PolitiFact: Does the U.S. actually use "plane graveyards" to get replacement parts for planes?

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 11:57 AM EST

One of the goals laid out in Donald Trump's campaign for president was to re-establish the U.S. military as the best in the world, with the latest technology available at their fingertips.  Trump used this issue at fundraisers to drive home his point that Democrats had let the military decline to the point that the equipment used by the military was in serious need of updating.

Trump drove this point home during a fundraiser in Dallas, telling the crowd about what he perceived as the sorry state of the military, specifically planes that are currently in use.  Trump said this:

"Remember, we’re the ones with the jet fighters that are 20 years old that we have to go to graveyards, plane graveyards, to get parts to use on our jet fighters, to have our great young people to fly in planes where they go into junk yards and museums to get parts for current fighters, while our opponents and our so-called allies are buying our planes, and they’ve got the new beautiful versions of them, and we’ve got old planes, I mean literally obsolete planes. It’s not going to happen anymore, folks, ok?"

Our partners at PolitiFact decided to see if his statement was accurate.  PolitiFact reporter Joshua Gillin says that Trump's claims rate MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter.  Gillin says that Trump's claim is accurate, but not necessarily for the reason that you might think.

"We checked with people who are familiar with this subject matter," said Gillin.  "What they told us is that, yes, the Air Force has planes that have been in service for decades, like the B-52.  Some fighter jets that are in use are newer, but it's not like the automobile industry where a new model comes out every year and consumers have the choice to trade in and upgrade."

Regarding the idea that the Air Force has to pull parts from plane "graveyards?"  Gillin says that Trump's claim about that is also accurate.  "What we've been told is that when parts are needed to repair a plane, the replacement part is pulled off of a plane that is in storage," said Gillin.  "That's not necessarily because there are no parts available, but more because of the fact that it's faster and cheaper to go get the parts from planes in storage that were purchased and mothballed."

Gillin notes that there's no law saying that the Pentagon can't buy new.  "Those plane manufacturers can and do sell newer versions of their jets to other countries," said Gillin.  "It's just like any other business.  If you have a product, you're going to sell the most recent version to whoever wants to buy it, and that's perfectly legal, and if the Pentagon wants to put in orders for new planes, they would receive those new versions, just like any other customer."

Gillin says that experts agree with Trump that new jets are being sold to other countries, and that the U.S. does indeed utilize plane "graveyards" for parts, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think, which leads to a MOSTLY TRUE rating on PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter.


SOURCES: U.S. utilizing plane "graveyards"?