7376) but refuses to identify himself. On my visit, he chased me off the public road to Halligan Mesa, claiming it was government property. (Later research revealed that the radar site is closed to the public but not the road to it. Next time, I'll go back with BLM paperwork in hand and have a confrontation.)

-- Based on field survey, 8/5/96


Reader Mike P. writes:
I recon'ed the Basecamp area in '94 & '95. The VORTAC frequency is 113.9 MHz, Morse identifier reads "AEC". This navigational aid is not on any civilian or unclassified military aeronautical charts. I didn't pick up any discrete voice freqs when I was there, but I would monitor Silverbow Approach (272.5, 260.95) as well as Nellis Control (253.4, 338.7, 343.0, 392.1) since it is within the Desert MOA. Another freq. may be 255.4 (?). Also three Air Route Traffic Control Centers' (ARTCC) territories all converge over the area; try monitoring Los Angeles on 343.6, Salt Lake City at 360.8 and Oakland at 319.8.

Note that the "Troll" is holding a radio in his picture above, presumably connecting him with other radios at Basecamp. A frequency counter should be able to grab that freq.

Another reader,, saw our VORTAC photo and writes:

Ah... right.

On 25 Oct 1996, Dave Bethke ( writes:

Local Documents

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External Links

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 Reader Comments Regarding "Basecamp Airfield" - Latest First
tracked vehicle at Base Camp

The comment about the tracked vehicle seen at Base Camp and snow caught my eye. Having worked building these things, I know they are popular as airfield crash rescue vehicles, snow or no snow. They're also useful for construction and maintenance work in areas with no roads, steep slopes, or soft ground. Sounds like Base Camp has ongoing work on-site, or expects visiting aircraft.

-- skywalker ( ) 2/27/99 (#5)
Basecamp Runway

I'm sure Glenn is correct as to the date that Basecamp was withdrawn. However, the runway was there long before 1985. I landed a King Air on the Basecamp runway out of curiousity sometime in 1982, and it was met by three guys in a jeep who invited me to leave very politely. The runway at that time was unmarked and was in reasonably good shape, though clearly not new. It may at one time have been used as some kind of emergency landing field for Dreamland, say, during the U-2 days, but it's far too short for anything more exotic, i.e. SR-71, F-117, etc. Whatever is using the 27,000 feet at dreamland would be traveling at quite a fair clip when it went off the end of the runway ar Basecamp!

-- Colby Blodget ( ) 2/8/99 (#4)
Any tire marks on that runway?

I don't know if smaller planes leave tire marks when they land, but if so someone could get an idea of how much the runway is used by periodically checking.

-- Gene Handler 4/27/98 (#3)

Why in the world do they have a Snowcat at Basecamp? Does it snow there? I think not. At least not deep enough to utilize this vehicle.

-- Michael Hodson ( ) 12/18/97 (#2)

  • It's possible. The elevation is high and winters are highly variable. Debilitating snowstorms are possible. --GC
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Original Text Copyrighted © 1994-99 Glenn Campbell
PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173

Note: The above page has been frozen as of Jan. 1, 2000. It is retained only for archive purposes. Broken links will not be repaired and some information may be out of date.

The former webmaster, Glenn Campbell, is still active at or @BadDalaiLama on Twitter

Created: 8/8/96 gc
Last Modified: 12/1/96 tm.e