Davis–Monthan Air Force Base (DM AFB) (IATA: DMA, ICAO: KDMA, FAA LID: DMA) is a United States Air Force base 5 miles (4.3 nmi; 8.0 km) south-southeast of downtown Tucson, Arizona. It was established in 1925 as Davis-Monthan Landing Field. The host unit for Davis–Monthan AFB is the 355th Wing (355 WG) assigned to Twelfth Air Force (12AF), 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 (309 AMARG), the aircraft boneyard for all excess military and U.S. government aircraft and aerospace vehicles.
Davis-Monthan & AMARG’s Role as the Largest Military Aircraft Boneyard
It has evolved into “the largest aircraft boneyard in the world“.
With the area’s low humidity in the 10%-20% range, meager rainfall of 11″ annually, hard alkaline soil, and high altitude of 2,550 feet allowing the aircraft to be naturally preserved for cannibalization or possible reuse, Davis-Monthan is the logical choice for a major storage facility.
The geology of the desert allows aircraft to be moved around without having to pave the storage areas.
By May of 1946, more than 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains had been moved to Davis-Monthan.
In addition, about 30 other aircraft were stored at Davis-Monthan that were destined for museums, including the “Enola Gay” and “Bockscar”.
In 1965, the Department of Defense decided to close its Litchfield Park storage facility in Phoenix, and consolidate the Navy’s surplus air fleet into Davis-Monthan.
Along with this move, the name of the 2704th Air Force Storage and Disposition Group was changed to Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) to better reflect its joint services mission.
In early 1965, aircraft from Litchfield Park began the move from Phoenix to Tucson, mostly moved by truck, a cheaper alternative than removing planes from their protective coverings, flying them, and protecting them again.
In 1985, the facility’s name was changed again, from MASDC to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) as outdated ICBM missiles also entered storage at Davis-Monthan.
By May of 1946, more than 600 B-29 Superfortresses and 200 C-47 Skytrains had been moved to Davis-Monthan. Some were preserved and returned to action in the Korean War, others were scrapped.
B-29 Superfortress Storage Post-WWII
With the end of World War II and victory over Japan and Germany assured, the United States found itself with a large inventory of aircraft, numbering about 65,000. These were temporarily stored and subsequently disposed of at 30 airfields, with the largest concentrations at seven major depots such as Kingman Army Airfield in Arizona and Walnut Ridge Army Air Field in Arkansas.
While some planes went into civilian usage, most were scrapped and their metal components melted and sold. Other planes were kept for future usage, and stored at several locations, including Warner-Robins, Victorville, Pyote Army Air Field in Texas, and Davis-Monthan AAF.
Immediately after the war, the Army’s San Antonio Air Technical Service Command established a storage facility primarily for B-29 Superfortress and C-47 Skytrain aircraft at Davis-Monthan.
Many of the B-29s would be pressed back into service as the Korean War escalated in the early 1950s.
The End of the B-36 Peacemaker Fleet
In February of 1956, the first Convair B-36 Peacemaker aircraft arrived at Davis-Monthan AFB for scrapping.
All of the fleet of 384 Peacemakers would ultimately be dismantled except for four remaining B-36 survivors saved for air museums.
Scrapping of the B-47 Stratojet Fleet
The last Air Force B-47 Stratojet bomber was retired at the end of 1969, and the entire fleet was dismantled at Davis-Monthan except for about 30 Stratojets which were saved for display in air museums.
Today: Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) is Home to the World’s Largest Airplane Boneyard
Davis-Monthan is today the location of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), the sole aircraft boneyard and parts reclamation facility for all excess military and government aircraft.
Aircraft from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, NASA and other government agencies are processed at AMARG, which employs 550 people, almost all civilians. It is the largest airplane boneyard in the world.
Another role of AMARG is to support the program that converts old fighter jets, such as the F-4 Phantom II and F-16, into aerial target drones.
It also serves as an auxiliary facility of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and stores tooling for out-of-production military aircraft.
AMARG’s typical inventory comprises more than 4,400 aircraft, which makes it the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world.
The Air Force Materiel Command’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) is organized as follows:
- 576th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Squadron
- 577th Commodities Reclamation Squadron
- 578th Storage and Disposal Squadron
- 309th Support Squadron
AMARG Layout and Aircraft Storage Areas
Kolb Road runs north-south through the AMARG area, and is below ground level so viewing aircraft from this part of the road is really not possible from a moving vehicle.
The northern boundary of the area is East Escalante Road and East Irvington Road, while the southern boundary runs along East Valencia Road.
The area to the west of Kolb Road is used mainly for long-term storage, but also contains the arrivals ramp, maintenance shelters, wash racks, lubrication area, and preservation preparation.
Also on the west side is an area commonly called “Celebrity Row” or “History Row“, a major stopping point on the bus tours and includes representative aircraft of the type in storage at the time. The aircraft on display in this area will vary from time to time, and year to year.
The area to the east is used to store aircraft which are in the process of being reclaimed for parts. In Fiscal Year 2012 AMARG “pulled” more than 10,000 parts, with a value of $472 million. In that year the five fleets calling for the most parts were the Air Force’s F-15, B-1B, F-16, C-5, and C-135. The only Navy airplane on the top 10 list, the P-3 Orion, came in sixth.
Orders for spare parts are received by AMARG on a Form 44. It documents the requesting base/unit, its priority, whether it supports a combat mission, classification, special handling requirements, acceptable substitutions, and other information.
In 1964, the last B-47 departed Davis-Monthan, making way for the arrival of nearly 50 F-4 Phantom II aircraft. A new mission was to train all aircrews for the conversion of 12 tactical wings to the F-4C fighter-bomber jet. The 4453 CCTW trained a majority of F-4 crews for the conflict in Southeast Asia.
On July 1, 1971 the Air Force reactivated the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Davis-Monthan with the Vought A-7D Corsair II as the primary weapon system. In early 1975, the 355 TFW prepared for conversion to the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II – Warthog.
Today, the host unit at Davis–Monthan remains the 355th Fighter Wing (355 FW) assigned to the Twelfth Air Force, which is headquartered at the base as part of Air Combat Command (ACC). The 355th flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II and associated support aircraft such as the EC-130 Hercules. The staffing at the base includes 6,000 Airmen and 1,700 civilian personnel.