Indian Air Force

What Happens With The Retired Fighter Jets?

Hello defence lovers! Just like a person, aircraft in the airforces worldwide are commissioned and then decommissioned after its service. Have you ever wondered what happens with these decommissioned or retired fighter jets and other aircraft? In this article, we are going to discuss what happens with the decommissioned fighter jets.

Why A Fighter Jet Is Retired From Service?

Just like human beings the aircraft are also affected by ageing. No machine on earth can serve for eternity. The airframes of the aircraft have a particular lifetime after which degradation starts. Microcracks develop in these airframes due to material fatigue. Thus the fighters no longer remain operational in that condition. Moreover, over its entire service life, new technologies keep developing which at some point in time makes the current fighters and technology become obsolete. Thus old fighters are often retired when they are technologically outdated. Sometimes the fighters are also retired when they have poor availability of spare parts and it becomes very expensive to keep this fighter airworthy. Thus due to unbearable operational costs, sometimes fighter jets are retired. the example, in this case, would be Iran and Iraq. Both of the countries are forced to ground their fleets of F14 and F16 respectively due to lack of spare parts due to the absence of the manufacturer’s support.

What Happens To The Retired Fighter Jets?

Due to above mentioned reasons the fighter jets are retired from service. But what happens to these fighters when they are retired. There are many possibilities. The fighter may be stripped apart for the equipment and spareparts. The fighter jet may be preserved in museums for display. The fighter jet may be used as expendable aerial targets. The retired fighters may be sold to a second country. The fighter may be preserved for future use. So lets discuss each of the possibilities in details.

Spare Parts

The most common fate that the fighter jets face after retirement is getting stripped apart for spare parts. All the costly avionics on board the fighter is removed. This includes it radars, electronic warfare suits, cockpit electronics etc. These equipment may be used on the sister aircrafts which are still in service. Often these equipment have a good resale value. Other spare parts are also preserved for maintenance purposes.


Some fighter jets are lucky enough to be preserved as Display units at various Museums and other public places. These display units keep motivating the youth to join the Armed forces. These Display units also preserve the golden history of the aircraft. In India, we can see various Indian Airforce’s retired fighter jets on display at Airports, SSB centers, Military schools, and various other public places.


Aircraft are often stored in large boneyards. An aircraft boneyard (also known as an aircraft graveyard) is a storage area for aircraft that are retired from service. Most aircraft at boneyards are either kept for storage with some maintenance or have their parts removed for reuse or resale and are then scrapped. Boneyard facilities are generally located in deserts, such as those in the Southwestern United States since the dry conditions reduce corrosion and the hard ground does not need to be paved. In some European countries old soviet jets are filled with concrete so that they slowly sink in the ground. According to them, in that way, they bury their horrific Soviet past.

Expendable Aerial Targets

During the second world war, the British came up with the idea of converting retired fighter aircraft into expendable aerial targets which could be used for the training of the air defence crews. British DH 82 Queen bee was the first aircraft to undergo such transformation. These aircraft were controlled via radio control. Later on some other retired fighter jets such as de Havilland Vampire, F 86 Saber, etc were also converted into target drones. But these conversions were costly and as technology progressed cheaper alternatives were available. Also converting the modern aircraft which flew by fly by fire is not technologically feasible.

So that was all about what happens to the retired fighter jets. Follow our website for more such interesting topics.


Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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