There have been several of these sites that have gained pop culture notoriety. The most famous classified site being Area 51.
One writer, Paul McGinnis, claims that with a little leg-work and some novice map reading skills, sites such as these can easily be found.
After reading his 1994 article, Possible locations of classified military facilities, I have to admit that McGinnis has a pretty solid theory.
He stated, “looking at all the blue ‘boxes’ used by our military for Restricted airspaces and Military Operating Areas (MOAs), I realized that I could find areas to study further by finding ‘boxes’ similar to the one covering the air space around the Groom Lake facility.”
This information is easily accessible.
According to McGinnis, hundreds of military controlled zones are listed in the DMA publication Area Planning-Special Use Airspace; which are published once a year, including two supplements. For a subscription with a small nominal fee, anyone can have this information delivered right to their door.
Gather Map Resources and Data
The DMA charts cost about $4.75 apiece. While, the Area Planning - North and South America - Special Use Airspace is about $5.50 for the main edition. The main edition along with the two supplements will cost about $10.75 for a yearly subscription. For more information on these documents, contact:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Ocean Service
Distribution Branch, N/CG33
Riverdale, MD 20737-1199
telephone: (301) 436-6990
The theory is not without it is flaws. This technique does not provide a specific location, but rather a zone to begin searching. To narrow these zones down, McGinnis came up with a set of criteria:
1. The area must have a ceiling of at least 60,000 feet (18.46 km) to prevent civilian aircraft from flying over the area. Also, this would tend to discourage military pilots who might get curious and try to fly above the prohibited area. (There are very few aircraft that can fly this high.) The area over Groom Lake has an unlimited ceiling, although one wonders how low orbiting satellites can be stopped from passing over the area.
2. The area must have a constant flying restriction, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This eliminates a number of potential areas because flying is only prohibited by advance notice (NOTAMS), or during daytime hours on weekdays.
This criteria allowed McGinnis to compile substantial list of potential classified areas in connection with the U.S. Military.
What is really interesting about McGInnis' theory is the fact that this technique can be applied across the globe. He was able to produce similar data to his findings in the U.S. in Canada, Cuba, and throughout South America. Some interesting U.S. sites that made the list (as well as making our list of most classified sites) are:
1. Tonopah, Nevada – According to GlobalSecurity.org, The Tonopah Test Range is the home of "the 99th Range Squadron commands two detachments: Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field, which manages Nellis' Southern Ranges, and Tonopah Test Range Airfield, which manages Nellis' Northern Ranges.
Detachment 2 of the 99th Range Squadron is responsible for, and directs, all ACC activities at Tonopah Test Range Airfield and the Northern Ranges. Like their southern partners, the detachment directs support of DoD, DOE research, development, and testing programs and also supports recovery of emergency/divert military aircraft involved in major testing and aircrew training exercises.”
2. Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia – which often used by NASA's Wallops Island rocket facility. According to NASA, "Wallops is now NASA's principal facility for management and implementation of suborbital research programs." The space agency conducts various kinds of space and aeronautics research and is expecting to increase their commercial launch activity in the near future.
3. Yuma, Arizona - home to the Yuma Proving Ground (YPG). In essence, YPG is a test facility for the U.S. Army. It is described as managing "testing in three different environmental extremes; desert (Yuma Test Center), tropic (Tropic Regions Test Center), and cold (Cold Regions Test Center).
The largest test center is the Yuma Test Center located in Yuma, AZ, at Yuma Proving Ground. A huge variety of weapon systems and munitions are tested. These include: long range artillery; missile firing aircraft; cargo and personnel parachutes; direct fire weapons; unmanned aerial systems; technologies to defeat roadside bombs."
4. China Lake, California – which is the location of China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center. Naval Air Systems Command states, "China Lake provides efficient deployment of new weapon systems through its collocated laboratories, ranges, weapons test squadrons and the Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX-9). The site supports fleet training and tactics development, including major exercises on the Land Range, Superior Valley Tactical Training Range and Electronic Combat Range."
5. Fort Irwin, California - including NASA's Goldstone facility. NASA describes this facility as “an international network of antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions and radio and radar astronomy observations for the exploration of the solar system and the universe. The network also supports selected Earth-orbiting missions.”
The fact that these widely known classified facilities came up in McGinnis's data provides a proof of principle for his theory.
However, it is important to point out that even though these facilities came up, they were located within the "boxes." A truly secret military installation may not be found so easily.
Nevertheless, McGinnis's technique adds one more tool in in the savvy researcher's arsenal when researching the most classified sites and government installations.