AMARC, or the Aerospace Maintenance
And Regeneration Centre, is a joint service facility managed by the US Air Force Material Command located in the
town of Tucson, Arizona, USA.
Often referred to as 'The Boneyard', AMARC is an aerospace
storage and maintenance facility adjoining Davis-Monthan Air Force Base which provides a service to all branches of the US
military (Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Army), as well as other national agencies.
over 4,200 aircraft as well as many other types of military equipment, AMARC works very hard in promoting itself as not just
a 'Boneyard' and takes every opportunity in explaining how it operates it's cost effective, tax saving operations.
Many of the stored aircraft can be returned to an operational
status in a short period of time and there is a continual process of anti-corrosion and re-preservation work which keeps the
aircraft in a stable condition during their stay.
The reason the Boneyard reference exists is due to other work that
AMARC carries out, that of reclamation of spare parts and the eventual disposal of spent airframes. The Center can be divided
into 2 distinct areas, the RIT (Reclamation Insurance Type) area located to the east side of Kolb Road is littered with aircraft
in various states of completeness. The junkyard appearance belies the fact that these aircraft are controlled by a process
of careful part reclamation, both to a schedule and to ad-hoc requests. On careful examination many of these aircraft can
be seen re-sealed to protect the remaining components from the dirt and heat.
There are many times that aircraft from
the RIT area leave AMARC to become instructional aircraft, targets on Army or Air Force ranges, museum exhibits or display
pieces, although most end up being smelted down into ingots by nearby metal processors.
AMARC has also been heavily
involved in the elimination of B-52 Stratofortresses under the Strategic ffArms Reduction Treaty (START).and were also responsible
for the eliminiation of 445 Ground Launch Cruise Missiles (GLCM) and their launchers under the INF Treaty.
AMARC is located
in the town of Tucson, Arizona in the USA. Arizona is a south, western state which borders Mexico. One of the reasons that
AMARC is situated here is the dry, arid environment which exists in the area all year round.
AMARG was established in 1946, shortly after World War II
as the 4105th Army Air Force Unit to house B-29 and C-47 aircraft. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base was chosen because of Tucson's
low humidity, infrequent rainfall, alkaline soil and high altitude of 2,550–2,900 ft (780–880 m), reducing
rust and corrosion. The hard soil makes it possible to move aircraft around without having to pave the storage areas.
In 1948, after the Air Force's creation as a separate service,
the unit was renamed the 3040th Aircraft Storage Depot. In 1965, the depot was renamed the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition
Center (MASDC), and tasked with processing aircraft for all the US armed forces (not just the Air Force). In the 1980s, the
center began processing ICBMs for dismantling or reuse in satellite launches, and was renamed the Aerospace Maintenance and
Regeneration Center (AMARC) to reflect the expanded focus on all aerospace assets.
In the 1990s, in accordance with the START I treaty, AMARG
was tasked with eliminating 365 B-52 bombers. The progress of this task was to be verified by Russia via satellite and first-person
inspection at the AMARG facility. Initially, the B-52s were chopped into pieces with a 13,000-pound guillotine winched by
a steel cable, supported by a crane. Later on, the tool of choice became K-12 rescue saws. This more precise technique afforded
AMARG with salvageable spare parts.
In May 2007, command of AMARC was transferred to the 309th
Maintenance Wing, and the center was renamed the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.
There are four categories of storage for planes at AMARG:
Long Term - Aircraft are kept intact for future use
Parts Reclamation - Aircraft are kept, picked apart
and used for spare parts
Flying Hold - Aircraft are kept intact for shorter stays
than Long Term
Excess of DoD needs - Aircraft are sold off whole or in
Planes that are
to be mothballed, if only temporarily, go through a meticulous process to prepare them for exposure to the desert environment.
On arrival, the planes are inspected. Fuel tanks are filled with heavy oil, which provides a protective coating for engine
parts. Canopies, engine intakes and other openings are sealed with layers of “Spraylat,” a latex-based, permanently
flexible substance that is easy to remove.
The top layer of “Spraylat,” which is white,
reflects enough solar heat to keep a plane’s interior at nearly the same temperature as the outside air. Without Spraylat,
the interior could quickly heat up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit during hot summer days. The coatings protect the plane’s
most vulnerable parts against sun, wind, dust and nesting animals. Every four years, the planes are brought into an open hangar
for a checkup.
Four Categories of Mothballed Planes
Most of the airplanes that sit in desert graveyards
today date from the Vietnam era or later. They are divided into four categories, depending on their future prospects.
Category 1000 planes are preserved with an eye toward
possibly flying again, should international political conditions warrant.
Category 2000 planes are maintained for spare parts.
Some parts from older aircraft, are available nowhere else.
Category 3000 planes are kept in near ready-to-fly
condition, awaiting a more-than-likely new deployment.
Category 4000 planes are destined for “static display”
in museums, town squares or Air Force base entrances. Most, however, will be sold as scrap metal, eventually finding new life
as razor blades, soft drink cans or car fenders.
Among the most notable Category 4000 planes is the Cold
War’s most enduring icon, the B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber. Most B-52s in the U. S. fleet are headed for the scrap
heap under the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).
AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600 acres
(11 km2) facility is adjacent to the base. For every $1 the federal government spends operating the facility, it
saves or produces $11 from harvesting spare parts and selling off inventory. Congressional oversight determines what equipment
may be sold to which customer.
An aircraft going into storage undergoes the following treatments:
All guns, ejection seat charges, or classified hardware
The fuel system is protected by draining it, refilling
it with lightweight oil, and then draining it again. This leaves a protective oil film.
The aircraft is sealed from dust, sunlight, and high temperatures.
This is done using a variety of materials, ranging from a high tech vinyl plastic compound, called spraylat, of a opaque white
colour sprayed on the aircraft, to simple garbage bags. The plane is then towed by a jeep to its designated "storage" position.
The Group annually in-processes an undisclosed number of
aircraft for storage and out-processes a number of aircraft for return to the active service, either repainted and sold to
friendly foreign governments, recycled as target or remotely controlled drones or rebuilt as cargo planes. For instance, Turkey
has purchased several Vietnam-era jets in recent years that had been kept at AMARG. There is much scrutiny over who (civilians,
companies, foreign governments) and what kind of parts they may buy. At times, these sales are canceled, the Air Force for
example reclaimed several F-16s from AMARG for the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Courses and which were originally meant
to be sold to Pakistan, but were never delivered due to an embargo at that time.
AMARG is closely guarded, and is off-limits to anyone not
employed there. The only exception is a bus tour which is conducted by the nearby Pima Air & Space Museum.
After World War II more
than 7000 retired Army bombers, fighters, and training planes were left standing row to row at the old Kingman Army Airfield,
5 miles east of Kingman Arizona, now Storage Depot 41 of the War Assets Corporation. It was the worlds greatest concentration
of aircraft in one area at one time, covering five square miles. Kingman Army Airfield was a gunnery base which once had an
Army population of 17,000 officers and men.
5437 of the planes,
offered for competitive bidding with the provisions that they would not be used for flight purposes since
they were not adaptable for civilian use, were purchased for $2,780,000 by Martin Wunderlich, of Jefferson City, Missouri,
a contractor. It is rumored that the fuel from these aircraft was sold for more than the purchase
price of the planes.
At one time the
Kingman storage records showed 2567 B-24 Liberators, 1832 B-17 Flying Fortresses, 478 P-38 Lightnings,
200 P-38 photo-recon planes, 37 B-29 Super Fortresses, 141 B-25 medium bombers and hundreds of P-47 Thunderbolt's,
P-40s and A-26s.
P-61 Black Widow $6,000
B-17 Flying Fortress $13,750
B-25 Mitchell $8,250
A-26 Invader $2,000
P-47 Thunderbolt $3,500
P-40 Warhawk $1,250
A-24 Boston $1,650
No one but American
citizens could purchase the planes at Kingman, and before being offered for sale the airplanes were stripped
of all confidential equipment such as bomb sites, radar and some radio installations.
The above eight shots from various scrap yards,
were supplied by Graham Robson