The internet has been set alight with chatter of a viral Facebook event that jokingly invites people to raid Area 51. The US Air Force has already warned would-be alien hunters about approaching Area 51, reportedly saying: “We would discourage anyone from trying to come into the area where we train American armed forces.”
However, if those muted words don’t satisfy your curiosity, you’re perhaps left wondering: What would actually happen if you attempted to approach Area 51? A few people have tried to find out over the past decades – occasionally with fatal results.
US law forbids trespassing on military bases. According to Section 1382 of Title 18, the law prohibits any person from entering any military installation for any purpose without permission, including a “military, naval, or coast guard reservation, post, fort, arsenal, yard, station or installation.” Anybody found guilty of breaking this law could be subject to six months imprisonment, a $500 fine, or both. Since Area 51 is a detachment of Edwards Air Force Base within the Nevada Test and Training Range, it technically falls in this bracket.
Under certain circumstances, most military bases also have restricted areas where the use of deadly force is authorized. Around the perimeter of Area 51, there are numerous “no trespassing” signs that clearly state: “Use of Deadly Force Authorized.” If you are trespassing and considered an immediate security threat, you can expect to be shot at. In 2017, for example, US military personnel opened fire on a man who attempted to break into a Royal Air Force base in Suffolk, UK.
However, it’s fair to say that Area 51 is leagues beyond a relatively typical air base in the sleepy English countryside. Back in 2016, a television crew filming for the BBC show “Conspiracy Road Trip” were arrested at gunpoint for approaching Area 51. The crew of 12 were reportedly searched and forced to lie face-down on the ground for three hours while the FBI ran security checks. Eventually, they were let go and issued a £375 fine.
Two years previous to this incident, a tour bus carting four passengers inadvertently drove through the warning signs and approached Area 51. As Las Vegas Now reported, the tour was pulled over by military personnel armed with M-16s and threatened with a misdemeanor conviction and $650 fine.
Both of these attempts were relatively harmless and posed no real threat. In cases where there has been more of an immediate danger, deadly force has been used. In January 2019, a man “with a cylindrical object in-hand” failed to stop at a security gate to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), the vast reservation where area Area 51 can be found. According to an NNSS press release, he was promptly shot dead on the scene after disregarding commands by the guards.
In short, attempting to break into Area 51 (or any military facility) would certainly not be worth the memes or Instagram followers, to say the least.