Built in 2002, the complex of buildings include a large hangar with clam-shell doors at the southern end of an asphalt strip. The complex has no official name and not many people even know it’s there.
Known locally as ‘Area 6.’ the site has only fences and visitor checkpoints and seen from the Mercury highway at the northern end of Yucca Flat. But exactly what goes on at there remains top-secret.
In fact the National Nuclear Security Administration’s kept Area 6 at such a low profile that few defense industry experts are aware of its existence. The National Nuclear Security Administration is a semi-autonomous branch of the Energy Department with a Nevada field office, based in North Las Vegas.
A safety analysis of Yucca Mountain nuclear storage facilities, written by Bechtel SAIC, has a description of the airfield:
“The purpose of this facility is to construct, operate, and test a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles. Tests include, but are not limited to, air-frame modifications, sensor operation, and on board computer development. A small, manned chase plane is used to track the unmanned aerial vehicles…”
Area 6 activities include research and development of sensors for detecting explosive materials, deadly gases and chemicals, and radioactive sources that could be used in “dirty bombs.” The facility’s manned by at least 80 people, includes maintenance areas and is also used by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Two DoE environmental studies say the base operates four to six UAV flights and two to four manned flights per day, flying mainly over the dry lake bed at altitudes under 12,000 feet. Furthermore, several classified Lockheed UAVs have been tested at airfields along the range, though which haven’t been disclosed.
Funding for Area 6 comes through the ‘Strategic Partnership Program,’ (SPP) which was part of the $84 million budgeted for the entire security site for the fiscal year 2015. In March 2010, President Obama spoke of SPP during the Export-Import Bank Annual Conference: “We’ll create public-private partnerships to help firms break into new markets with the help of those who have been there — shipping and supply-chain companies, for example.”
However, much of that SPP money comes from Defense Department branches including the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. So it leaves one to wonder — what sort of ‘public-private partnerships,’ are being forged in Nevada’s vast and under-populated desert?