A lot of large employers have private jets to ferry their top employees around the country. Some have fleets of multiple aircraft. So it kind of makes sense that the world’s largest employer (the U.S. Department of Defense) would have its own airline and secret private terminals at select airports for those special VIPs. For the select few that need to be carried to the DoD’s most sensitive installations the Department of the Air Force operates Janet: the airline by and for secret squirrel personnel around the United States.
Janet, jokingly known as “Just Another Non-Existent Terminal,” flies a fleet of Boeing 737-600s to a very select handful of cities. There are a few attractive vacation destinations, although no one flying aboard will be doing any vacationing there. Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, and Santa Barbara are among them. The airline also flies to Dayton, Ohio, Alamogordo, New Mexico, and Palmdale, California.
There are also a lot of destinations you can get to aboard Janet that you can’t get anywhere else: Area 51, Tonopah Testing Range, and any number of military bases.
Not a lot is known about Janet, other than the fact that the airline exists at all. Its main terminal is located at Harry Reid International Airport, the planes themselves are largely unmarked (save for a red line around the fuselage), and that it runs through the Department of the Air Force taking military personnel and contractors to secret locations.
One might wonder why the Air Force would feel the need to conceal who’s traveling to these top secret locales, especially when its main airport is in one of America’s top short-term visit destinations. It just so happens that a lot of secret squirrel stuff happens nearby. But there’s actually a lot of open-source intelligence to be gleaned from travelers.
Traveler manifests and taxi receipts could reveal a lot about who’s going where. Foreign intelligence operatives can simply follow a target through a crowded terminal and in the streets to see where they’re going, then capture and debrief them later. Taking a secret airline to a secret terminal for secret travel to a secret base makes it easier for people working on special projects to safeguard their identity and their work.
Protecting these assets is so important to the Air Force that even the flight attendants on Janet are not only required to be trained flight attendants, they have to acquire a top secret security clearance. Like anyone else getting a clearance, they are evaluated for their finances, sexual behavior, and susceptibility to foreign influence.
Janet began its life back in 1972, with just one DC-6. By 1976, it was why two of those aircraft and in the early 1980s acquired a fleet of Boeing 737-200s. Its current fleet of Boeing 737-600s were purchased from Air China in 2008.
Leaving from Las Vegas, a Janet aircraft takes off with the call sign Janet and its flight number. Once it enters the airspace controlled by Nellis Air Force Base, it enters “Special Use Airspace,” advising Janet to change its radio frequency, but not revealing what frequency that is – the pilot already knows. Its call sign also changes to something seemingly random as it heads off into the unknown through the world’s most restricted airspace.
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