What Exactly is Area 51?

Mukesh Yadav
3 min readMar 9, 2022


The common name for the United States Air Force base in Las Vegas is Area 51. It is located 85 miles or 135 kilometres north of Las Vegas in Groom Lake, a dry lake bed in the Nevada Desert. Near it are two other restricted military zones: the Nevada Test Site, where US nuclear weapons were tested in the 1900s, and the Nevada Test and Training Area.

According to the US military, Area 51 is a flexible and multidimensional base to perform testing, strategy development, and advanced training. The entire range encompasses about 2.9 million acres of land and has runways as long as 12,000 feet. It was originally known as “Paradise Ranch” in order to make the facility appear more appealing to individuals who work there, however, the name was shortened to “the Ranch”. In fact, other names for the area include “Watertown” and “Dreamland”. Area 51 receives its name from its geographical location. You can see warning signs, electronic surveillance, and armed guards outside the region to keep the general people at bay. Furthermore, the government forbids people from flying above the military base, even though the facility is visible in satellite images.

Why was it constructed?

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union established Area 51 as a testing and development site for aircrafts, notably the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird surveillance planes. However, even though it first opened in 1955, the CIA only formally recognized its existence in August 2013. In fact, President Obama became the first US president to publicly reference the base, four months after the CIA’s disclosure.

What’s going on these days?

Despite the lack of public information, people believe that the US military continues to employ Area 51 to build and test cutting-edge aircraft technology. Around 1,500 people work on the base, with many travelling via charter planes from Las Vegas.

Why are there conspiracy theories surrounding Area 51?

Area 51 has fueled conspiracy theorists for decades, well before the time the US government formally acknowledged it. Moreover, it is one of the most enigmatic and secretive bases, which contributes to the public curiosity about the region. The crazy theories did not begin till 1989 when a guy called Bob Lazar claimed that he had worked at the air force base to reverse engineer a wrecked alien spaceship.

Experts believe that the allegations are similar to every other conspiracy theory in history. According to psychologist Karen Douglas of the University of Kent in England, nearly all conspiracy theories satisfy three basic needs. Firstly, they provide understanding and certainty. Second, they create a sense of control and security, and lastly, they improve a believer’s self-image. With Area 51, all three requirements are met.

Furthermore, humans, on the whole, can’t stand nagging ambiguity. Therefore any explanation to a riddle, no matter how crazy, is preferable to none at all. As a result, there is a better sense of security and knowing. Alas, the theories behind the region might be just that, theories. It came from the vivid imagination of the people coupled with science fiction trying to masquerade as reality.

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