The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, known as the â€œBone Yard,â€ is the resting place for retired military aircraft and the reusable parts that keep the military aviation branches flying.
Since the end of World War II, the Department of Defense has utilized 2,600 acres on the east side of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to store more than 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and other federal agencies including NASA.
â€œWe are the executive agent on behalf of the Department of Defense for the storage, reclamation and preservation of aircraft,â€ said Col. Patrick T. Kumashiro, commander of the 309 AMARG. â€œThose environmental conditions are ideal for our long term storage of aircraft.â€
Itâ€™s estimated that the aircraft stored at The Boneyard have an original purchase price of more than $35 billion. â€œOver a period of time we will reclaim parts from those aircraft and put those parts back into the DOD supply chain,â€ Kumashiro said.
Kumashiro suggested that the aircraft stored at 309 AMARG provide the military unique savings that allows military units throughout the world to withdraw parts and aircraft. â€œEvery year, we reclaim about a half-billion dollars worth of parts,â€ he said. â€œThe taxpayers get a tremendous return on their investment with the reclamation of these parts.â€
Kumashiro said the 309 AMARG staff members are dedicated and very good at their jobs. â€œOur folks have come out on holidays, when the weather is miserable because they know how important that part is,â€ he said. â€œFour thousand of those parts have directly contributed to flying aircraft. That aircraft couldnâ€™t fly without our part.â€
Of course, finding a special part needed for the military supply chain can be a chore. â€œWe donâ€™t have this huge database that says this is where you find it,â€ Kumashiro explained. â€œSometimes we have to go from aircraft to aircraft.â€
Kumashiro pointed out that in some cases, the parts that are reclaimed from aircraft are no longer being manufactured. â€œAll of the services fly legacy aircraft for 40-plus years, so those suppliers no longer exist,â€ he said. â€œWe are relying on AMARG as a source of supply.â€
In the coming year, some F-16 Fighting Falcons will be regenerated and set up as unmanned target drones. There are T-37s and C-130s also being regenerated for export. â€œWe have a very robust foreign military sales program,â€ Kumashiro said. â€œWe have the ability to regenerate aircraft that are stored here for foreign military sales, for our own military services. In fact, you will see F-4s that are flying today. They have been retired for well over 20 years and after we regenerate those there is a contractor that installs a software package that allows those jets to be flown unmanned so they can be used as targets.â€
The 309 AMARG also participates in the depot repair overflow program. â€œIn the past, we may not have had the necessary capacity at out depots,â€ Kumashiro said. â€œWe will take C-130s and A-10s and completely do depot repairs for those aircraft.â€
That activity is starting to draw down. â€œThat has been a pretty dynamic mission for us over the last couple of years,â€ Kumashiro pointed out.
Currently AMARG is supporting an avionics mod for 250 A-10s over the next three years. â€œItâ€™s very easy to tow those A-10s from the fighter wing over here,â€ Kumashiro added. â€œThere are tremendous cost savings by doing that.â€
There are a number of alumni military associations that are hosted at 309 AMARG each year. â€œEvery aircraft, every tail number has a story,â€ Kumashiro said.
Kumashiroâ€™s father retired from the Air Force and has a close friend who flew WB-57s. â€œHe hadnâ€™t seen one since 1969. When he came to visit he started to cry,â€ Kumashiro recalled. â€œIt was pretty neat to see that reaction.â€