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Project OXCART Declassified From Area 51 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the tommy-lee-jones-comes-forward dept.
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the LA Times: "... the myths of Area 51 are hard to dispute if no one can speak on the record about what actually happened there. Well, now, for the first time, someone is ready to talk ... Colonel Hugh 'Slip' Slater, 87, was commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s. Edward Lovick, 90, featured in 'What Plane?' in LA's March issue, spent three decades radar testing some of the world's most famous aircraft (including the U-2, the A-12 OXCART and the F-117). Kenneth Collins, 80, a CIA experimental test pilot, was given the silver star. Thornton 'T.D.' Barnes, 72, was an Area 51 special-projects engineer. And Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels."
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Project OXCART Declassified From Area 51

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  • by conner_bw (120497) * on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:32PM (#27564585) Homepage Journal

    I WANT TO BELIEVE

    Unfortunately there's nothing about aliens in there. So it looks like a good old fashion book burning is in order! Unfortunately, it's a website.

    Sincerely,

    A cautionary allegory.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Write a book on gayness in area 51 and sell it on amazon.
      • by Nasajin (967925) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:45PM (#27564687)
        Pffffff... The gay bomb was declassified years ago [wikipedia.org].
        • Oh, gawds! I was hoping that article would be a stub with no references or citations, but alas, it's true!. Sadly, my government was really that stupid!

          ugh.

          I'm leaving now.

          • by Raenex (947668)

            I was hoping that article would be a stub with no references or citations, but alas, it's true!

            Reminds me of the The Nude Bomb [wikipedia.org].

          • by RuBLed (995686)
            If you ask me the concept behind the gay bomb, sweating bomb, flatulence bomb, etc are to lower the enemy's morale, so they are not stupid by any means, funny but not stupid.

            Well I guess that the gay bomb might not have worked out considering that it could potentially booster the morale of the enemy troops and eagerly protect their loved ones.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by rarity (165626)

              Well I guess that the gay bomb might not have worked out considering that it could potentially booster the morale of the enemy troops and eagerly protect their loved ones.

              Well, it worked in Sparta. And you didn't mess with the Spartans

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They've been cleared to not talk about the aliens.

      • Notice how there were no pictures in the article? They have been possesed by aliens and now they are going to spread the alien around the world! I'm off to Alaska, cause aliens are cold blooded
    • by Trailwalker (648636) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:37PM (#27564631)
      The answer is in Area 42, but you must bring your own towel.
    • It's all bollocks! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:39PM (#27564643)
      Any aliens sufficiently advanced to be able to travel to Earth from another planet, would be able to hide themselves......

      Nuff said
    • Yes but that's area 51. Area 51A might have aliens. Unfortunately, the location of area 51A is also classified.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JWSmythe (446288) *

            I have been cleared to state, there may or may not be an Area 51A. I cannot confirm nor deny the designation, purpose, or location, should such a location exist.

            I hope that clarifies things for you.

            Our next statement on the issue will come in 50 years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bcmm (768152)
      The real conspiracy theory is that that is where the USA tests it's illegal weapons. After all, the U-2 was developed there to be used for illegal overflights, and it's existence was only discovered because the Soviets shot one down (and only then after denials coming right from the top). Seen that way, it starts to look reasonably likely that much worse things have been developed there.
    • by siddesu (698447)

      This is exactly the attitude the evil social engineering masterminds behind these stories are shooting for.

      The truth is out there, except you blind fools cannot see it, because of the wool the mass media and the government pull over your eyes.

      Ah well ... it is hopeless.

  • by Inominate (412637) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:36PM (#27564621)

    For those unfamiliar, the A-12 is more commonly known as the SR-71. It's not exactly the same aircraft, the SR-71 being the later development, but anyone looking at an A-12 would immediately recognize it as an SR-71.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:41PM (#27564651)

      The A-12 was a successor to the U-2 and precursor to the SR-71. The A-12 project ended in '68. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_A-12

    • by jhesse (138516) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:41PM (#27564657) Homepage

      A-12: CIA-flown single-seater
      SR-71: Air Force-flown two-seater

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by NeutronCowboy (896098)

        What? Every source out there lists the SR-71 as a single-seater plane, with a few two-seater planes existing for training purposes. The A-12 was the designation for the CIA version, while SR-71 was the official designation of the final plane. Not to mention that I highly doubt that the CIA actually flew those planes. The SR-71 might have been flying recon for the CIA, but I just don't know many test pilots in the CIA.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Loadmaster (720754)

          http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/barrier/machines.html [pbs.org]

          Relevant text:

          The two-seat SR-71 was developed in the early 1960s by the U.S. Air Force as a strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by jhesse (138516)

          I refer you to:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71#Specifications_.28SR-71A.29 [wikipedia.org]
          Where it says:
                  Crew:2

          (not going to bother to look up the primary sources)

          • by JWSmythe (446288) *

            It's easier to count the windows [photosynth.net].

            I personally shot these photos. But hey, it could be disinformation. They wouldn't let me take it out for a test flight. We did notice that the engines were still in it, so it hasn't been completely sanitized as a museum piece, just put in air conditioned storage.

            I was considering how to taxi it out. They left too much stuff in the way, and I was short just about one ground crew to get it moving properly.

        • Nevermind - looks like I didn't read the sources close enough. I'm still wondering though how the CIA got its hands on pilots for those things. Yes, you can just hire Air Force pilots, but then - why not just let the Air Force do what it's supposed to do... fly planes?

          • by jhesse (138516) on Monday April 13, 2009 @08:16PM (#27565011) Homepage

            The book "Skunk Works" by Ben Rich discussed a lot of this.
            Basically, they hired AF pilots (on loan or retired). This stuff was all very top-secret and the CIA didn't want it to be widespread knowledge in the Air Force.

            They did this for the U-2 program too, which was a CIA initiated aircraft.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by jshackney (99735)

              Sled Driver [amazon.com] is pilot-centric.

            • by dbIII (701233)

              This stuff was all very top-secret and the CIA didn't want it to be widespread knowledge in the Air Force.

              Obviously. They certainly didn't want the professionals to know that military aircraft were being sent around under amateur command by a bunch of uncontrolled spooks.

          • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:29PM (#27565497)

            Basically what it gets down to is the more people who are in on something, the more likely information leaks out. Now as with any large government bureaucracy, when you involve another arm of the government, you get even more people than just those you needed. I mean if you go to the Air Force and secretly hire away some pilots, well then very few people even know that anything has happened, and all they know is that the CIA wants some flyboys. If you have the AF run it, well now you have all kinds of additional people who know about it.

            A big part of keeping secrets is compartmentalizing information, and restricting access to the minimum amount of people.

            • ...all they know is that the CIA wants some flyboys.

              I would be surprised if they have never hired pilots or other specialists that people will notice being gone for a few days, and didn't use them; just for the misdirection.

          • by sjames (1099)

            - why not just let the Air Force do what it's supposed to do... fly planes?

            Because the CIA is/was a paranoid operation and if the Air Force flew the missions, the CIA wouldn't have an exclusive on the intelligence gathered.

          • The CIA operated the A-12 because of the political ramifications about a military aircraft invading the airspace of the USSR, which was a hold over from the original U-2 operations - ironic when you consider that the A-12 or the SR-71 never conducted USSR overflights.
        • by cvos (716982) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:49PM (#27565935) Homepage Journal
          This video about the secret history of silicon valley explains some of the technology behind electronic warfare, radar imaging, and secret air force planes. The content relevant to this article appears around the 30min mark.

          E.T. believers will find nothing interesting, however military computer geeks will find it orgasmic.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTC_RxWN_xo [youtube.com]

      • by Inominate (412637)

        Exactly why I qualified it as being "not exactly the same aircraft". The SR-71 is essentially a stretched variant.

      • A-12: CIA-flown single-seater

        Actually, at least one variant of the A-12 had two seats... although I think it is the one they blew up testing the drone.

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:40PM (#27564647) Homepage Journal

    " . . . half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels."

    That's no mean trick. They condensed the stuff from the souls of mutilated cattle. The bovine victims stark terror at being lifted up into a saucer (in reality an airship coated with radium paint and filled with below-zero-ground state Helium) crewed by airmen dressed as alien "Greys" increased the fuel's specific impulse by nearly 30%.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by idontgno (624372)

      increased the fuel's specific impulse by nearly 30%

      That would make that fuel-development program much more successful than the borane fuel [wikipedia.org] the Air Force was looking at the B-70 program [wikipedia.org].

      BTW your joke didn't "Whoosh" because it was going supersonic. More like "BOoooooommmm!"

  • OXCART (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcmm (768152) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:43PM (#27564675)
    I always found the name "OXCART" creepy, because of the famous von Neumann quote "I am not sure that the miserable thing can work, nor that it can be gotten to the target except by oxcart", referring to the weight of the atom bomb.
    • Re:OXCART (Score:5, Informative)

      by bcmm (768152) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:45PM (#27564691)
      Oppenheimer quote, rather. Got confused as it was reprinted in a book about von Neumann.
    • by EdZ (755139)
      That may not be entirely coincidental. I once read (in a book, hence no hyperlink) that an A-12 variant was designed, and 3 test aircraft modified, for use as a high-altitude interceptor. This was later scrapped in favour of increasingly effective SAMs, but if the program was continued an FB could potentially have followed the F.
      • Re:OXCART (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LenE (29922) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @01:34AM (#27566799) Homepage

        You are referring to the YF-12A, which did fly and successfully launch an air-to-air guided missle, while flying at mach 3.2 at 74,000 feet, hitting a target drone flying at 500 feet altitude. Amazing, given the state of electronics and guidance technology at the time. Hell, all of the technology for the A-12 / YF-12 / SR-71 is still amazing today.

        Anyway, the YF-12 was acknowledged and publicized so it could be used as a cover for the similar A-12 and follow-on RS-71 planes. It wasn't much of a stretch to think that we had ever-faster interceptors, but a stratospheric, Mach 3+ spy plane? That was science fiction. The RS-71 was re-named the SR-71 after Lyndon Johnson flubbed the name on live television. They changed all drawings and documents for the program, an amazingly expensive waste of tax-payers dollars, just so that no one would have to correct the Commander in Chief.

        -- Len

        • The RS-71 was re-named the SR-71 after Lyndon Johnson flubbed the name on live television. They changed all drawings and documents for the program, an amazingly expensive waste of tax-payers dollars, just so that no one would have to correct the Commander in Chief.

          No.

          "Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay preferred the SR (Strategic Reconnaissance) designation and wanted the RS-71 to be named SR-71. Before the July speech, LeMay lobbied to modify Johnson's speech to read SR-71 instead of RS-71. The media transcript given to the press at the time still had the earlier RS-71 designation in places, creating the myth that the president had misread the aircraft's designation."
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71_Blackbird [wikipedia.org]

          Furthermore, all the materials at the time we

      • The YF-12A was scrapped because of the lack of a requirement for a Mach 3 interceptor - neither sides Mach 3 bombers made it to production, so the need to intercept them evaporated.
  • I believe it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by schmidt349 (690948) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:50PM (#27564741)

    If you were a government agency in charge of secret weapons testing, what better cover could you possibly come up with than implausibility? It may not have fooled the Soviets, but it sure fooled the American public. Nowadays Area 51 is usually mentioned in the same breath as JFK and Elvis' retirement community.

    It would be interesting to check the Soviet archives and see what they thought was going on in Area 51.

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:04PM (#27565365)

      Really, it wasn't any secret among the American public (the non consparicy nuts that is) for some time that it is a flight test facility. The Soviets likely had an easy time telling that from satellite shots. So they likely had no trouble figuring out this was a testbed for US planes. By the secrecy surrounding it, they probably had no trouble figuring out it was for secret planes.

      As for the specifics, I imagine not unless they got a spy in there. All the projects that have so far been declassified in terms of secret craft, like the U2, were quite effective at being secret from the public during their development.

      I imagine if one were allowed complete access to the classified American records of the facility you'd discover that yes, it is just an aircraft testing facility that has worked with lots of neat planes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:53PM (#27564765)

    I think there was a typo in the article, it reads:

    "And Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels."

    I think it is suppose to read:

    And harry MARTIAN #77 was one of the little green men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of flying saucer fuel."

  • by WindowlessView (703773) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:54PM (#27564777)

    Who cares about Area 51? Everyone knows the Stargates are in Cheyenne Mountain and antarctica.

    • The NID is at Area 51. All the cool toys SG1 brings back go there.
      • by tgd (2822)

        No, not the NID -- that was just another branch of the Airforce, but the NID had their fingers in it from time to time.

        Remember, Carter worked at Area 51 for a while.

  • Regardless (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Monday April 13, 2009 @07:54PM (#27564781)
    Regardless of what comes out it won't really change anything. The Area 51 mythos is to ingrained for conspiracy buffs to give it up. After all if Area 51 was just a secret government facility for planes, then what about everything else that was a cover up/conspiracy.
    • I am willing to believe there was more going on there than just planes, but I don't think it was aliens or alien spacecraft. Probably some weapons testing, stealth blimps, etc.
  • by jd (1658)

    Part of the problem is that only this one program is being declassified. There's no indication that this is the only project that would meet the 50-year rule. That is going to provide added fuel to the conspiracy nuts, because there is now confirmation about the infrastructure. It's not enough to say "project X took place" when it is near-certain there'd be dozens of projects being worked on in tandem.

    Of course, TFA makes it clear that the problems are largely of the Government's own making. Denying a site

    • If you want to hide something that is in plain sight, the LAST thing you want to do is be seen trying to keep it out of sight. Call it a launch-pad for target balloons for night-fighter practice, if you like.

      If you want to hide something in plain sight, the first thing you want is an interesting distraction. Area 51 would have served nicely for that, since everyone was convinced the government was covering something up there....

  • So we have guys who were actually working at Area 51 and say there were no ETs or ET technology there.

    Will this debunk any conspiracy theory?

    No.

    The axioms upon which the conspiracy theories are established will be protected. The theorists will interpret reality so as to protect their cherished axioms. The theorists will just say that these men are part of the cover up and that their declaration is in fact proof of ETs at Area 51.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      It's not meant to debunk any crazy theories. Despite the self-importance that conspiracy theorists like to ascribe to themselves, the government really doesn't give a damn what they think.

      The reason this information is being released is because it's classified status has finally expired, and a few of the people who worked on these projects are happy to finally be able to tell others about them. That's it, that's all. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were part of the development team for the SR-71, yo

    • You are absolutely right. Elvis told me a year ago that this story would be released to debunk the conspiracy theories.

      I remember the conversation clearly. We were flying in a black helicopter on our way to the grassy knoll in Dallas (he likes to walk around there every November). He said the aliens really liked the idea of tying the UFO sightings to a spy plane being tested.

      After all, we all know that the complete lack of evidence of a conspiracy is the best evidence that the conspiracy is still working

  • Is anyone else dissapointed? Not that there were no aliens, or super-secret spyplanes, but that the mystery is lost? Area 51 was the fuel for imagination, the "what if" moments that it gave rise to. I, for one, shall miss the curiosity and sence of wonder when looking at the photographs and just imagining....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      Area 51 was the fuel for imagination, the "what if" moments that it gave rise to

      It stopped being fuel for my imagination right about the time I turned 14, and realized that most of the theories were complete garbage.

      If you want to fuel your imagination, buy yourself a telescope and gaze into the heavens. The universe can inspire more awe and wonder than any crazy theory made up about a nondescript patch of desert in the middle of the US.

    • by dido (9125)

      Not that there were no aliens, or super-secret spyplanes,

      Wel, indeed there were no aliens, but the place was apparently full of super-secret spy planes, among other cutting-edge military and espionage aircraft. All the R&D that went into the U-2 and the A-12 OXCART (which eventually became the SR-71 Blackbird as others here have noted), was done at Area 51, as was that for the F-117. That seems to have been the whole raison d'être for the facility's existence, and for the obsessive (and rather p

  • by IHC Navistar (967161) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:21PM (#27565449)

    Why is it that conspiracy theorists love to believe that:

    1. All unidentifiable flying objects are of extraterrestrial origin?

    2. Highly-Secure (as opposed to 'secret') military installations have alien bodies and extraterrestrial spacecraft?

    3. Mysterious animals in the Pacific Northwest are all Sasquatches.

    4. Unexplained technologies are of extraterrestrial origin.

    It's amazing how people sometimes refuse to acknowledge that there is an EXTREMELY SLIM CHANCE that any of these have actually occurred, yet continue to claim that they happen all the time.

    Just because something cannot be explained in now way validates the fantasies of conspiracy theorists.

  • Ben Rich's book, Skunk Works, his memoir of working at Lockheed and eventually directing the Skunk Works, mentions OXCART as the A-12's code name. It also discusses the test area (not using name "Area 51," but by the well-known alias "Paradise Ranch"), and a variety of other interesting projects from both the Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich eras at SW. The U-2, A-12 and SR-71 Blackbirds, and the F-117 are discussed in surprising detail.

    Fun fact: the A-12 (CIA Blackbird) was retired and the SR-71 two-seater versi

  • Nothng new here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday April 13, 2009 @09:31PM (#27565517) Homepage

    Most of this info is in Ben Rich's book, "Skunk Works". The story doesn't have much if any new information. The SR-71 story is well known, and there's one at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. (They have the engineering documents for it, too, which can be seen on request.) Most of the stealth aircraft were tested at Area 51.

    There are other sites "near" Area 51. Jackass Flats was a well known nuclear test area in the 1950s. (You can't really hide atmospheric nuclear testing.) The Sedan crater [google.com], from a nuclear test, is in that area. It's interesting to look at the area in Google Maps. There are all sorts of little abandoned installations in the Nellis Bombing Range area.

    Back in the 1980s, the Lockheed Skunk Works ran a small ad in Aviation Week. It said only "If you missed out on this one (picture of U-2) and on this one (picture of SR-71) how'd you like to get in on the next one? Lockheed Skunk Works, Burbank, CA." That's how you got into stealth aircraft.

    There's still a big USAF black budget, and it doubled during the Bush years. The question is whether much useful is coming out.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrKaos (858439)

      There's still a big USAF black budget, and it doubled during the Bush years. The question is whether much useful is coming out.

      If the US was operating the SR-71 Blackbird, an aircraft that is using 25% of it's engine power, to *cruise* at mach 3 almost 40 years ago I would have little doubt that it's replacement is at least twice as fast. One thing is for certain I doubt we will know what the actual capabilities are for another couple of decades.

      This replacement aircraft is allegedly the SR-91 [tinwiki.org] Aurora. I r

  • by jonwil (467024) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:01PM (#27565657)

    Anyone who saw a U2 or SR71 or F117 or other "black" aircraft flying around in the airspace near Area 51 would not have recognized what it was unless they has a security clearance. Ergo, to the general public, all of these "black" aircraft would (at the time they were being tested at Area 51 and before the public knew about it) have been Unidentified Flying Objects.
    Whether there has ever been aliens at Area 51 is another matter altogether.

  • by homesnatch (1089609) on Monday April 13, 2009 @10:25PM (#27565779)
    The truth comes out, but was hard to find in the article...

    Colonel Hugh 'Slip' Slater, 87, was commander of the Area 51 base in the 1960s. Thornton 'T.D.' Barnes, 72, was an Area 51 special-projects engineer. Xorbz Blazzeet, 179, from the Orion system was dissected and stored in an Area 51 freezer for 16 years. And Harry Martin, 77, was one of the men in charge of the base's half-million-gallon monthly supply of spy-plane fuels.
  • Since the government has been lying about this one for the past 50 years, and making up all sorts of inane shite to cover, if they don't outright deny it, am I supposed to believe this? Thus they have done their job of cloaking it in secrecy for the ages.

    Of course, this explanation is entirely plausable, and I've suspected that it was pretty much what was going on. Of course, I can never know for sure, because this could just be yet more misinformation.

  • This seems more like "some dude gives an interview" rather than "officially declassified by the government"...?

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