The US Air Force’s secret NT-43A ‘RAT 55’, which reportedly takes shelter in the highly-classified Area 51 facility, has resurfaced over the Mojave Desert in North America recently.
The NT-43A Radar Aircraft Testbed (RAT 55), a flying signature measurement aircraft, has been modified from a USAF Boeing 737-200. The secretive aircraft is different from other such US Air Force aircraft and is rarely seen taking to the skies.
It is believed the half-century-old aircraft rests in a hanger in either Area 51 or the Tonopah Test Range Airport in Nevada, USA.
While online aircraft trackers have accessed data associated with the RAT 55 aircraft, the last sighting was reported a few years ago.
Recently, the aircraft was sighted during a planned flight by the US Air Force over the Mojave Desert located in the southwestern United States, primarily within southeastern California and southern Nevada.
According to reports, the RAT 55 is usually flown in formation with stealth aircraft at higher altitudes over the inaccessible ranges over the vast desert areas.
The NT-43A was built and designed by multiple companies, including American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works division and the Ohio-headquartered aerospace company Goodyear Aerospace.
It is considered one of the strangest looking and secretive Boeing 737 aircraft ever built for the US Air Force.
More than 10,000 of the specific type of aircraft were built over nearly 60 years, with their airframes being adapted to cater to different requirements of the US Air Force.
The secret RAT 55 aircraft provides the US Air Force with the ability to test whole new aircraft or just a new radar absorbing material that has been applied to an existing stealthy aircraft.
The aircraft uses its powerful radars and infrared energy detecting devices to evaluate other aircraft under realistic flight conditions and even helps validate repairs and depot-level work on existing stealth aircraft.
What Is Area 51
It’s a US Air Force facility located in the Nevada Desert, 135 km north of Las Vegas. Civilians are not allowed entry into the facility, which is also categorized as a no-fly zone.
Area 51 was set up in the Cold War-era as a testing and development facility for aircraft, including the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird spy planes. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officially admitted its existence only in 2013.
There have been rumors and conspiracy theories that Area 51 has been used to carry out research on aliens and UFOs, but experts dismiss this as a carefully-crafted disinformation campaign by the CIA to divert people’s attention.
Annie Jacobsen, who has written about Area 51, told the BBC that some of the world’s most advanced espionage programs are carried out at this highly secretive facility.
“Area 51 is a test and training facility. The research began with the U-2 spy plane in the 1950s and has now moved on to drones”, she was quoted as saying.