Area 51 Secrets: The US Military Used Fake Cardboard Cutouts of Planes to Fool the Russians

Illustration for article titled Area 51 Secrets: The US Military Used Fake Cardboard Cutouts of Planes to Fool the Russians

A lot of Cold War-era Area 51 documents have been declassified and National Geographic has discovered a rather low-tech method the US Military used to fool the Russians. It involved cardboard, the occasional heater and infrared satellites.

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Many of us know that Area 51 was the center of the OXCART project, a stealth spy plane. So did the Russians. They were flying over the base with spy satellites to see what the US was up to. Luckily, the US military was privy to when Russians satellites were flying over the base, which allowed them to time the tests perfectly. If a Russian satellite was about to fly over, military personel would move the plane into an overhead shed.

More interestingly, however, was when the Russians obtained a drawing of the OXCART project via infrared satellites. Because when a plane was parked in the hot desert, its shadow would create a cooler silhouette, which would be visible in infrared even if the plane was moved to a shed. So the US Military got creative:

To thwart the infrared satellites, Area 51 crews began constructing fanciful fake planes out of cardboard and other mundane materials, to cast misleading shadows for the Soviets to ponder. (Not intended to be seen, the decoys themselves were scooted out of sight before satellite flyovers.) Sometimes staff even fired up heaters near imaginary engine locations to make it look as if planes had just landed.

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I love the cat and mouse game between the US and the Russians during the Cold War. Though, I guess, it probably wasn't as lovable back then. [National Geographic]

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DISCUSSION

elliuotatar-old
Elliuotatar

And this enormous waste of taxpayer money did what exactly? Fooled the Russians about what the shape of our spy planes might be?

It's funny that the cold war ended, not because of our greater military might, but because of our economic power, yet we still spend trillions of dollars on this kind of shit fighting an enemy whom we cannot defeat with technology, while we let our children go uneducated, and allow all of our manufacturing capabilities to flow overseas.

The US is setting itself up to meet the same fate as Russia. We will collapse under our own weight, and eventually be unable to even support our military. Then we will be dominated by China who will no longer need to sell us cheap goods because their own economy will be flourishing while we spend our money trying to police the world.