An interesting documentary about the world famous US Air Force bone yard for surplus or out dated aircraft. Davis–Monthan Air Force Base (DM AFB) (IATA: DMA, ICAO: KDMA, FAA LID: DMA) is a United States Air Force base located within the city limits approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south-southeast of downtown Tucson, Arizona. It was established in 1925 as Davis-Monthan Landing Field. The host unit headquartered at Davis–Monthan is the 355th Fighter Wing assigned to Twelfth Air Force, part of Air Combat Command (ACC). The base is best known as the location of the Air Force Materiel Command’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the aircraft boneyard for all excess military and government aircraft.
Davis–Monthan Air Force Base is a key ACC installation. The 355th Fighter Wing (355 FW) is the host unit, providing medical, logistical, mission and operational support to all assigned units. This wing’s combat mission is providing A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support and OA-10 forward air controllers to ground forces worldwide. The 355 FW provides initial and recurrent training to all U.S. Air Force A-10, OA-10 and EC-130 pilots and crews. The 355th is also the ACC’s executive agent for INF and START treaty compliance.
One of the wing’s tenant units, the 55th Electronic Combat Group, is tasked to provide command, control and communications countermeasures in support of tactical forces with its EC-130H aircraft; and, employing the EC-130E aircraft, provide airborne command, control and communications capabilities for managing tactical air operations in war and other contingencies worldwide.
Two other major tenants, the 563rd Rescue Group (structured under the 23d Wing, Moody Air Force Base) and 943rd Rescue Group (structured under the 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base), are tasked to provide combat search and rescue support worldwide.
As the location of the Air Force Materiel Command’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), Davis–Monthan Air Force Base is the sole aircraft boneyard for excess military and government aircraft. Tucson’s dry climate and alkali soil made it an ideal location for aircraft storage and preservation.
The base was named in honor of World War I pilots Lieutenants Samuel H. Davis (1896–1921) and Oscar Monthan (1885–1924), both Tucson natives. Davis, who attended the University of Arizona prior to enlisting in the Army in 1917, died in a Florida aircraft accident in 1921. Monthan enlisted in the Army as a private in 1917, was commissioned as a ground officer in 1918, and later became a pilot; he was killed in the crash of a Martin bomber in Hawaii in 1924.
In 1919, the Tucson Chamber of Commerce aviation committee established the nation’s first municipally owned airfield at the current site of the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. The rapid increase in aviation activities meant a move in 1927 to the site which is now Davis–Monthan Air Force Base. After the City of Tucson acquired land southeast of town for a runway in 1925, Charles Lindbergh, fresh from his nonstop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, flew his “Spirit of St. Louis” to Tucson in 1927 to dedicate Davis-Monthan Field, then the largest municipal airport in the United States.
Military presence at the field began when Sergeant Simpson relocated his fuel and service operation to the site on 6 October 1927. He kept a log containing names of the field’s customers, including Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Benjamin Foulois, and Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle, awarded the Medal of Honor for his 1942 Tokyo raid, was the first military customer at the field on 9 October 1927. The combination of civil and military operations worked well until the early 1940s, when military requirements began to require the relocation of civil aviation activities.
World War II
Davis-Monthan Airport became Tucson Army Air Field in 1940, as the United States prepared for World War II. The first assigned U.S. Army Air Corps units were the 1st Bomb Wing, 41st Bomb Group and 31st Air Base Group, activating on 30 April 1941 with Lieutenant Colonel Ames S. Albro Sr. as commanding officer. In its military role, the base became known as Davis-Monthan Army Air Field on 3 December 1941. Air Corps leaders utilize the airfield, sending Douglas B-18 Bolo, Consolidated B-24 Liberator and Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers, for training and observation missions.
With the end of the war, operations at the base came to a virtual standstill. It was then the base was selected as a storage site for hundreds of decommissioned aircraft, with the activation of the 4105th Army Air Force Unit. The 4105th oversaw the storage of excess B-29s and C-47 “Gooney Birds.” Tucson’s low humidity and alkali soil made it an ideal location for aircraft storage and preservation, awaiting cannibalization or possible reuse — a mission that has continued to this day.
this week on a special edition of today's airports we'll take an in-depth look at the boneyard without the parts that we reclaim here at the boneyard we'd stop lying we'll meet the dedicated team that brings new life to old aircraft and here the nostalgic stories of Airmen who flew these planes decades ago we'll have all those stories and much more right now on today's Air Force hello and welcome to a special edition of today's Air Force I'm your host Staff Sergeant Shannon O Fiera on this special edition of the show we're taking you to Tucson Arizona for an inside look at what happens to Air Force planes after they've flown their last mission recycling is not a new concept for the Air Force in fact we've been doing it throughout our history and getting new life out of old aircraft is the main purpose of the aerospace maintenance and regeneration group at davis-monthan Air Force Base seen from the air this sprawling 2,600 acre facility is filled with rows of neatly arranged aircraft many which look almost ready for takeoff but on the ground it's a different story with all sorts of planes in various stages that disassembly many of them several decades old it's easy to see how this place got the nickname that most people know it as the boneyard tech sergeant Nicholas Kurtz explains how the program got its start there are more than 4,000 aircraft parked here at the boneyard taken together these planes would make up the second largest air force in the entire world but most of these planes will never fly again they're here to serve a different purpose the boneyard is where the Air Force and every other US government agency sends their decommissioned airplanes to be taken apart reused in other aircraft or turned over to the defense reutilization and marketing office to be sold as scrap the reclamation process at a mark is able to extract the very last tax dollars from these aircraft after they've reached the end of their useful operational lives it's a mission that's been helping save taxpayers money since the end of World War two shortly after the Second World War there were huge quantities of surplus aircraft scattered all over the world a lot of them were scrapped where they were in theater depending on the types other airframes were identified as having value for potential future use or there just wasn't enough capacity in the overseas theatres to dispose of them as required so a lot of them were ferried back here in particular at Arizona a lot of b-17s b-24s and b25 were all located here the 50s was kind of a panic Golden Age of jet flight and propeller flight there was an enormous diversity of aircraft being used by the Air Force some more successfully than others so a lot of them were rapidly outclassed and made obsolete so you know entire production runs of aircraft were brought here for reclamation like f-84 s be thirty Six's whereas others were brought here for storage and regeneration a lot of b-29s were stored here after World War two and they were pressed back into service for Korea so up until the early 60s a mark was principally an Air Force facility the Navy in the Marine Corps maintained their own facility up outside Phoenix at Litchfield Park but that was closed up I think in 1962 and all those assets transferred down here so since that time this has been the complete storage facility for government aircraft so you find NASA aircraft over there you find Coast Guard aircraft Border Patrol Navy Marine Reserve units training units we have a lot of unique airframes here a lot of one-of-a-kinds or few of the kinds behind us here there's a b-36 peacemaker it's special it is the last production one ever built by by convair came off the assembly line in 1958 flew for two years retired out in Fort Worth it's one of only four existing airframes out of nearly 400 built one of my personal favorites is the Boeing b-52 a stratofortress it's the oldest buff in existence a serial number three third one off the production line it was the principle test airframe and carrier mothership for the x-15 program so nearly all of the early Gemini Mercury and Apollo astronauts all dropped off of our off of our b-52 a in the x-15 program the recently deceased Neil Armstrong was a participant of that program and dropped off our airplane so it's the wise it's kind of wreaking in history III really love it as the Air Force has evolved so has the boneyard during the Cold War America's determination to outpace the Soviet Union in the space race helped fuel an explosion of technological advancement almost as quickly as they were introduced US military aircraft were regularly phased out as newer aircraft flew faster higher and farther the outmoded airplanes were sent here and the boneyards inventories began to swell with the Vietnam War came a renewed call for even more advanced bombers and fighters by the time that war started to wind down in 1973 the boneyards fleet had reached an all-time high of more than 6,000 aircraft today some 4,000 aircrafts still sit in the boneyard in various stages of the reclamation process but the inventory here much like in today's Air Force is destined to change you know as our Air Force in a more and more technologically reliant fewer and fewer different types of airframes are being produced I would expect probably 20 or 25 years you'd probably see less than a thousand aircrafts over there and looking out 40 years there may not be a need for such a large facility there'll always be a need for the facility but whether or not you're gonna find fleets of kc-135s or fields of f-15s probably not you know there's two hundred some-odd f-22s you know the f-35 hasn't even really come into full operational service yet so I wouldn't expect to see it in an even twinkling at retirement for 35 or 40 years you know but there's probably several hundreds of them so it's it's not gonna be the same vast diverse fleet that you see now so you know it is kind of end of a golden age you know over the course of it's more than 60 year history here in the American Southwest a mark has become something of an aviation enthusiasts Mecca wherever you go in the world anybody who kind of is interested in aviation or airplanes at all if you mentioned Tucson you know there are side with oh that's where the boneyards are right I yeah yeah where the boneyards are and the boneyards aren't here for a very good reason turns out the desert climate here in Tucson provides an ideal environment for long-term storage of these aircraft with very little risk of corrosion or other damage from the elements the ground were on here is fairly unique it's it's a very high calcium soil very stable when it's dry as it is now it's as hard as concrete and very very very robust and with the dry weather conditions here low relative humidity year-round very low rainfall averaging about six to eight inches a year in the region there's nothing like tornadoes or hurricanes or that type of thing here to potentially destroy assets so Tucson was identified as an ideal location for an active reclamation facility and that year-round sunshine also makes this an ideal location for people to come visit an experienced Air Force history in person normally when someone wants to get a good look at some military aircraft they have to do it through binoculars but here at the boneyard you can get up close and personal with everything from fighters bombers tankers lifters just about everything the Air Force's flown in the last half century our visitors almost universally enjoy the sense of adventure they feel coming out here in the desert to look at airplanes we don't walk off our airplanes outside people are free to get up and stick their head in the wheel well bump their heads on a propeller trip over tie-down cable run from rattlesnakes you know it's it's it's the appendage as experienced out here and it's a big part of our charm and our appeal one of our sort a Glines is you know where you can touch history and we embrace it so it's not all just about tearing down old aircraft as newer technology makes them obsolete preserving Air Force history has become like a secondary mission at the boneyard along with the Pima Air & Space Museum right across the street a Marg serves as a sort of monument to the accomplishments and innovations of the past hoping to inspire America's future pilots aircraft engineers and astronauts you know our next generation of aerospace innovators for all you know could be wandering around here this weekend getting that whiff of hydraulic fluid if we can expose and encourage young people to come out and and challenge themselves and find a direction through what we do here however little I think it's important work time and Technology March on the boneyard will continue in its mission taking custody of outdated aircraft salvaging and reusing every part possible but except for the small handful of aircraft that are preserved for posterity once a certain model of jet fighter or helicopter or long-range bomber is gone it's gone forever a common misconceptions a lot of people have with a mark is that they're still world war two aircraft over there you know we more often than you think we you know we do get emails or phone calls from people doing family history or have heard legend through one of their uncles or cousins that oh yeah there's a boneyard out in Arizona that's got all these World War 2 aircraft out there so they call wondering if their grandfather's b-24 is still parked across the street there and we have to generally explain to them no I'm afraid not I mean it was turned into beer cans probably 60 years ago so the idea that a lot of people happens at the boneyard is really a Bonior like a graveyard we're look it's a very static kind of place where nothing happens it's just a big you know I don't like some hillbilly farm in the middle of Texas with 400 old tractors laying there it's anything but as you may have seen it's a very heavily engaged dynamic busy-busy organization that's tasked with supporting you know the mission of the United States Air Force and its allies and that's a huge amount of work for today's Air Force from Tucson Arizona I'm tech sergeant Nicholas Kurtz every year the a mark team reclaims hundreds of millions of dollars worth of parts to support global war fighting operations the boneyard is one of the most cost-effective programs in the entire federal government for every $1 spent on performing the mission at a mark the combination of parts reclaimed an aircraft decommissioned results in nearly $11 being returned to the Treasury an annual return on taxpayer investment of more than 1 billion dollars coming up a look at the process aircraft go through once retired when today's Air Force return I don't know what it's like I don't know what it's like to I don't know what it's like to be in a war I don't know what it's like I don't know what it's like to be shot and shot at they put in harm's way put my life on the line I don't know what it's like but I do know no one comes back the same no matter how tough you are I'm brave I'll patriotic anybody can get hurt and not just physically hurt if you're a service member or in a military family and you're feeling hopeless you're not alone please call this number it's confidential and free your family needs you we need you thank you for your service getting closer to nature can get you closer to your family go to discover the forest gorg welcome back to this special edition of today's Air Force so far we've shared a little bit about the boneyard its history and its importance today two Air Force missions worldwide now we'll take a look at what happens to aircraft once they make that final landing at the boneyard and how some get a second chance here's the story bringing this airplane here it's its last flight it's being retired from service Air Force to the boneyard flown over 20,000 hours deliver cargo all over the world it's a sad sad day what seeing this airplane being put to rest but it has added long life that's been flying since 1969 what we came here to do is deliver this to shipper be ones to the a mark we're sad to see him go they've been great workhorses but it's time to put him to sleep and so we flew in years from Dyess Air Force Base the 9th Bomb Squadron where you know we're sad to see her go she's been a great asset and really good at a helping us defend our nation one of the things that I talked about when I get a chance to talk to the employees of a Marg is I talk about what we do here do we store our planes we sure do but that's not what's important about us for the Department of Defense the most important thing we do is support the warfighter through different technologies and through different operations we have five major processes that we do here the first is storage which most people are familiar with taking an airplane preserving it here and keeping it in the desert for future use our role is to preserve incoming aircraft what we first started out by taping up all the seams of the engine that's what we're working on the b-52 back here behind me and then after that we sprayed the first coat of rubberized coating basically to prevent dust and burden throughs you from getting into the engines and trying to keep them as clean as possible most people think we store aircraft just to get rid of them later but a large number of the aircraft go through what's called regeneration where we will take them and we will return them the flyable status in order to use them for different programs for example we're regenerating f-4s that are used as drones so that our pilots can shoot live missiles at them to identify whether or not they would have been able to hit a target in combat these aircrafts that were produced in in 66 67 68 69 you're rebuilding the aircraft that was that was made almost 40 years ago and had spent the last 20 years sitting in a desert in storage so it's a tremendous task to take that airplane out of the desert and rebuild it and then get it back in the flying shape at least 40% of what we used to regenerate this aircraft will come from another Neff for testing on the desert each and every day we were claimed about fifty parts off of the aircraft here and sent them to keep the aircraft fleet that they have right now current and flying we have tons of great parts out here and little something let them go to waste so 90% of the stuff we pull is just as good as anything as a brand new part it's just dirty there's very few parts that I've pulled since I've been out here that were deemed bad there is a savings of dollars when we reclaim parts from here the boneyard but that's not actually the biggest benefit the biggest benefit is the largest number of parts we reclaim cannot be bought and therefore if without the parts that we reclaim here at the boneyard we'd stop flying so it's not as much about money it's about mission and the mission would stop if we stopped we're cleaning parts for them yep yep for the most part we just we just pull parts and send them in all day you know one after another it's a great job so a lot of different things occur here all the time we also do a little bit of disposal taking aircraft that nobody has a need for anymore within the entire federal government and actually getting rid of them cutting them up in the tiny pieces and getting rid of them and it takes the total about 4 c5 processing and shipping out about a week we are a female at the fuselage of the c5 basically what we do is we just tear it down we shred it up and then we sent it off to refineries to be processed into other materials I can see we're driving down the road and some of the aircraft and missing wings and missing the canopy they think it's it's a junkyard or the boneyard yep but they don't realize that missing wing might be flying in another aircraft that missing cockpit window could be in another aircraft some of us retired military think that that's it we don't do nothing else but know if we continue with our mission helping out the younger soldiers one way or another accomplish their mission and now let's take a look at some unique imagery from the boneyard the Boeing yal airborne laser testbed weapon system now sits decommissioned at the 309 aerospace maintenance and regeneration group at davis-monthan Air Force Base Arizona a c5 galaxy aircraft sits motionless while clouds pass overhead as it waits to be taken apart rose about 15 Eagles and f-16 Fighting Falcons are stored and preserved this allows them to be recalled into active service within 72 hours if needed the f4 phantom 2 which served as a principal air superiority fighter for the Air Force for over 20 years has been a resident of the boneyard since 1996 and that's photos from the boneyard I'm Staff Sergeant Michael Brady coming up we'll meet airmen who flew these aircraft and their special connection with the boneyard when today's Air Force return the design of the new era magazine its evolved into something now it's just really amazing to look at and to experience this new generation that is coming in they're very plugged into new technology and they're used to getting their news on their phone or on their their tablets and I think it's gonna be perfect for those people out there who want that it comes to light so your multimedia is your audio of your video and you can bring this thing to people which we couldn't do with a magazine in the past to me it's very user friendly having it on the on your tablet you can take away where you want to go perfect for the person who's traveling all over the place but still wants to stay up-to-date on on what's going on in their service it's an amazing new addition to the Air Force environmental management systems empower pollution prevention they empower us to know what is disposable and what is reusable to rethink what we already do but what they renewed purpose and they remind us how all the small things can equal big results helping us build a better world one day at a time with EMS to light the way each one of us can make a world of difference EMS can serve today secure tomorrow blue acts of green welcome back to today's Air Force as we've been learning the aerospace maintenance and regeneration group has an important mission to not only store and preserve aircraft but also aircraft regeneration maintenance and parts reclamation but the lifeblood of the boneyard is the dedicated team charged with accomplishing this mission so let's head to their office my name is Larry G right now you're in the f4 a drone production hangar a drone is an unmanned aircraft that that is flown by a man on the ground by way of radar and radio signals we produced rf-4c models and f-4e models become era full-scale aerial targets in the term apartment and we put them back together we make them flyable we take two flights to produce it and then we send it to Mojave where wherever sees a drone package and becomes a full-scale target it's a tremendous task but we have had several aircraft come through here where members are working on them used to crew them my aircraft actually came through here I actually missed her aircraft tail number 11 97 I crewed it while I was at Clark Air Base about 5,000 planes that are in the process of being decommissioned and taken apart to where you can see behind me to this point to where we get to cut it up we are D milling the the fuselage of a seat by basically what we do is we just tear it down shred it up and then we send it off to refineries to be processed into other materials right here's the c5 here it takes about four days of work to cut down and the process just what we do is we shred it down and then we just ship it to refineries I just put it into areas that I feel like it would be easiest for me to handle I just break it throughout this special edition of today's Air Force we