US Set to Lose Hundreds of Planes in Pentagon Budget Cuts

a 10 amarc  US Set to Lose Hundreds of Planes in Pentagon Budget Cuts(Image: Ed Siasoco, cc-3.0)

The mighty US Air Force is set to lose around 200 aircraft from its 4,000-strong fleet, in the latest round of Obama administration budget cuts. It’s unclear which planes will be axed but they’re likely to be mainly older models (some active jets – although heavily upgraded – have been flying since the 1980s).

amarc  US Set to Lose Hundreds of Planes in Pentagon Budget Cuts(Image: Tom Brandt, cc-sa-3.0)

Meanwhile, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), also known as the most expensive defense programme ever, is still some way from active deployment, and the Air Force’s efforts to replace the B-2 Spirit with a Next Generation Bomber (NGB) remains on the cards.

amarc mothballed aircraft  US Set to Lose Hundreds of Planes in Pentagon Budget Cuts(Images: Alaskan Dude, cc-3.0)

Find out more at Danger Room. Since Wired used an image of a banged-out MiG-21 to illustrate the coming cuts to US military aircraft, we thought we’d leave you with these images of defunct American jets. Last year we reported that the number of aircraft stored at Davis-Monthan AFB, also known as AMARG or the Boneyard, had diminished. Now, it seems, the number is set to once again increase.

Scrapping a B-52 Stratofortress at AMARG Boneyard

b 52 scrapping  Scrapping a B-52 Stratofortress at AMARG Boneyard(Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

This excerpt from a German language documentary shows the crude nature of aircraft scrapping, as a mighty B-52 Stratofortress is cut-up at the AMARG facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, popularly referred to as the Boneyard.  The 185,000 lb bomber is no match for “the guillotine”, used to reduce the B-52s to several massive chunks of scrap to be viewed by Russian spy satellites under the SALT II Treaty prior to final recycling.  Like the B-52s, aircraft numbers at the Boneyard appear to be dwindling.

Have Aircraft Numbers Declined at AMARG, U.S. Military’s Vast Plane Graveyard?

AMARG  Have Aircraft Numbers Declined at AMARG, U.S. Military’s Vast Plane Graveyard?(All images via Google Earth)

Officially titled the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) but known simply as “the Boneyard”, this vast collection of surplus military aircraft in Tucson, Arizona is without doubt the largest plane graveyard in the United States.  But according to a March 2011 Google Earth overview, there’s evidence that the “second largest air force in the world” is shrinking rapidly.

AMARG 2  Have Aircraft Numbers Declined at AMARG, U.S. Military’s Vast Plane Graveyard?

This February 2010 article on Treehugger revealed a plane graveyard with barely an empty parking space available.  But it’s changed dramatically over the past year, as dwindling aircraft numbers reflect the return to service of some and scrapping of others.  Roughly 87 massive B-52 bombers survive in the Boneyard, with around half cut-up to satisfy treaty obligations.

AMARG 3  Have Aircraft Numbers Declined at AMARG, U.S. Military’s Vast Plane Graveyard?

F-4 Phantom numbers have also declined, with many of the stored Vietnam-era warplanes returned to service for use as target drones, while an ongoing process of regeneration and recycling has seen other Boneyard occupants give up the ghost.  But even if the massive 2,600 acre (four square mile) site no longer houses 4,200 aircraft, it’s still one of the most impressive aircraft facilities on the planet.

AMARG 4  Have Aircraft Numbers Declined at AMARG, U.S. Military’s Vast Plane Graveyard?

More to the point, when the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter eventually enters service, AMARG will once again be filled to capacity with a new crop of redundant F-16s and F-18s, among other older airframes.  For the aviation enthusiast – or anyone that wants to be awestruck – a tour of the Boneyard is available from the Pima Air & Space Museum, adjacent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.