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.
Thornton D. “TD” Barnes, author and entrepreneur, grew up on a ranch at Dalhart, Texas. He graduated from Mountain View High School in Oklahoma and embarked on a ten-year military career. He served as an Army intelligence specialist in Korea and then continued his education while in the US Army, attending two and a half years of missile and radar electronics by day and college courses at night. Barnes deployed with the first combat Hawk missile battalion during the Soviet Iron Curtain threat before attending the Artillery Officer Candidate School, where an injury ended his military career. During his extensive professional career, Barnes was a field engineer at the NASA High Range in Nevada for the X-15, XB-70, lifting bodies and lunar landing vehicles; working on the NERVA project at Jackass Flats, Nevada. He was a member of a special projects team at Area 51 for the Central Intelligence Agency. Barnes later formed a family oil and gas exploration company, drilling and producing oil and gas and mining uranium and gold. Barnes is currently the CEO of Startel, Inc., a landowner, and is actively mining a quarry for landscape rock and gold in Nevada. He is the president of Roadrunners Internationale, an association of Area 51 veterans, and is the executive director of the Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame. Two National Geographic Channel documentaries feature Barnes: Area 51 Declassified and CIA—Secrets of Area 51. Numerous documentaries on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Travel Channel and others also feature him. The Annie Jacobsen book Area 51 Declassified documents his career. Barnes lives in Henderson, Nevada.