This is one of the most fascinating sites you can see on Google Earth (even without Street View) and one of the very first things I ever found. This gigantic aircraft graveyard in the desert outside of Tucson, Arizona is officially called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), but it’s unofficially known as the Boneyard, and it’s easy to see why. Since the end of World War II various branches of the U.S. military have hauled outdated planes here, sawed them into scrap, cannibalized them for spare parts or simply left them alone under the hot sun. There are over 4,000 aircraft here, representing a bizarre unintentional museum of U.S. military airpower in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The Boneyard was first established in November 1945 as an almost inevitable outgrowth of World War II. During that war the U.S. churned out military machinery, particularly planes, in such vast numbers that it’s difficult to comprehend the treasure and work that went into them. When the war was over something had to be done with all the surplus planes, so the Army Air Corps began bringing them here. The hot temperatures and lack of rain meant the planes wouldn’t decay very fast in case spare parts were needed, and the hard-packed desert soil meant planes could be parked here without paving a vast area. One thing led to another. By the 1990s decommissioned B-52s and even nuclear missiles (without their payloads, of course) were were being junked here. If you look around on Google Earth you can see almost every kind of fighter, bomber and support plane the military has used for the last 70 years.

Lonely and forlorn though it looks, this facility is actually a profit center for the military. The sale of spare parts (with government approval) not only pays for the upkeep of the Boneyard, but turns a tidy profit. But don’t try to wander in off the street to see what they’ve got for sale. The facility is off-limits to anyone without proper security clearance. Even in death, military planes maintain their aura of cloak-and-dagger secrecy.

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