The CIA has officially acknowledged
the secret US test site known as Area
51, in a newly unclassified internal
history of the U-2 spy plane
The document obtained by a US
university describes the 1955 acquisition
of the Nevada site for testing of the
secret spy plane.
It also explains the site's lingering
association with UFOs and aliens.
The remote patch of desert surrounding
Groom Lake was chosen because it was
adjacent to a nuclear testing facility.
"The U-2 was absolutely top secret,"
Chris Pocock, a British defence journalist
and author of histories of the
programme, told the BBC.
"They had to hide everything about it."
The U-2 plane, developed to spy on the
Soviet Union during the Cold War, is still
flown by the US Air Force.
Reports of UFOs
The document, an internal CIA history of
the U-2 programme, was originally
declassified in 1998 with heavy
Many of the blacked-out details were
revealed this month after a public
records request by the National Security
Archive at the George Washington
University in Washington DC.
While a lengthy account of the
development of the U-2 spy plane
programme, the history also attempts to
shed light on the public's fascination with
the Area 51 site and its lingering
associations with extra-terrestrials and
It notes that testing of the U-2 plane in
the 1950s - at altitudes much higher
than commercial aeroplanes flew then -
provoked "a tremendous increase in
reports of unidentified flying objects
"At this time, no one believed manned
flight was possible about 60,000 feet, so
no one expected to see an object so high
in the sky," note authors Gregory
Pedlow and Donald Welzenbach.
The original request for the reacted
portions of the history was made in
2005. It was released to the National
Security Archive several weeks ago.