The United States is a dominant player in military strength, with advanced weaponry, powerful equipment, and the largest military budget in the world. In air combat, the United States holds an undisputed position of dominance due to its impressive fleet of active combat aircraft, including stealthy marvels such as the F-22 and F-35, as well as stealth bombers like the B-2 and B-21.
A Force Beyond the Eye
Did you know that the U.S. Air Force goes beyond just having the ability to strike globally? They also ensure they have complete control of the skies at all times. However, many people don’t know that the “Second Air Force” is located in the United States. This group is so large that it can easily rival any air force worldwide. The “Second Air Force” comprises retired U.S. fighter aircraft that are carefully preserved at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. This vast 2,600-acre area is known as the 309th Aviation Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).
This location is known as the biggest aircraft storage and maintenance center in the United States and the largest aircraft graveyard in the world. It houses around 4,000 retired fighter aircraft, including various models like the F-4, F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18, A-10, and B-52.
Categorizing the Arsenal
These retired fighters are systematically categorized based on their status:
In this category, fighters possess the potential for revival or sale to other entities. They are meticulously coated with specialized anti-corrosion paint and subjected to regular inspections and maintenance.
Fighters in this category may never soar again, yet their parts and equipment find new life as components for repairing or modifying other aircraft. These aircraft are meticulously disassembled, sorted, and stored by type.
Although deemed obsolete or severely damaged, fighters in this category remain viable for experiments or research endeavors. They are maintained in their original state and offered to various institutions and units for testing or analysis.
These fighters are considered entirely worthless and deemed unfit for reuse or recycling. Consequently, they are dismantled and sold to scrap recyclers.
Ready for Action
Even though they are retired from active duty, fighter jets remain a vital strategic reserve for the United States. They can quickly be reintroduced to the battlefield if needed. The U.S. Air Force’s plan is for these planes to be operational within 72 hours, offering crucial air support and reinforcements during crises.
For instance, during the Gulf War 1991, the United States deployed 177 A-10 attack aircraft, F-4G Wild Weasel electronic warfare aircraft from AMARG, and some B-52 bombers for striking targets in Iraq. Similarly, during the 2003 Iraq War, the United States called upon 60 F-16 fighter jets from AMARG to execute air patrols and air-to-ground attack missions.
A Versatile Tool
Retired fighter jets have a variety of uses beyond their strategic reserve role. They are used to enhance the skills of American pilots by conducting air confrontation training and simulating enemy aircraft characteristics and tactics. They are also employed in experiments and research to evaluate the effectiveness of new weapons and protective systems, analyze aircraft structure and performance, and serve educational and exhibition purposes. This includes educating the public on the history and evolution of the U.S. Air Force and teaching students about flight principles and techniques.
The Balance of Power
It is important to consider the impact of a large number of retired fighter jets on Russia, which is also a major air power on the global stage. Russia currently has around 4,000 active combat aircraft, including fourth-generation semi-fighters like Su-27, Su-30, Su-35, and Su-57, as well as long-range bombers such as Tu-160 and Tu-95. The Russian Air Force has a wide reach, extending its presence beyond Eurasia to polar regions and oceans.
However, compared to the United States, Russia faces certain deficiencies in its air force. In the realm of stealth technology, Russia is yet to attain large-scale production capabilities, with only a handful of Su-57 stealth fighters currently in service, failing to match the performance of American counterparts like the F-22 and F-35.
When it comes to long-range strikes, the United States has more and better weapons than Russia. The US’s B-2, B-21, and JASSM arsenal are better than what Russia has. Additionally, Russia only has one aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and it often has issues and accidents. It also doesn’t have any fixed-wing stealth fighters for deployment.
The Veiled Intentions
In air combat, the United States uses both its active and reserve fighter fleets to exert considerable pressure and present formidable challenges to Russia. American air power dominates, with an absolute advantage in both quantity and quality, while Russian air power is disadvantaged in all areas. This inequality is a significant threat and provocation to Russia’s national security and regional interests.
Many people are wondering why the United States has been gathering old fighter planes. Some think it’s because they want to stay ahead in air battles and prevent other countries from getting an edge.
In conclusion, the impact and implications of these retired fighter jets cannot be underestimated. They embody a part of the U.S. Air Force and a pivotal component of U.S. military strategy. Far from mere scrap metal, they represent potential weapons, witnessing history while harboring the potential to shape the future.