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Area 51 | Timeline 2


Area 51 (Groom Lake) Timeline

Part 2 (1966-Present)

March 5, 1966:
First free flight test of the D-21 drone near Point Mugu, launched from a Blackbird out of Groom Lake.

July 30, 1966:
A D-21 drone is launched over Point Mugu, but strikes the A-12 (#135), destroying it. The two crew members eject, but one drowns before being pulled from the sea. All future launches of D-21 were to be done by B-52s.

The Defense Intelligence Agency acquires a MIG 21 which it ships to Groom Lake for testing and names the program "Have Doughnut". This is the start of the ongoing MIG testing program that likely runs to this day.

January 5, 1967:
An A-12 (#125) runs out of fuel 70 miles east of Groom and crashes. The pilot, Ray, ejects, but fails to seperate from the seat and is killed.

January 10, 1967:
The decision is made to phase out the A-12s in favor of the SR-71. The phase out is to be completed by January, 1968.

May 22, 1967:
The first of the A-12s leave Groom for Kadena Air Base on Okinawa for the beginning of "Black Shield", their first operational deployment. "Black Shield" involved reconnaissance flights over North Vietnam.

June 21, 1968:
The last flight of an A-12, #131, was made from Groom to Palmdale and the entire fleet was put in secret storage.

August 28, 1968:
The US Geological Survey snaps an aerial photo of the Groom Lake complex as part of a routine high altitude survey. This photo, since published in numerous places, was available to the public until early 1994, when it was withdrawn from release by the government.

November 16, 1977:
"Have Blue" (#1001), the F-117A Stealth fighter prototype, is shipped to Groom Lake for flight testing.

December 1, 1977:
First flight of the Have Blue at Groom Lake.

May 4, 1978:
The first Have Blue prototype crashes at Groom after its landing gear is damaged and was unable to land.

July 20, 1978:
First flight of the second Have Blue prototype (#1002).

July 11, 1979:
The second Have Blue prototype crashes 35 miles NW of Groom, due to an engine fire.

May, 1981:
First production F-117A is airlifted to Groom for testing.

June 18, 1981:
First flight of the production F-117A Stealth fighter (#780) at Groom.

February, 1982:
First flight of "TACIT BLUE" (demonstrator for stealth technology) at Groom.

April, 1982:
The existence of the A-12 aircraft was finally declassified.

April 20, 1982:
The first production model of the F-117A crashes at Groom during Air Force acceptance tests.

October 15, 1982:
Beginning of acceptance flight tests with second production model of F-117A.

Late 1982:
First Stealth fighter squadron begins moving from Groom into new facilities at the Tonopah Test Range.

April 18, 1983:
Four Greenpeace protestors trespassed just south of Area 51 on a 5 day trek to sneak into the Nevada Test Site.

June, 1983:
First flight of HALSOL at Groom Lake. HALSOL was a solar powered high altitude, UAV. The test program ran two months.

March, 1984:
The Air Force posts armed guards along the access points to the 89,000 acres of public land to the east and north of Groom, expanding the borders. The guards request the public not to enter the area, thus effectively (and apparently illegally) closing the land to public use.

April 26, 1984:
General Robert Bond is killed when the MIG 23 he was flying out of Groom crashes into Little Skull Mountain on the Nevada Test Site.

August, 1984:
In Congressional hearings concerning the land seizure, the Air Force representative (John Rittenhouse) makes the statement that while the Air Force had no legal authority to seize the land (as far as he knew) the decision to do so was made at a much higher level than his. He would only go into the details in a closed session.

Tacit Blue program ends.

December, 1987:
Congress finally authorizes the Air Force's land seizure.

July 17, 1988:
A Soviet spy satellite takes a photo of the Groom Lake area destined for release in a number of publications, including Popular Science and The Lazar Poster.

May, 1989:
Robert Lazar's first interviews are broadcast on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. Lazar states he had been hired to reverse engineer extraterrestrial craft at a facility at Papoose Lake, just southwest of Groom Lake. Lazar's appearance focuses the first widespread public interest on the Groom Lake area.

October 18, 1993:
The Air Force files a notice in the Federal Register seeking to withdraw another 3972 acres from public use to curtail public viewing of the Groom base from Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak.

April, 1994:
Popular Science magazine appears, featuring a satellite photo of the Groom Lake base on its cover and containing a lengthy article on the base and its history, thus igniting mainstream media interest in the facility.

April 10, 1995:
Freedom Ridge and Whitesides Peak are officially closed to all public access.

January, 1996:
The Bechtel Corporation is reported to have begun work lengthening the secondary runway (14L-32R) by 5,000'.

April 1996

TACIT BLUE was declassified and delivered to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, for permanent display.


McDonnell Douglas test pilot Rudy Haug piloted the maiden flight of the "Bird of Prey" (also known as the BoP). The classified technology demonstrator showcased low-observables ("stealth") and lean manufacturing capabilities. Over a three-year period, the "Bird of Prey" completed 38 test flights. The Boeing Company purchased McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and continued funding for the BoP. Besides Haug, the BoP was flown by Air Force test pilot Doug Benjamin and Boeing test pilot Joe Felock.

Spring 1997

Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

Spring 1999

Col. Mark A. Stubben assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

August 1999

There was a large fire, possibly caused by an aircraft accident, on the southern slopes of the Groom Mountains north of Groom Lake.

October 1999

Air Force takes official ownership of Area 51 in a land swap deal, signed by President Clinton.

The white Jeep Cherokee security vehicles are being replaced by Ford F-150's, and later Chevy 2500 4x4 pickup trucks.


The Transient Parking ramp (JANET ramp) was excavated and re-paved.

October 2000

Area 51 North Gate (Back Gate) is upgraded with a chain link fence, double gate and a new guard shack.


F-22A (91-4004) was flown through the Dynamic Coherent Measurement System (DYCOMS) airborne RCS range (known on-site as Project 100 or simply P-100) to verify the low-observable characteristics of the Lockheed Martin F/A-22A Raptor .

All but two of the original tanks in the fuel farm were removed and two new large tanks were installed.

April 2001

Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

The South Delta Taxiway was marked as Runway 12/30. It is approximately 5,420-feet-long and 150-feet-wide, with convenient access to the Southend ramp. Runway 14R/32L was closed in its entirety.

December 2001

DET 3 security personnel from EG&G Technical Services went on strike for two days, citing low wages and excessive amounts of overtime in the three months since the terrorist strikes in September. Supervisors were forced to man posts vacated by the 70 striking guards.

Early 2003

Construction of the two new fuel tanks is completed.

A new Center Taxiway, providing access to Runway 14L/32R, is constructed. It includes a new access way to Hangar 19 (the "Scoot-n-Hide shed"). Construction is completed by July 2003.

Spring 2003

Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.


The Southend ramp in front of Hangars 9 through 16 was similarly replaced in the summer of 2003.

March 2004

A Beech 1900 (N27RA), operated by EG&G, crashed on a flight from Groom to TTR. The civilian pilot, David D. Palay, and passengers Derrick L. Butler, Michael A. Izold, Daniel M. Smalley, and Roy A. Van Voorhis (contractors with JT3 LLC) perished.

May 2004

The 413th Flight Test Squadron was inactivated as part of a consolidation and realignment of EW assets.

Spring 2005

Col. ??? assigned as commander of DET 3, AFFTC.

50th Anniversary of establishment of Groom Lake test facility.

Part 1 (1955-1965)



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