Procurement: Sometimes Older Is Better

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June 30, 2016: The U.S. Marine Corps recently received the first two (of thirty) F-18A fighter-bombers that were taken out of storage in the AMARC (Aerospace Maintenance and Recovery Center) “bone yard” and refurnished for active service. The marines requested the 30 F-18As in 2014 because of delays in getting the new F-35. The marines have been relying on “un-retirement” a lot since 2001. Back in 2011 the marines took an old AV-8 Harrier vertical takeoff fighter, which had been in storage for sixteen years and restored it to duty as a two seat trainer. The marines didn't think they would need that old AV-8. But the new F-35B, which is to replace the AV-8, is late in arriving and operations in Afghanistan have worn down the existing AV-8s. So reinforcements have been called up from the bone yard. A few years earlier the marines pulled some retired CH-53E helicopters out of AMARC storage.

It’s not just the United States that uses AMARC, foreign nations do as well. Chile recently received the second of two C-130H aircraft via AMARC. These were aircraft that had been retired and recalled to active service after being refurbished. Each of these transports cost Chile $7 million, which included refurbishment. A new C-130H costs nearly five times that.

In the United States retired aircraft are usually sent to AMARC, an air force storage site out in the desert. Since World War II most military aircraft ended up being retired intact (and eventually scrapped), not shot down or otherwise destroyed in combat. Some nations, particularly the United States, have an intermediate status - storage. The main such site in the United States is AMARC. This is the “bone yard." Aircraft stored at AMARC would, if armed and operational, be the third largest air force in the world. This facility, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base out in the Arizona desert, stores nearly 5,000 military aircraft no longer needed for active service. Every year some are recalled, refurbished and sent back to work. But most get "harvested" for spare parts, until what's left is chopped up and sold for scrap.

A growing number of aircraft are becoming too old (or missing too many parts) to be revived and are eligible for scrapping. Thus In 2012 the United States auctioned off 12,000 tons of retired F-111, C-5, F-15, C-130, S-3, and A-4 aircraft for scrap. After ten or twenty years in AMARC aircraft are likely to be scrapped. But before that happens a growing number of new or former users come looking for bargains.

 


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