The Many Faces of Spaces

The Many Faces of Spaces

The AMARC aka The Boneyard

The AMARC aka The Boneyard

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group

The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), often called The Boneyard, is a United States Air Force aircraft storage and maintenance facility in Tucson, Arizona, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. AMARG was previously the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, AMARC, and before that the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposal Center, MASDC.

It takes care of more than 4,400 aircraft, including 700 F-4 Phantom IIs, whose total original purchase price is estimated at $27 billion. An Air Force Materiel Command (formerly AFLC, Air Force Logistics Command) unit, the group is under the command of the 309th Maintenance Wing of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. AMARG was originally meant to store excess Department of Defense and Coast Guard aircraft, but has in recent years been designated the sole repository of out-of-service aircraft from all branches of the US government.


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

Storage procedures

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 parts
AMARG employs 550 people, almost all civilians. The 2,600-acre (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 are removed.
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 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.

Use in movies and TV

AMARC has also been site of filming for scenes in several movie and television productions, despite the rather heavy security of AMARG and the base in general. The most recent and notable of these is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The exterior scenes of the Smithsonian set were actually filmed in the Boneyard. The background of several shots can be clearly recognized while looking toward the fence-line from one of the major streets that run along the perimeter. Others include the 1991 movie Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man; the music video for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ song Learning To Fly; and various other productions.

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