These two Area 51 panoramas were taken in the early morning hours of September 3, 2001 during our annual Tikaboo Expedition from the top of Tikaboo Peak. To the best of my knowledge they are the best panoramas from Tikaboo ever published, and more recent than the panoramas taken from Freedom Ridge before it was closed in 1995. Both panoramas are split into several segments, going from south to north. Each segment is composed of several individual photos. Click on any photo for a large high-resolution version. Enjoy...
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This panorama was taken with a 5000mm f/40 equivalent lens: A Celestron C-5 spotting scope with a Takumar 2x converter stacked with a 2x T-barlow lens and a Pentax KX camera using 400 speed Fuji Superia film. As you can see this is pushing the optics to the limit.
The resolution is approximately 0.6m/pixel.
This panorama was taken with a 2500mm f/20 equivalent lens: A Celestron C-5 spotting scope with a Takumar 2x converter and a Pentax KX camera using 400 speed Fuji Superia film. It shows the entire base from south to north, and there is a description below each segment. In addition the crowded central part of the base is labeled in the large-scale photos.
The resolution is approximately 0.8m/pixel
South end of the base. The two white buildings in the background on the left are Engine Test Cells. Not sure about the sand pits behind the left building. They don't seem to have changed much since 1995.
The circular area with the long white building in the center of the picture is the Explosives Storage Area. Notice that the entire area is surrounded by a mound of dirt to protect the rest of the base in case of an accident.
In front of the Explosives Storage you can see the south end of the two runways.
In the left half of the picture, at the foot of the Papoose Range, you can see a huge scraped area. This is a large concrete plant, and there is a lot of earth moving done in this area. Satellite images show networks of giant conveyor belts that appear to lead into the mountain. In fact you can see what looks like a tunnel entrance just to the right and behind the white concrete plant.
In the center of the picture you see the area that was occupied by eight huge fuel tanks. Most have been removed in early 2001, only the southern two remained. The tanks were used during development of the A-12 and SR-71 "Blackbird" in the early 60's, and are probably no longer needed. There are most likely new tanks underground.
The long building further to the right with lots of heavy equipment around it seems to be some sort of maintenance building. Behind it is another complex of buildings, which we don't know a lot about yet. It has been suggested that it is a junkyard. The long white building in the back right corner is the shooting range, facing away from us (and from the base).
On the far right are the A-12 hangars, which will be described below. In the foreground you can see the runways, and various air traffic control and meteorological facilities.
Now we are getting to the "heart" of the base. On the left you see a row of four double-hangars. These are Hangars 9 through 16, which were used for development of the A-12 "Oxcart", and its successor, the SR 71 "Blackbird". The long two-tone building in the back is Hangar 17. The two white double-hangars in front of it are Hangars 20 through 23, and the lower building to their left is an associated storage building. We have evidence indicating that it serves as fuel storage, quite possibly with underground tanks.
In front of that group of hangars, and surrounded by a mound of dirt for safety, is the Weapons Assembly and Storage building. The yellowish building to its right is Hangar 19, which is used for Weapons Arm and De-Arm of aircraft.
In the background, on the slope of the Papoose Range, is a group water tanks. Originally there were only four white tanks. The three huge dark colored tanks were added between 1995 and 1999.
Further over to the right is Hangar 8, which is said to be used by Northrop Grumman. To the right of it is a building that is actually partly hidden by a group of trees (the only trees at Area 51). The building is surrounded by marked parking spaces, and appears to be some sort of administration building or emergency medical facility. There is a large double garage at its south end, which is the Fire Station #2 (#1 is near the four northern hangars). Sometimes the doors can be seen open, and we have seen the inside brightly lit at night, with what appeared to be a fire truck inside. In our photo the right door is open.
Right next to it, in the center of the picture, is the huge Hangar 18. It is approximately eight stories high and easily large enough for even the largest aircraft. A B747 could easily fit inside. It opens to both sides, to make it easier for large planes to get in and out. The exact purpose is not known, but it is assumed that it is used for new developments. Some believe that it houses a huge elevator that leads to an underground R&D facility. Behind Hangar 18, partly visible on the right, is a connected office and support building.
The yellowish building further over to the right is the Security Building, the headquarters of the cammo-dudes. The next building over contains several labs, and then follows the Janet terminal. Unfortunately it is partly covered by Freedom Ridge in the foreground, but if a Janet 737 is at the terminal you can see its white tail sticking up over the hills. In the mornings and evenings the terminal and tarmac area are brightly lit by yellowish floodlights.
This photo shows the northern part of the main base. On the left, almost hidden behind the Jumbled Hills, with a white roof is building 299, the Test Engineering Support Building. This is the central intelligence repository of the base, containing data on various research projects in several vaults. Next to it, also partially hidden, is the Consolidated Services Facility, used by various services such as the base telephone service.
Then follows the lower Base Supply and Administration Building. Behind it, among the group of smaller buildings are the Dining Hall, the Main Operations Building, from where all activities at Area 51 are being controlled, and Fire Station #1. Further to the right, below the checkered water tower, with a dark colored roof are some of the original hangars from the 1950's. They were used for development of the U-2, for which Area 51 was originally built.
Before we continue to the right lets take a look at what we can see in the background: Behind the old U-2 hangars, at the foot of the water tower, you can barely see the Green of the Area 51 baseball field. This is part of the base recreation complex, which also includes a gym and a swimming pool. The huge building in the back is the Shipping and Receiving Facility. Notice the A/C units on the roof, and the trucks parked all around it. On some nights the whole area is brightly lit with white floodlights.
To the left and in front of it are several more support buildings, and the motel-style living quarters, which can accommodate over 1000 workers in 33 buildings. There is a financial incentive for workers to stay at the base during the week instead of flying home to Las Vegas each night, and many employees choose to do so.
Continuing right from the water tower you see Hangars 4 through 7, and the northern Ramp area. These hangars were used for the A-12 program, and later housed a fleet of Russian jets that were used for testing and evaluation purposes. They are still known as the "Red Hat Hangars". Not sure what these hangars are used for now, but we have seen light in some of them on several occasions, and one time we observed a plane taxi into one of the hangars. The ramp area north of the Red Hat hangars is used for the security helicopters, which you can often see parked here.
The building in the background, with the gray slanted roof, is one of Area 51's newest additions: It was added between 1998 and Spring of 2000. It is connected with a brand new ramp to the North Ramp Area around the Red Hat Hangars. On our photos it appears that the sides of the new building are open, but due to the resolution this is not certain.
The area to the north contains the DYCOMS and Quick Kill radar systems and various support buildings. DYCOMS stands for "Dynamic Coherent Measurement System", and is basically a radar cross section measurement system for the development of Stealth aircraft. Not much is known about the Quick Kill radar, other than the name, which appears in the Groom security manual that leaked out a few years ago.
There are several smaller facilities, probably radar stations, scattered all over Emigrant Valley at the north end of Groom Lake. On the left the road to "Station 700" and the NTS can be seen leading around the north end of the Papoose Range.