The biggest aircraft Boneyard in the world

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Rows after rows of once-majestic aircraft are lined up at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the baking heat of Arizona’s Tucson desert, left abandoned in piles of metal. This is where planes go to rest – a 2,600-acre patch of U.S. desert where several generations of military aircraft are stored by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in what has been dubbed the “Boneyard“.

The “Boneyard” contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres. Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. However the preservation process doesn’t just prepare the aircraft for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be recalled back into military service – some within 72 hours – or used as firefighting planes.

The Arizona desert is a natural selection to house for the Air Force’s only aircraft “boneyard” due to the lack of rust and metal deterioration with the lack of humidity in the desert.

When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns, any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything that can be easily stolen are removed from the aircraft. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system. Afterwards a preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. A job that can take about 150 hours per aircraft. Then larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base seen on Google Maps (Retrieved February 12, 2016. Credits: Google Maps)

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base seen on Google Maps (Retrieved February 12, 2016. Credits: Google Maps)

A northern aerial view of the "Boneyard" of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A northern aerial view of the “Boneyard” of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Aircraft from all military services cover the desert landscape of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Aircraft from all military services cover the desert landscape of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of fighter aircraft preserved inside the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regenerations Group's "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The Arizona desert is a natural selection to house for the Air Force's only aircraft "boneyard" due to the lack of rust and metal deterioration with the lack of humidity in the desert. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of fighter aircraft preserved inside the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regenerations Group’s “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The Arizona desert is a natural selection to house for the Air Force’s only aircraft “boneyard” due to the lack of rust and metal deterioration with the lack of humidity in the desert. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of F-4 Phantoms and T-38 Talons line the grounds of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the "Boneyard," at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of F-4 Phantoms and T-38 Talons line the grounds of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, also known as the “Boneyard,” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of dismantled KC-135 Stratotankers inside the "Boneyard" of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of dismantled KC-135 Stratotankers inside the “Boneyard”. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A fleet of C-5 Galaxies tower above the rest of the fighter and cargo aircraft inside the "Boneyard" of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A fleet of C-5 Galaxies tower above the rest of the fighter and cargo aircraft inside the “Boneyard” of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons are stored inside the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft undergo a preservation process that allows them to be recalled into active service within 72 hours if needed. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

Rows of F-15 Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons are stored inside the “Boneyard”. The aircraft undergo a preservation process that allows them to be recalled into active service within 72 hours if needed. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A retired T-38 Talon sits in pieces inside the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Officially called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, the "Boneyard" is a 2,600-acre facility that stores more than 4,000 airframes from around the U.S. military. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Breese)

A retired T-38 Talon sits in pieces inside the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Breese)

An F-4 Phantom II sits by itself in the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AIr Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft served as the principal air superiority fighter for the Air Force during the Vietnam War, and became important in ground-attack and reconnaissance roles late in the war. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

An F-4 Phantom II sits by itself in the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft served as the principal air superiority fighter for the Air Force during the Vietnam War, and became important in ground-attack and reconnaissance roles late in the war. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

An F-4 Phantom II at sunset inside the "Boneyard." The Phantom has the distinction of being the last U.S. fighter flown to attain ace status in the 20th century. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

An F-4 Phantom II at sunset inside the “Boneyard.” The Phantom has the distinction of being the last U.S. fighter flown to attain ace status in the 20th century. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The cockpit section of a E-3 Sentry sits dissected and strapped to the ground of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group's "Boneyard." The Sentry was one of the first aircrafts to deploy for Operation Desert Shield and are still being used today with advanced upgrades. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The cockpit section of a E-3 Sentry sits dissected and strapped to the ground of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group’s “Boneyard.” The Sentry was one of the first aircrafts to deploy for Operation Desert Shield and are still being used today with advanced upgrades. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The fuselage of an A-10 Thunderbolt II sits surrounded by the rest of its parts. Aircraft like this are typically used to provide parts to other A-10s still serving throughout the Air Force. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

The fuselage of an A-10 Thunderbolt II sits surrounded by the rest of its parts. Aircraft like this are typically used to provide parts to other A-10s still serving throughout the Air Force. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed, (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system now sits decommissioned at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The YAL-1 was primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles with an airborne laser system. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser Testbed, (formerly Airborne Laser) weapons system now sits decommissioned at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The YAL-1 was primarily designed as a missile defense system to destroy tactical ballistic missiles with an airborne laser system. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A C-5 Galaxy, its wings stripped to the frame, is undergoing a complete tear-down of all important parts before being demolished for scrap, a process that takes nearly a year to complete. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A C-5 Galaxy, its wings stripped to the frame, is undergoing a complete tear-down of all important parts before being demolished for scrap, a process that takes nearly a year to complete. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A North American F-86 Sabre sits in pieces under the night sky at the "boneyard" of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The Sabre was a transonic jet fighter aircraft mainly used during the Korean War and the early parts of the Cold War era. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

A North American F-86 Sabre sits in pieces under the night sky at the “boneyard”. The Sabre was a transonic jet fighter aircraft mainly used during the Korean War and the early parts of the Cold War era. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

A UH-34D Seahorse helicopter, which began service in 1952 as a Navy anti-submarine warfare helicopter and served as the primary Marine Corps assault helicopter of the Vietnam War. This one now sits as part of the more than 4,400 aircraft deactivated in the "boneyard" of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

A UH-34D Seahorse helicopter, which began service in 1952 as a Navy anti-submarine warfare helicopter and served as the primary Marine Corps assault helicopter of the Vietnam War. This one now sits as part of the more than 4,400 aircraft deactivated in the “boneyard” of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

The remains of a B-66 Destroyer sit palletized within the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft was a light bomber with the Tactical Air Command and the RB-66 models were used as the major night photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the Air Force during the 1950s. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

The remains of a B-66 Destroyer sit palletized within the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The aircraft was a light bomber with the Tactical Air Command and the RB-66 models were used as the major night photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the Air Force during the 1950s. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Lee)

A C-130 from the 43d Air Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. sits in the "boneyard" of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

A C-130 from the 43rd Air Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. sits in the “boneyard” of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)

The "Boneyard" hosts civilian aircraft as well, like this commercial cargo plane sitting in the back of the 2600-acre compound. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Breese)

The “Boneyard” hosts civilian aircraft as well, like this commercial cargo plane sitting in the back of the 2600-acre compound. (Credits: U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Breese)

As reference source has been used Airman Magazine including their YouTube channel for the video. You can learn more about Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on their official Facebookpage and homepage. One of the best books available currently on the boneyard is AMARG: America’s Military Aircraft Boneyard




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About Author

Argunners Magazine is an independent online historian and collector's magazine, dedicated to the militaria and history of both Axis and Allied powers during the World War 1 & 2. Argunners is a central resource offering the latest militaria and war history news, journals, articles and press releases related to these themes.

1 Comment

  1. Very good pics, would be great to know the history of pilots who flew both the Axis and Allies planes in WW2.

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