The Central Intelligence Agency founded Area 51 to develop the revolutionary high-flying U-2 reconnaissance plane. Area 51 becomes a station for the Central Intelligence Agency’s newly formed Directorate of Science and Technology initiated to develop a successor to the U-2 Angel. Under Dr. Bud Wheelon, the Science and Technology Directorate making up the CIA’s 5th discipline for intelligence gathering, the CIA recruited specialists to form a special project team to design the A-12 Archangel as America’s first stealth plane. The CIA underwent many trials and tribulations using slide rule technology to successfully build and fly the highest and fastest plane operationally ever. The A-12 reconnaissance program ends when the US Air Force becomes operational with the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance plane.
By this time, the CIA’s Science and Technology Directorate has assembled a special projects team at Area 51 like no other in the world. Knowing that it will soon be out of the aerial reconnaissance business, the CIA had already made its unique facilities at the Area 51 station into a business of continuing with stealth development. It already had a new project needed by customers starting with the US Air Force and the Navy. Thus, the Area 51 station began the exploitation of the Soviet MiG planes that had mastered the aerial war in Vietnam. That was only the start of a highly classified technology laboratory, and business that has expanded to a level one can only imagine today. Recent declassification by the CIA now allows the telling by Barnes, an Area 51 veteran, of the CIA’s extraordinary accomplishments at Area 51 for almost a decade after all its planes stopped flying.