Farley at the controls.
By early 1982, four more YF-117A airplanes were operating out of the southern end of the base, known as the "Southend" or "Baja Groom Lake." After finding a large scorpion in their offices, the test team adopted it as their mascot and dubbed themselves the "Baja Scorpions."
As the Baja Scorpions tested the FSD airframes, production F-117A aircraft were shipped to DREAMLAND for acceptance testing. Following functional check flights and L.O. verification, the operational airplanes were deployed to the 4450th Tactical Group at Tonopah Test Range, in the northwest corner of the Nellis Range.
While HAVE BLUE and SENIOR TREND were being put through their paces in Nevada, the Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Northrop Aircraft Corporation teamed up to develop a new aircraft. Code-named TACIT BLUE, it was originally designed as a technology demonstrator for a low-observable surveillance aircraft with a low-probability-of- intercept radar, and other sensors, that could operate close to the front line of battle with a high degree of survivability.
Although plans for a stealthy surveillance aircraft were abandoned, TACIT BLUE provided important data that aided in the development of several other weapons systems. These included the B-2 advanced technology bomber, the AGM-137 Tri-Service Standoff Attack Missile (TSSAM), and the PAVE MOVER program (which led to the development of the E-8 Joint-STARS aircraft). TACIT BLUE was the first aircraft to demonstrate a low RCS using curved surfaces.
Only one complete TACIT BLUE prototype was constructed. A second, partially completed, shell was built as a back up. The aircraft featured a curved upper surface with a flush dorsal intake. Twin turbofan engines gave it a cruising speed of about 260 miles per hour. TACIT BLUE sported tapered straight wings and two square fins in a widely spaced V-tail configuration. Flat, squared "platypus bills" on the nose and tail gave it a nearly rectangular planform.
From the side, TACIT BLUE resembled a whale, complete with a blowhole. In fact, the TACIT BLUE team members nicknamed it "The Whale," and referred to themselves as "Whalers."
The nearly complete TACIT BLUE aircraft was trucked to the test site in several large crates for final assembly in Hangar 8. Northrop test pilot Richard G. Thomas, made the first flight of TACIT BLUE on 5 February 1982. TACIT BLUE made a total of 135 sorties, flown by a team of one contractor and four Air Force pilots. Thomas made 70 of the flights, including the 100th sortie on 27 April 1984. The final flight took place on 14 February 1985. Following a highly successful test program, the one-of-a-kind aircraft was stored in the Area 51 "boneyard."
In April 1996, it was declassified and delivered to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio for permanent display.
Expansion and Acquisition
Because Groom Lake's site population had grown substantially, the C-54 aircraft had become inadequate to transport all the personnel. The Air Force contracted EG&G Special Projects, McCarran Operations, in Las Vegas to transport commuters to DREAMLAND in a fleet of six Boeing 737-200s. These flights, using the call sign JANET, carried personnel and freight daily from Las Vegas, Palmdale, and Burbank to Groom Lake, and later Tonopah Test Range.
Beginning in 1979, the Air Force began actively discouraging, and at times preventing, any public or private entry to the Groom Mountains, north of Groom Lake. Air Force personnel claimed it was "in the interest of public safety and national defense." This was about the time the Air Force took control of the Groom Lake facility from the CIA.