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Home Why more than 4.400 military planes, valued at US$35 billion, are 'abandoned' in the Arizona desert, forming the largest aircraft graveyard in the world

Why more than 4.400 military planes, valued at US$35 billion, are 'abandoned' in the Arizona desert, forming the largest aircraft graveyard in the world

22 May 2024 to 17: 38
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Why more than 4.400 military planes, valued at US$35 billion, are 'abandoned' in the Arizona desert, forming the largest aircraft graveyard in the world
Photo: Global Knowledge/Disclosure

More than 4.400 military planes, valued at $35 billion, are stationed in the Arizona desert. Discover the historical and strategic reasons behind this gigantic aircraft graveyard, its economic importance, and the fascinating stories of these abandoned planes.

The Arizona desert is home to more than 4.400 abandoned military planes, valued at $35 billion. These planes include fighters, helicopters and bombers, which could form the world's second largest air force. But why are so many planes there? Understand the reasons behind this huge abandoned fleet and what happens to these aircraft.

After World War II, the United States faced a problem: what to do with the 230.000 planes built during the conflict. The solution was found in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona. The region, with its low humidity, little rain and hard soil, was perfect for storing planes without the need for paving and with minimal corrosion.

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Category 1000 military aircraft undergo maintenance every four years

Since 1946 the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base began receiving aircraft for storage. Airplanes are classified into four categories:

  1. Type 1000: long-term storage. These planes can return to flying quickly if necessary.
  2. Type 2000: storage for parts removal. These planes will not fly again, but they provide parts for other aircraft.
  3. Type 3000: short-term storage. These planes are awaiting a new destination and may be sold to other countries.
  4. Type 4000: destruction. Planes that will be dismantled and recycled.

The storage process involves removing weapons, washing them to remove corrosive substances and applying a sealant paint to protect the aircraft from the desert climate. Category 1000 military aircraft undergo maintenance every four years to ensure they can fly again if necessary.

There are some historical ones, like the B-29 Enola Gay bomber

Among the military aircraft in storage, there are some historic ones, such as the B-29 Enola Gay bomber, the first to drop an atomic bomb. There are also famous models such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighters, known from the movie “Top Gun”.

In addition to serving as an airplane cemetery, the site also has financial importance. Around 600 workers recover parts worth up to US$350 million a year, helping to save money on purchasing new parts.

The Arizona desert is home to an impressive military aircraft graveyard, with more than 4.400 aircraft. This site not only preserves the history of military aviation, but also plays a crucial role in the United States' economy and military readiness. With rising global tensions, many of these planes could be reactivated, demonstrating the strategic importance of this vast deposit in the desert.

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