When the Air Force has looked to test out cutting-edge technology, like the U-2 Dragon Lady, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk, they have had one piece of real estate they turn to. It's an air base whose existence was denied until 2013. In the 1996 film Independence Day, the rumors about alien technology being tested at what was the DOD's biggest open secret were used as a plot point.
Yeah, we're talking about Groom Lake, also known as Homey Airport, Dreamland, or Area 51. According to a report by the Aviationist, the latest in a long line of high-tech aircraft to be tested there could be the upcoming B-21 Raider. A bomber being tested here? Well, author Dale Brown did have a bomber get tested at Groom Lake, a kick-ass B-52 called the Megafortress in Flight of the Old Dog and sequels like Night of the Hawk and Sky Masters.
Artist rendering of B-21 Raider bomber. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)
Construction has been going on at the air base, to include a massive new hangar, estimated to be 250 feet by 275 feet. Two weapon storage areas have been built at the air base, which is officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range and has been closed to the public.
Other programs that could be tested at Groom Lake include the RQ-180, an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions. This vehicle has a range of over 2,400 miles and can fly as high as 40,000 feet, according to MilitaryFactory.com. In the past, the base has also been used to test some Soviet-era planes that were "acquired" by the United States and/or its allies in one fashion or another.
One piece of "alien" technology tested in the Nevada desert was the MiG-21 Fishbed in this 1968 photo. (USAF photo)
The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 bombers to replace the Air Force's inventory of B-1B Lancers. The effort to develop the B-21, previously known s Long-Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, comes as Russian compliance with a number of arms control treaties appears to be non-existent, prompting the United States to begin development of a ground-launched cruise missile.