A dozen unidentifiable craft (12 Mystery Vehicles) on the tarmac at the US Air Force’s Tonopah Test Range in Nevada triggered public speculations after recent satellite photos of the area were published. The Tonopah Test Range is known for hosting aircraft recently “tested” from Area 51 and about which the Pentagon is still shy with the details.
Satellite photos dated from the morning of December 6 show a most unusual sight: 12 unusual objects sitting in front of as many hangars on a side of the base sparsely used and about which little is known. This level of activity at Tonopah Test Range is as unusual as the appearance of the unknown aircraft, which hasn’t been noted before or since, reported The Drive’s Tyler Rogoway, who made the discovery.
The idea that these mystery objects could be Nighthawks, which are typically housed elsewhere in the base and have never been seen to be so numerous.
The other possibility includes a stealth drone like the Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel or some unknown aircraft yet not revealed to the public. Rogoway notes that, given the way shadows fall across the image and the satellite’s low, 3-meter resolution, it’s possible the objects could be only partially sticking out of their hangars; it’s possible they might just be big mock-up vehicles used for simulating adversarial forces, too, although if that’s the case, why they’re arranged in the space and pattern they are in no less puzzling.
If they are larger planes with just their nose sections hanging out of the hangars, that could be a major sign that they’re unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – that are troubleshooting their satellite connection so they can be flown remotely, Rogoway notes.
It’s not unusual that public satellite images snapped over the military zones have been blurred in the past due to security reasons. In 2018, Rogoway observed the same area and found a satellite image that had an aircraft’s profile deliberately obscured. Sometimes, situations like this one can lead to a national security incident, as when Google Maps rendered secret Taiwanese air defense sites in 3D, back in February this year.