Fighter Sweep

Although the secretive government facility in Nevada’s dry Groom Lake bed, known colloquially as Area 51, is most commonly associated with stories about flying saucers and little green men, the government has acknowledged in recent decades that it was actually the site responsible for testing some of the most advanced aircraft to ever take to the skies. The U-2, SR-71, F-117 and many others can all trace their airborne lineage back to the remote air strip deep in the Nevada desert, and recent satellite imagery has shown that the legendary base has recently seen expansion.

These side by side images of the “Area 51” facility show the recent addition of a large hangar and taxi strip. (Google Earth)

A new hanger and cleaned up airstrip on the grounds of Area 51 would seem to indicate plans to test a new large airframe – one that couldn’t be supported in the base’s existing structures, leading some to postulate that the Air Force may be gearing up to test the forthcoming B-21 Raider, a new stealth bomber platform based on the previous B-2 design. Others have wondered if the SR-72, rumored to be Mach-6 capable craft via newly developed scramjets, may also be slated to see testing at the isolated base, once a prototype is operational.

An estimated 1,000 to 1,500 government employees and military personnel work on the base each day, though if you were to set up surveillance on the nearby roads, you’d never know it. Despite the base bustling with activity, not a single car ever enters or exits the remote location – instead, every employee flies in and out of work aboard plain-looking airplanes from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

JANET Airlines, as they’re called, operates a small fleet of Boeing 737-600 jets with their own terminal at McCarran. The planes, which sport no airline name or logo, are fairly easy to pick out of a crowd thanks to their white paint adorned with a telltale red stripe down the side. JANET also operates two Beechcraft 1900s and three Beechcraft 200Cs, also painted white, but dressed up with blue stripes rather than red.

A Janet 737-200 departing from McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada with the MGM Grand Las Vegas in the background. (Wikimedia Commons)

JANET, which is rumored to stand for “Just Another Non-Existent-Terminal,” but may actually be an acronym for “Joint Air Network for Employee Transportation,” is operated by defense contractor AECOM. Along with the normal requirements expected of any flight attendant, JANET attendent positions also require that candidates qualify for not only a Top Secret security clearance, but likely have to withstand further scrutiny based on the requirements of the position. In other words, JANET staff may be subjected to more thorough vetting than the president’s national security advisors, all to serve coffee to morning commuters.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Alex Hollings Alex Hollings writes on a breadth of subjects ranging from fitness to foreign policy, all presented through the lens of his experiences as a U.S. Marine, athlete and scholar. A football player, rugby player and fighter, Hollings has spent the better part of his adult life competing in some of the most physically demanding sports on the planet. Hollings possesses a master’s degree in communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Corporate and Organizational Communications from Framingham State University.