Way out in Nevada, the secret base from Independence Day — yes, Area 51 — is hiring a pilot for the only airline that flies direct to the secluded destination. Janet Air — as in “Just Another Non Existent Terminal” — flies a nondescript red-striped fleet of 737s from Las Vegas to various sandy, high-security government outposts where, as in Vegas, what goes on there stays there.
The job posting in question is looking for a 3,000-hour pilot with an active Top Secret clearance and little interest in what their passengers do at work. According to salary research site Glassdoor, the average salary of a pilot at AECOM, Janet Air’s parent firm, was $80,454 a year — enough to really enjoy nightlife on the Strip with those wacky scientists you’ll presumably ferry to work in the mornings.
Used for testing stealth aircraft, new weapons, and (in popular fiction and conspiracy theories) alien spacecraft, the base also known as Groom Lake — or at least, Area 51, Groom Lake’s most notorious annex — also attracts a fair amount of tourists who are looking to make “first contact.” Most just end up making contact with the highly trained security force that patrols the base’s border.
“The range is used for the testing of technologies and systems and training for operations critical to the effectiveness of U.S. military forces and the security of the United States,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told Task & Purpose in a statement, when asked about the purpose of Area 51 and its surrounding environs, probably for the millionth time.
The airline that takes you to Groom Lake.
The emailed response from Air Combat Command spokesman Col. Todd Vician, however, was more tantalizing. “There is an operating location near Groom dry lake,” he wrote, but “some specific activities and operations” out there, “both past and present, remain classified and cannot be discussed.”
Hey man, $80K to ferry spooky customers on short hops from Sin City doesn’t sound half bad. But knowing the truth about little green men in the desert? That’d be priceless.
A enlisted thinktank brought to you by Task & Purpose
Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)
MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.
Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."
"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."
First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.
"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."