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Area 51 Secrets Revealed in Newly-Released Classified Documents

By Michael Mullins   |   Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 07:08 AM

Area 51 documents released last month reveal a little more of what the government has for decades concealed behind one of its most top-secret facilities. Spoiler alert: there is no mention of flying saucers or aliens from another planet.

The declassified documents, which date mostly from the early 1960s into the 1970s, reveal the government's attempt to develop a stealth aircraft at the installation and its concerns over how much the former Soviet Union could observe of Area 51 from orbiting satellites, Space.com reported.

Also revealed in the documents is a debate between government officials over a photograph "inadvertently" taken aboard the Skylab space station in 1974 by NASA astronauts and whether or not it should be made available to the public.

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In addition to the stealth capability research being conducted at Area 51, the documents also revealed the government's covert acquisition of Soviet MiG fighter jets. The jets were extensively analyzed by U.S. engineers to better under their performance abilities and limitations, as well as what their greatest vulnerabilities were so to assist U.S. fighter pilots during combat.

In keeping with the cold war theme the declassified Area 51 documents also reveal the government's rationale for photographing Area 51 from far above in 1962 as a means by which to assess what the Soviet Union could observe from their Sputnik satellite if at the time it possessed imaging capabilities.

The exercise would provide "a pretty fair idea of what deductions and conclusions could be made by the Soviets should Sputnik 13 have a reconnaissance capability," the memorandum explained.

The government reportedly used either a then-classified CORONA reconnaissance satellite or a high-flying U-2 spy plane to take the photos.

It was later learned that the Soviets at the time were able to view the airfields from their orbiting satellite.

American space historian Dwayne Day, who has written about Area 51, told Space.com that despite the Soviet's capabilities, the U.S. government was aware of their satellites orbit and could easily avoid their top-secret aircraft being photographed by moving them inside a structure.

"But, of course, the CIA knew the flight paths of Soviet satellites, and they would avoid having their aircraft in the open when satellites were overhead," Day told Space.com. "The best form of concealment is a big hangar where you can park all your planes."

In total more than 60 declassified documents on Area 51 file were posted on the Internet by the National Security Archive late last month, Space.com reported.

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The actual physical archive of the documents is located at Washington D.C.'s George Washington University, where they've been compiled and edited by archive senior fellow Jeffrey Richelson.

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