The enigmatic Area 51 in the Nevada desert is synonymous with clandestine activities, aliens and unexplained events for many UFO enthusiasts.
However, a new report claims mysterious aircraft shapes associated with the top-secret base were actually "false" prototypes created to confuse Russian satellites.
To be sure, one of the highly classified initiatives carried out in Area 51 was the OXCART project (1950-1960) whose aim was to develop the next U-2 spy plane.
Eventually, the Pentagon realized that Soviet spy satellites were actually surveying the base, prompting military brass to scramble for a solution to avoid such intrusive surveillance.
Area 51 personnel subsequently formulated a highly accurate schedule to calculate precisely when the satellites were due to fly over the area.
This allowed the military to continue testing the OXCART prototypes, which were hoisted on tall poles and moved to specially constructed "hoot-and-scoot" sheds moments before Soviet satellites overflew the area.
"That made the job very difficult, very difficult," Former Area 51 procurement manager Jim Freedman told National Geographic.
"To start working on the aircraft and then have to run it back into the hangar and then pull it out and then put it in and then pull it out—it [got] to be quite a hassle."
Nevertheless, the Soviets managed to create an OXCART plane sketch using infrared images to detect the difference in ground temperature which had been left behind by the plane’s shadow.
"It's like a parking lot," explained T.D. Barnes, a former hypersonic flight specialist at Area 51.
"After all the cars have left you can still see how many were parked there [in infrared] because of the difference in ground temperatures."
As such, Area 51 personnel constructed fake planes out of cardboard and other materials (which were "scooted") to cast confusing shadows for the Soviets, while firing up heaters near imaginary engine locations to create misleading heat signatures.
The result? The successful completion of the Archangel-12, or A-12, which many believe to be the first stealth plane.
It was capable of traveling over 2,000 miles an hour (3,220 kilometers an hour) and cross the continental U.S. in 70 minutes - all while snapping pictures tfrom an altitude of 90,000 feet (27,430 meters).
Interestingly enough, the A-12 never flew over the USSR and was decommissioned after only a year in service as its successor, the the SR-71 Blackbird, was deemed far superior.
Still, the gleaming titanium A-12 aircraft participated in some 2,850 top-secret test flights - which undoubtedly helped propagate persistent UFO rumors.
[Via National Geographic]