Mystery unveiled: Tucson's 'Boneyard' more than just an aircraft cemetery

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Mystery unveiled: Tucson's 'Boneyard' more than just an aircraft cemetery

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED May 3, 2013 - UPDATED: May 4, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Inside a hangar, an F-16 that's about to transform from fighter jet to hi-tech drone.

First flight-- set for this November. Not what you expected to hear about The Boneyard?

"When people hear the word 'boneyard' they think graveyard, cemetery and there's some truth to that," said Colonel Robert Lepper, AMARG Commander. "And we love the name because people know it, but there is so much more that's here it's just beyond belief."

The F-16 transformation is just one of many projects the crews actually want you to know about. Surprisingly, no top secret files here.

And the hard work crews put in on these projects takes dedication and passion.

Just ask any of the nearly 700 employees. From the top of the ranks...

"I am convinced that I have the best job in the Air Force to be honest with you," said Lepper.

To the flight test team...

"This is what I cut my teeth on," said Director of Flight Test Colonel Michael Leach. "These are my babies. Yes, I love these airplanes."

And even down to the maintenance technicians. The aircraft at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group or AMARG here at Davis Monthan have seen war, delivered troops to the battlefield and brought them back to safety.

"There is a tremendous amount of history here as you look and go through the different airplanes," said Lepper. "You cant help but be awed by the airplanes that are here and the technology they represent."

Almost 4000 planes are stored here at AMARG, and some with amazing stories like an LC-130 that was buried in the Antarctic ice for 17 years.

And then there's a Boeing-747 that carried the world's first airborne laser, designed to destroy a foreign missile in flight.

This 2600-acre space is the largest air park in the world. And despite the "dead plane" rap, new planes are constantly coming in, restored planes leaving and the technology continues to evolve.

Some of these old planes will never see the skies again, but parts pulled from them keep our current fleets up and running, and our nation ready for action.

For more information on AMARG and its history, visit their website.

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports as a video journalist for the evening and weekend newscasts.