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Explained: What is Area 51?

What is this US facility, where aliens supposedly visit? What to make of the ‘plan’ by 2 mn people to storm it?

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: September 20, 2019 11:01:31 am
Area 51, Area 51 in us, facebook event storm Area 51, US Air Force facility area 51, express explained The Alien Research Center, a retail souvenir shop located near the military testing base known as Area 51 in Rachel, Nevada. (The New York Times: Isaac Brekken)

On September 20, at 3 am Pacific Daylight Time (3.30 pm IST), some two million people plan — or claim to plan — to storm a US Air Force facility called Area 51. On a Facebook event titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of us”, two million people have clicked “attending” and another 1.4 million have clicked “interested”.

A 38,400-acre facility, Area 51 is in Southern Nevada. Officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range, Area 51 is part of the Nellis Air Force Base and is used as a training centre for the US Air Force. The name originates from its location of the Nevada map.

Area 51 and conspiracy theories 

With the facility shrouded in secrecy, several conspiracy theories have emerged over the years. Several Americans believed it was where the government hid bodies of aliens and UFOs, some believed it was where the government held “meetings” with extraterrestrials, and others speculated it was where the government developed “time travel”technology.

The CIA, according to official documents, has been using the facility since 1955 to develop and test supersonic aircraft and stealth fighter jets. It was only in 2013 that the CIA published declassified documents admitting that the Area 51 is a secret military site. This was following a Freedom of Information request filed in 2005 by Dr Jeffrey T Richelson, a senior fellow at the George Washington University National Security Archive.

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A Facebook event on Area 51

As the announcement about the planned storming gained popularity online, the US Air Force issued a statement warning against any attempt to enter the high security premises. “Area 51 is an open training range for the US Air Force, and we would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces. The US Air Force always stands ready to protect America and its assets,” said the statement, as quoted by The Washington Post.

It is unlikely that people will be able to enter Area 51, which is heavily guarded round the clock. The airspace above the facility is also out of bounds for civilian aircraft and special permission is required before flying through its airspace.

Those behind the Facebook event, too, have made it clear that they have no intention of entering the facility and it was a mere joke. A pinned post on the Facebook event page now has a clarification: “Hello US government, this is a joke, and I do not actually intend to go ahead with this plan. I just thought it would be funny and get me some thumbsy uppies on the internet.”

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