The US “secretly acquired” a Soviet MiG-21 aircraft from Israel in 1968 and tested the fighter jet at the legendary Area 51, a US government facility in the Nevada desert, The Guardian reported this week.

The US government – which released the relevant documents on Tuesday – declassified them after George Washington University’s National Security Archive requested them through the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents revealed that Area 51, which in popular culture is a clandestine site for alien spacecrafts and extraterrestrials, was actually used by the US to test its aerial programs.

For one of the projects, Israel lent a Soviet MiG-21 to the US during the midst of the Cold War. According to the documents, compiled and edited by a senior fellow at the National Security Archive, Jeffrey T. Richelson, Israel obtained the aircraft after the Mossad arranged for a captain in the Iraqi air force to defect and land it on a base in northern Israel in August 1966.

Israel then loaned the plane to the US Air Force from January 1968 to April 1968.

While the MiG was in its temporary possession, the US redesignated it the YF-110, evaluated its technical characteristics and assessed its tactical abilities by comparing it to its own weaponry and army and navy combat planes.

The US even simulated a Soviet style air-defense-complex and referred to the maneuvers with American names that included Mary, Susan and Kathy.

According to the documents, the US also experimented on two Soviet MiG-17’s at Area 51.

The top secret site in Nevada also played an essential role in the development in the 1970s and ’80s of the F-117 secret stealth aircrafts, the documents reveal.

The CIA finally confirmed the existence of Area 51 this past August when it started declassifying documents.

Richelson was able to review these documents in 2002, but mentions of Area 51 were redacted at the time. He submitted a request for the CIA’s history again in 2005 to continue his research on aerial surveillance programs.

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