The Black Hawk Security Helicopters

A fleet of three Black Hawk helicopters, stationed at the north end of the base, provide air security around Area 51. More accurately they are Sikorsky HH-60U "Ghost Hawk", a new and upgraded version of the Black Hawk. Only four HH-60U exist. Three are based at Area 51 and one is based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA. They were converted in 2011 from the U.S. Army HH-60M, originally developed to guard U.S. nuclear missile sites.

The Langley-based Ghost Hawk is said to be used as a test bed for stealth helicopter R&D. The three Ghost Hawks at Area 51 replaced the older generation MH-60G Pave Hawk between 8/2011 and 2/2013, likely in late 2011 or early 2012. Scroll down for some photos and info on the older Pave Hawks. The MH-60G had a retractable in-flight refueling probe that was often mistaken for a large gun by visitors to the area. The new HH-60U do not have a refueling probe.

Several times daily one of the Black Hawks can be seen doing its rounds out of the base and across Tikaboo Valley, patrolling the Area 51 perimeter. Visitors in the early 1990's report the Black Hawk would sometimes "sandblast" curious tourists. We are not aware of any such instances in recent years. However, the chopper may come out to investigate if curious visitors explore sensitive areas where it is difficult for security on the ground to keep track of them.

One such area is Roadblock Canyon, where access to the old trail up to Freedom Ridge has been blocked by a man-made rockslide blocking the road in a canyon. Of course access to Freedom Ridge is no longer possible after the 1995 land withdrawal, but for several reasons it is still a rather interesting (and sensitive) area. It is very easy there to disappear from view of the watchful eye of the Cammos.

In radio comms with the base the security chopper mostly uses the callsign SABRE31.

HH-60U currently in use at Area 51

Serial #Contract yearTypeUnitStatusADS-B codeConfirmed (between 01/01/20 and 05/23/24)
10-203212010HH-60UAFTC Det.3ActiveAE5F1612/17/19 Area 51 to Waco Airport, TX, SABRE
02/04/20 Near Waco, TX (no callsign)
02/07/20 Return from Waco, TX to Area 51 (no callsign)
02/28/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, LV (no callsign)
06/02/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Valley Hospital, LV, RESCUE
06/10/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, LV, RESCUE1
08/17/21 Round Trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, LV SABRE31
10/18/21 Round Trip from Area 51 to St. George, UT SABRE31
02/23/22 Valley Hospital Med Ctr, RESCUE31/SABRE31
07/29/22 Flight from TTR to Centennial Hospital, XXXXXXXX
04/14/23 East of Goldfield, northbound along the border, SABRE31
07/12/23 Area 51 to Santa Fe, NM, SABRE33
07/13/23 Santa Fe, NM to Waco TX, SABRE33
08/23/23 Near Amarillo, TX, OUTLW25 (RTB to Area 51?)
10/10/23 Round trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hosp., RESCUE01/SABRE31
12/04/23 From Area 51 to Henderson Airport, OUTLAW
10-203222010HH-60UAFTC Det.3ActiveAE5F1703/19/22 KHND, OUTLAW25
03/22/22 Area 51 to Waco Airport, TX, OUTLAW
05/12/22 Return from Waco, TX to Area 51, OUTLAW
05/25/22 Centennial Hospital, RESCUE1
05/31/22 Summerlin Hospital, SABRE31
07/21/22 North Las Vegas Airport, SABRE31
09/13/23 To Waco Airport, TX, OUTLW99
10/25/23 Waco, TX to Denver, CO, OUTLW99
10/26/23 Briefly SW of Denver, CO, OUTLW99 (RTB to Area 51?)
12/05/23 From Area 51 to Henderson Airport, OUTLW
10-203232010HH-60UAFTC Det.3ActiveAE5F1801/29/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, LV (no callsign)
08/28/20 Round Trip from TTR to Las Vegas, X
09/03/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Summerlin Hospital, LV, X
12/03/20 Round Trip from Area 51 to Valley Hospital, LV, SABRE1
08/03/21 Round Trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, LV X
08/17/21 From Area 51 to Waco, TX SABR32/OUTLW25
10/20/21 In Waco, TX area OUTLW25
10/22/21 Return from Waco, TX to Area 51 OUTLW25/XXX
01/26/22 LV, Valley Hospital Med Ctr, AIRSQ1/SABER
05/17/22 LV, Valley Hospital Med Ctr, XXXXXXXX
05/18/22 Boulder City Airport, XXXXXXXX
07/26/22 Boulder City Airport to Area 51, OUTLAW42
12/08/22 Area 51 to Nellis AFB, Echo Bay, Boulder City, OUTLW25
01/25/23 Las Vegas area to Area 51, SABRE32
02/13/23 Area 51 to KHND, OUTLAW25
02/13/23 Round trip from KHND to Sedona, AZ, OUTLAW25
02/15/23 Round trip from KHND to Meadview, AZ, OUTLAW25
02/15/23 Return to Area 51 (SABRE32 on Groom Control), OUTLAW25
04/12/23 Nellis AFB to Area 51, SABRE
04/25/23 From Area 51 to KHND, OUTLAW42
06/22/23 Waco, TX to Area 51, OUTLW25
08/02/23 Round trip from Area 51 to Centennial Hospital, AIRRSQ1
12/07/23 From Henderson Airport to Area 51, OUTLW
05/18/24 Round trip from Area 51 to Valley Hospital, Las Vegas, RESCUE1
10-203242010HH-60UFelker AAF
Experimental Unit
ActiveAE5196Based at JB Langley-Eustis, VA; call sign ANVILnn
05/17/24: Round trip from Felker AAF, ANVIL51 (last confirmed)

Click the Serial # for photos of that helicopter (where available). Click the ADS-B code to track that helicopter, including flight history.

In recent years the three Area 51 security choppers have each made several round trips to Waco, TX. They usually take two days for each leg with an overnight stop along the way. The dates listed below are the day they left Area 51 and the day they returned there.

The most likely destination in Waco is L3Harris, a major contractor for communications equipment in the NTTR. They have a large facility with over 1,300 employees in Waco and provide, among other services, military aircraft modification. Very likely they are modifying the communications gear onboard the Groom choppers with new, secure equipment.

The fourth HH-60U, 10-20324 assigned to an experimental unit at Felker AAF, VA, has not made any trips to Waco in that time frame. So it is likely that the modifications are specific to equipment in use at Area 51.

Serial #Left Area 51 for Waco, TXBack at Area 51 from Waco, TX
10-20321Tue 12/17/19Fri 02/07/20
10-20323Tue 08/17/21Fri 10/22/21
10-20322Mon 03/21/22Thu 05/12/22
10-20323Tue 04/25/23Fri 06/23/23
10-20321Wed 07/12/23Thu 08/24/23
10-20322Tue 09/12/23Thu 10/26/23

Related links:

10-20321 at Henderson Executive Airport, 04/09/2016. Photo by Barry Ambrose, with friendly permission. Click to enlarge.

10-20322 at Henderson Executive Airport, 03/19/2022. The photographer wishes to remain anonymous. Click to enlarge.

Close-up of the nose and tail sections of 10-20322 at Henderson Executive Airport, 03/19/2022

10-20323, dropping off a patient at Centennial Hospital in Las Vegas, 08/07/2019. Photos by Kris. Click to enlarge.

One of the Area 51 HH-60U flying low over Rachel, March 24, 2021

Older MH-60G Pave Hawk, no longer in use

Serial #Contract yearTypeUnitStatus
90-262221990MH-60G (mod. to L)Ogden ALC, UT (Air Logistics Center)Visually confirmed, 01/2001, no longer in service
90-262231990MH-60G (mod. to L)Ogden ALC, UT (Air Logistics Center)Visually confirmed, 05/29/2003, no longer in service
91-263521991MH-60G (mod. to L)Ogden ALC, UT (Air Logistics Center)Visually confirmed, 04/2004, no longer in service

Ogden ALC is part of Hill AFB, UT, which seems to have some kind of connection to Area 51. Ogden uses the tail code "HAFB" for fixed-wing planes. Please let us know if you see any planes with that tail code in the Groom Area. Note the four letter code, as opposed to the usual two letter tail codes (like HI and HL for other units of Hill AFB).

General Characteristics of the MH-60G Pave Hawk:

Primary Function: Infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces in day, night or marginal weather conditions.
Builder: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
Power Plant: Two General Electric T700-GE-701C engines
Thrust: 1,630 shaft horsepower, each engine
Length: 64 feet, 8 inches (17.1 meters)
Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (4.4 meters)
Rotary Diameter: 53 feet, 7 inches (14.1 meters)
Speed: 184 mph (294.4 kph)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 22,000 pounds (9,900 kilograms)
Range: 445 nautical miles (unlimited with air refueling)
Armament: Two 7.62mm mini-guns
Unit Cost: $10.1 million (1992 dollars)
Crew: Two pilots, one flight engineer and one gunner
Seating capacity: 14 to 17
Date Deployed: 1982

Area 51 Black Hawk at Roadblock Canyon

Serial number 90-26223, photographed by Chuck Clark on May 29, 2003. Reproduction here with Chucks friendly permission

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