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Arizona's incredible Boneyard is purgatory for aircraft

This is the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, AMARG, aka The Boneyard, where planes of all types await their fate under the Arizona sun.

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Geoffrey Morrison
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1 of 48 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

AMARG

309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, aka, AMARG, aka The Boneyard. 

For the full story behind this tour, check out The Boneyard: thousands of aircraft in a desolate desert, awaiting their fate.

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2 of 48 Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

After security

After the short ride from Pima Air & Space museum, you have to exit the bus and wait in a small garage before you're allowed access (by going back on the same bus). Then the tour begins in earnest. 

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B-1

There's quite a mix of aircraft at AMARG. Most of them are siblings to active models.

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Lockheed C-5 Galaxy

Behold, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy: One of the largest military aircraft ever

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On display

The first part of the Boneyard tour goes past static displays of some examples of the aircraft elsewhere in the 4,400-acre facility...

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As far as the eye can see

...But look in any direction, and it's just aircraft, aircraft, aircraft.

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USN, retired

Navy aircraft get a bit extra treatment to prepare for their long sleep: fresh water wash to rid them of any salt leftover from their service.

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P-2 Neptune Sub hunter

The P-2 Neptune, patrol and sub-hunter.

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F-15 Eagle

To me, the F-15 is still a "new" plane, and it is still in service, but the oldest ones were built in the early '70s.

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Gives new meaning to the world 'stealth'

This is said to be the F-117 stealth fighter. (Get it?)

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A-7 and F-4

An A-7 Corsair (left) and F-4 Phantom, two very long lived aircraft. 

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F-14 Tomcat

Check out these two big F-14 Tomcats. This fighter was state of the art when Tom Cruise flew it in "Top Gun" back in 1986, but it was retired from US Navy service more than 10 years ago. 

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Say hello to the Hog

The beautiful A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka Warthog, is shown here in the foreground. Under the tarp, a F/A-18 Hornet

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Fighters and fighers

A careful eye will spot an F-16 Falcon, one of several I spotted on my tour.

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F-101 Voodoo

In service in the US from the late '50s to the early '70s, it's doubtful the F-101 Voodoo is going to make a comeback. 

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STOL transport

A super-rare YC-14 prototype, designed for short takeoff and landing. Only two were made. The other is at Pima.

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Trainers and turbines

A lonely trainer, with a few of the hundreds of sealed-up jet engines.

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Ready and waiting

With just a bit of work these can be ready to power their original aircraft. 

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Choppers, choppers everywhere

Easily parked next to each other, it seems like there are even more helicopters because they're so close.

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Rotors removed

The rotors are kept separate.

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C-130s

If I had to guess, there were more C-130 Hercules than any other aircraft at AMARG.

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Row upon row

Which makes sense given they rival the B-52 Stratofortress for longevity. Both have been in production -- and active service -- since the 1950s.

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'Other'

Containers galore with... other things inside. 

Actually, I'm pretty sure these hold smaller jet engines.

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Falcons

More F-16s. This looks almost like a whole squadron has been mothballed.

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F-16

Though first built in the 1970s, the F-16 is still being manufactured today, and is one of the most common military aircraft in the world. Still slick looking too. 

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Ready for sleep

An F-16 getting ready to go into storage. 

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C-5s

When there are so many, they seem smaller. Make no mistake, these transports are massive aircraft. 

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Titan II, is that you?

That sure looks like a disassembled Titan II, similar to the one in the silo at the Titan II Missile Museum

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Corsair II

The A-7 was still in use in Greece in 2014, 23 years after they were retired from the US Air Force.

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Hulk

Some airframes go in pieces, as other aircraft need their parts to keep flying. This is a big part of what makes AMARG so useful. It's a lot cheaper to remove and refurbish a part than make or buy a new one (if that's even possible). 

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Canberra

Well that's not something you see every day: A RB-57F Canberra.

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B-1 behind

Even missing part of its empennage and some body panels, the B-1 supersonic bomber is still a gorgeous aircraft. 

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How many?

According to Wikipedia, 100 B-1Bs were manufactured. If that's true, it appears that a sizable percentage of that total lives here at the Boneyard.

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4 by 18

A few more F/A-18 Hornets nose-to-nose with one of their predecessors, the F-4.

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How old?

These C-130s look brand new, other than the white protective coverings.

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And even more

There have to be hundreds here.

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Air Guard

One from the Tennessee Air National Guard.

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Soil

Along with the weather, the densely-packed soil in this part of Arizona is another benefit to the AMARG location.

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A-10

Though aging, the A-10 is still such a useful and popular plane, it's not surprising to see one up on blocks with its parts missing to help its still-flying siblings.  

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Big BUFF

Speaking of aging and being useful, the mighty B-52. Even the newest are 55 years old, and they're expected to stay in service into the 2040s.

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Midsized cargo

I believe this is a C-135 Stratolifter -- but don't quote me on that.

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Stripped for parts

And another likely C-135. But this one is being stripped for parts.

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Hawkeyes

So many E-2 Hawkeyes.

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Humvees

Though primarily aircraft storage, there are a few hundred ground vehicles as well.

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Choppers

The iconic Huey. Lots of iconic Hueys, as a matter of fact.

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Cobras

And of course, its thinner sibling, the Huey Cobra.

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Big 'Bs'

This is such an incredible juxtaposition. Next to the C-5, the B-1 looks positively tiny. Except it's not, it's nearly as long as a B-52! The C-5 is really just that massive.

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So they sit

The bus brings us back to Pima Air & Space museum, while the aircraft remain in the sun.

For the full story behind this tour, check out The Boneyard: thousands of aircraft in a desolate desert, awaiting their fate.

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