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Exploring the legacy of the F4 Phantom: history and notable features

An iconic fighter jet that has left a lasting mark on aviation history, the McDonnell Douglas F4 Phantom continues to captivate enthusiasts even today . Developed by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, the long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber went on to become one of the most successful and versatile fighter aircraft of its time.  

This article will delve into the rich history of the F4 Phantom, explore its technical characteristics and features, discuss its various variants, and highlight which countries still utilize this remarkable aircraft. 

F4 Phantom history and its role  

The development of the F4 Phantom began in 1952 when the United States Navy was seeking a new carrier-based interceptor to replace its aging aircraft. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation began working on this project, and on 27 May 1958, the XF4H-1 prototype made its maiden flight. Subsequently, it entered service with the U.S. Navy , U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Air Force.  

Initially designed as an air superiority fighter, the F4 Phantom’s role expanded to include ground attack, reconnaissance and electronic warfare . It played a significant role in various conflicts, including the Vietnam War, the Arab-Israeli conflicts and the Gulf War. The F4 Phantom showcased its versatility by excelling in both air-to-air combat and ground attack missions. Its successful engagements with enemy aircraft earned it the nickname ‘The World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts’. 

Technical characteristics and features  

The F4 Phantom boasts several groundbreaking features that contributed to its success. Its twin-engine configuration, with each engine generating 17,000 pounds of thrust, provides exceptional performance and reliability. The aircraft’s speed and acceleration are impressive, with a top speed of Mach 1.9 and the ability to reach altitudes above 60,000 feet. 

One of the most notable aspects of the F4 Phantom is its advanced radar and avionics systems. Equipped with the AN/APQ-72 radar, it has the capability to engage targets beyond visual range.  

The F-4 Phantom II, specifically the F-4J variant, was a pioneering aircraft that started using operational “look-down/shoot-down” capability. This innovation enabled the F-4J to effectively track and engage enemy aircraft flying at low altitudes. 

Additionally, it features advanced electronic countermeasures (ECM) systems to counter enemy radar and missiles. 

F4 Phantom variants  

While it was in production, the F4 Phantom underwent several modifications and 19 major versions were produced, tailored to specific mission requirements.  

Some of its notable variants include: 

  • F-4B : the first production version for the U.S. Navy, featuring improved radar and avionics compared to the prototypes, with 649 units built.  
  • F-4C : the initial U.S. Air Force variant, designed for air-to-air combat; 583 units were built. 
  • F-4D : an upgraded version of the F-4C, incorporating improved avionics and radar, with 825 units built. This variant is still in use today.  
  • F-4E : a widely exported variant featuring an upgraded engine, enhanced air-to-air and ground attack capabilities, and a leading-edge slat system for improved maneuverability; 1,370 units were built. This variant is also still in use today. 
  • F-4G Wild Weasel V : an electronic warfare variant designed for the U.S. Air Force, equipped with specialized systems to suppress enemy radar, with 134 units built.  

Orders and deliveries  

The F4 Phantom’s success is not limited to the United States. It became a sought-after aircraft worldwide. It was produced from 1958 until 1981, and in that timespan, over 5,195 F4 Phantoms were built, and they were delivered to numerous countries.

Countries that used F4 Phantom  

The F4 Phantom’s impact was truly global, as it found service in numerous countries around the world.  

Some of the most notable countries that utilized the F4 Phantom include: 

  • United States: as the primary developer, the United States deployed the F4 Phantom extensively across its armed forces. It served in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Air Force, fulfilling various roles. 
  • Germany : the F4 Phantom played a crucial role in the defense of West Germany during the Cold War. The German Air Force, or Luftwaffe, operated the F4 Phantom and utilized it as a versatile multi-role aircraft. 
  • Japan : from 1968, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) acquired the F4 Phantom and operated it as a frontline fighter . The F4 Phantom played a vital role in Japan’s air defense and served as a symbol of the nation’s commitment to security. 
  • United Kingdom : the Royal Air Force (RAF) also procured the F4 Phantom and employed it primarily in the air defense role. The British variant, known as the F-4K and F-4M, featured unique modifications to suit the RAF’s specific requirements. 

In fact, these are just a few examples of the countries that used the F4 Phantom, illustrating its widespread international presence and impact. 

Current operators 

The F-4 Phantom continues to find active service in several countries worldwide.  

Let’s look into the current operators of this iconic aircraft and their utilization of the F-4 Phantom for various missions, ranging from air defense to ground attack. 

  • Greece : the Hellenic Air Force acquired the F4 Phantom and utilizes it for both air defense and ground attack missions. There are 18 F-4Es still in service. 
  • South Korea : the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) operates 27 F-4Es and utilizes the jet as a key asset in safeguarding South Korean airspace. The F4 Phantom also provided essential support during times of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula. However, ROKAF is preparing to replace its aging F-4E fleet.   
  • Turkey : the Turkish Air Force procured the F4 Phantom in 1974 and employs it as a vital component of its air defense fleet. There are 54 F-4E 2020 Terminators in service.  
  • Iran : prior to the Islamic Revolution, Iran operated a significant number of F4 Phantoms. As of today, 62 F-4D, F-4E, and RF-4Es are still in service .  

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Flying Brick. Lead Sled. Rhino. Double Ugly.

The f-4 phantom.

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Why the F-4 Phantom Is Such a Badass Plane

The F-4 Phantom was neither pretty nor elegant. But it did its job when so many other aircraft in history couldn’t.

Headshot of Michael Peck

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Even its official name was ironic. “Phantom” evokes an image of stealth and subtlety, a supernatural nemesis that strikes without warning. But the F-4 was anything but stealthy or subtle; it was a big fighter that muscled its way through combat.

Along the way, it became one of the most influential aircraft in history.

Through the tense Cold War years of the 1960s and 1970s, the Phantom was the symbol of Western tactical airpower. Between 1958 and 1981, 5,195 Phantoms were built in a dozen variants and flown by a dozen nations, making it the most prolific supersonic American warplane ever built.

“The Phantom has become, arguably, the most important fighter aircraft of the second half of the twentieth century,” aviation historian Robert Dorr writes in his 1989 book, The McDonnell F-4 Phantom . More than 60 years after its first flight, the F-4 still flies in several air forces around the world.

Beauty and the Beast

The Phantom is still beloved for many qualities. Beauty is not one of them. Its fat nose gave the F-4 a face that only a mother (or aircraft designer) could love. Compared to the sleek F-16 or the gracefully curved F-35 , the F-4’s upward-sloping wing and downward-sloping tail looked like a model aircraft kit that had been assembled wrong. One British admiral even asked whether the aircraft had been delivered upside-down. Others said the Phantom proved a brick could fly if you stuck two big engines on it.

To understand the Phantom story, we need to step back into an era of black-and-white televisions and closet-sized computers. When the Phantom first appeared on the drawing board in 1953, fighter jets had been around for less than a decade.

The F-4 began life as a redesign of the troubled F3H Demon carrier-based fighter from McDonnell Aircraft Corp. (later McDonnell Douglas, which eventually merged with Boeing). The Navy ordered two prototypes of the “Super Demon” —a primordial Phantom—as an all-weather fighter-bomber.

There was no reason to expect the new plane to become a classic; dozens of new fighter and bomber designs appeared in the 1950s. Most would remain prototypes, quickly fade into obsolescence, or appear in museum displays. But three pivotal moments would shape the Phantom saga.

view of factory producing f 4 phantom jet planes

The first came in 1955, when the U.S. Navy asked McDonnell Aircraft for a carrier-based interceptor to protect the fleet from bombers. Though interceptors are mostly extinct today, they were common in the 1950s, when guided missiles were new and high-altitude manned bombers posed the greatest threat.

Nations wanted fast jets that could zoom to high altitudes and intercept bombers before they reached their targets. Also useful would be a powerful radar and newly developed air-to-air guided missiles. But maneuverability or a cannon weren’t needed against clumsy bombers—or so thought military planners, convinced that dogfights were obsolete, and that future air combat would be waged with missiles alone.

The next plot twist was written in the early 1960s by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Notorious for a data-driven efficiency approach that proved disastrous in the Vietnam War, McNamara believed that a common fighter for the Air Force, Navy, and Marines would save money (the same controversial approach would be repeated 40 years later with the F-35 program).

McNamara also insisted on a common name. The new aircraft would be designated the F-4 Phantom, with the Navy and Marines flying the F-4B, and the Air Force the F-4C (rather than the F-110 Spectre as originally planned).

Biggest Fighter on the Block

By any name, the Phantom was a beast compared to its contemporaries. Most fighters have one seat, but the F-4 had two: a pilot in front, and a radar and weapons officer in back. A fully loaded F-4 weighed 28 tons: France’s Mirage III weighed 14 tons, while the Soviet MiG-21 was only 10 tons. At 63 feet long, the F-4 was 10 feet longer than the other two planes.

Yet the Phantom was muscle, not fat. Mounted on a rugged airframe—designed to absorb the impact of carrier landings—were two massive General Electric J79 engines capable of 18,000 pounds of thrust each, or 36,000 pounds combined. The Mirage’s single engine could pump out only 13,000 pounds of thrust, and the MiG-21 could only put out 15,000 pounds (though lighter planes required less powerful engines). Despite its bulk, the F-4 could fly at Mach 2.2 and reach 60,000 feet. Its first flight in May 1958 was soon followed by 16 world records, including a zoom climb to 98,557 feet in 1959 and a speed of 1,606 miles per hour in 1961.

“It was a wonderful aircraft that had lots of power,” Joe Latham, a retired Air Force colonel who in 1966 became one of the first F-4 pilots to shoot down a North Vietnamese MiG-21 , tells Popular Mechanics .

f4 phantom at fort bragg air base

Size and engine power enabled the Phantom to carry a remarkable payload for its time. The F-4 could heft 18,000 pounds of missiles, bombs, external fuel tanks, and jamming gear on nine hardpoints under its wings and fuselage (the Mirage could only carry 10,000 pounds, and just 3,000 for a MiG-21). The F-4 could almost tote the bomb load of a World War II B-29 bomber , and quadruple the payload of a B-17 . For aerial combat, the Phantom could carry four heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, plus another four AIM-7 Sparrow semi-active radar missiles that homed in on targets illuminated by the Phantom’s radar.

All of this made the Phantom perhaps the most versatile warplane in history. The F-4 was a true multi-role aircraft that could handle air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat, Wild Weasel strikes against air defenses, and reconnaissance sorties.

Phantoms over Vietnam

The final turning point in the Phantom story was the Vietnam War, in which the F-4 made its combat debut and cemented its reputation. The Phantom has drawn a lot of historical flak for its deficiencies —including poor rearward visibility, a wide turn radius, and a tendency to depart controlled flight during sharp maneuvers—but three flaws stood out in particular. The F-4’s engines left highly visible smoke trails; early models lacked an internal cannon for close-in shots at a time when most air-to-air missile shots missed their targets; and instead of long-distance missile duels, Vietnam air combat was usually World War II-style low-speed, close-range “knife fights” in which the smaller MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21 were more maneuverable in horizontal turns.

“We had to maneuver vertically,” Latham recalls. “We could not go into a level turn with those guys.” Long after the war, Nguyen Van Bay, a North Vietnamese ace with seven claimed kills, told Latham that if he “could get in close, then he would get us, because he could turn so much tighter.”

The F-4’s kill ratio against the MiGs was a disappointing 2:1, and at times even 1:1. But how much of this was the Phantom’s fault? Rules of engagement barred U.S. pilots from shooting at planes without visual identification, with precluded beyond-visual-range Sparrow shots. Like Royal Air Force pilots in the Battle of Britain, North Vietnamese pilots were assisted by ground radars that enabled the MiGs to set hit-and-run ambushes, or pick off battle-damaged stragglers.

three f4 phantom planes flying over vietnam

And worst of all, the U.S. suffered from unprepared pilots and inadequate tactics, such as Air Force formations that were too rigid in combat. “I didn’t realize until recently how poorly trained our pilots were, and how bad our tactics were,” Latham says.

It’s not that the Phantom couldn’t evolve; later models were armed with a 20-millimeter cannon. Pilots learned to exploit the F-4’s superior speed by climbing and diving, rather than turning (just as American pilots in World War II did against nimble Japanese Zero fighters). By 1972, the Navy’s Top Gun training program enabled Navy F-4s to achieve a 13:1 kill ratio.

Nonetheless, Vietnam has not gone down as the finest hour for U.S. airpower, and Double Ugly made a beautiful scapegoat. Yet the question wasn’t whether the Phantom was flawed—it was—but which aircraft would have performed better under such political and technological constraints.

The biggest threat to aircraft in Vietnam wasn’t MiGs, but flak. Ground fire – ranging from radar-controlled anti-aircraft guns to a Viet Cong guerrilla firing an AK-47 – destroyed most to the aircraft and helicopters lost to enemy fire. Even if the F-4 had been a super-dogfighter bristling with cannon, it still would have faced challenges that would have taxed even a modern stealth fighter.

Israel’s Sledgehammer

Next to America, Israel has had the most combat experience with the Phantom. When they received the F-4 in 1969, some Israeli pilots reluctantly gave up their peppy little Mirages for the American giants (the joke was that pilots strapped on a Mirage, but strapped into a Phantom). Yet for a small air force that couldn’t afford lots of specialized fighters and bombers, the multi-role F-4 was invaluable.

Israeli pilots soon learned to love the Phantom, appropriately nicknamed the Kurnas (Hebrew for “sledgehammer”). It could do it all, including air superiority, “flying artillery” to support the ground troops, and even deep-penetration strategic bombing . Despite primarily being assigned ground-attack missions, Israeli Phantom crews were credited with 116.5 aerial kills between 1969 and 1982, according to Israeli historian Shlomo Aloni.

Flying the F-4 for two air forces gave Danny Grossman a unique view of the Phantom. After serving six years as a U.S. Air Force F-4 weapons officer, he spent 20 years as an Israeli Air Force Kurnas navigator and flew 200 combat missions. His most memorable flight was a secret reconnaissance mission over Iraq in early 1982, when two reconnaissance F-4s—bereft of fighter escort—were intercepted by an Iraqi MiG-21 that popped up next to them.

refueling f 4 phantom ii

“You could put out your hand and touch it,” Grossman, who snapped a photo of the Iraqi fighter, tells Popular Mechanics . But under orders to snap the photos and go home, the Phantoms lit their afterburners. “I had never broken the sound barrier before while flying that low.”

Flying the later F-4E version with wing slats , Grossman found the Phantom maneuvered very well at low altitudes “if you keep the fight in a very aggressive hard turn.”

While newer fighters like the F-16 are more capable, they’re also less versatile, according to Grossman. “There’s not a mission the Phantom can’t do. It will kick and buck if you don’t treat it right. But it takes care of you.”

When replaced by F-15 and F-16 fighters in the 1980s, the F-4 became a Wild Weasel (special units tasked with the dangerous mission of destroying enemy air defenses) in Operation Desert Storm. The U.S. military finally retired the Phantom from combat in 1996. Still the F-4 flew into 2016 as the QF-4 target drone .

Greece, Turkey, and South Korea still operate a few F-4s. Ironically, the biggest Phantom user today is Iran, which recently displayed F-4s at an underground air base .

Phantom Love

The Phantom has numerous fans today, such as the F-4 Phantom II Society . Out of the hundreds of fighter jets built since 1945, why all the affection for this one? Perhaps it’s a bit of baby boomer nostalgia for an aircraft that featured so prominently in their younger days. Or, it’s fascination with a fighter with such a long and colorful history.

But perhaps the real reason for the Phantom’s enduring popularity is simple respect for the underdog—admiration for the awkward, but plucky, machine that got the job done. All aircraft look good on the drawing board, and many may even work well under ideal conditions. But real-world conditions are rarely ideal, and history is littered with beautiful planes that failed the test of combat.

A classic fighter isn’t the one that performs well when everything goes right. It’s the one that accomplishes missions that it was never designed to do. The courage and skill of its crews made the Phantom successful, but this required an aircraft capable and versatile enough to allow it.

The F-4 Phantom was neither pretty nor elegant. But it did its job when so many other aircraft in history couldn’t. That’s what counts.

You can find Michael Peck on Twitter at @Mipeck1 .

Headshot of Michael Peck

Michael Peck writes about defense and international security issues, as well as military history and wargaming. His work has appeared in Defense News, Foreign Policy Magazine, Politico, National Defense Magazine, The National Interest, Aerospace America and other publications. He holds an MA in Political Science from Rutgers University. 

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Taking Flight

  • Specifications (F-4E Phantom II)

Operational History

Changing missions, other users.

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In 1952, McDonnell Aircraft began internal studies to determine which service branch was most in need of a new aircraft. Led by Preliminary Design Manager Dave Lewis, the team found that the US Navy would soon require a new attack aircraft to replace the F3H Demon. The designer of the Demon, McDonnell began revising the aircraft in 1953, with the goal of improving performance and capabilities.

Creating the "Superdemon," which could achieve Mach 1.97 and was powered by twin General Electric J79 engines, McDonnell also created an aircraft that was modular in that different cockpits and nose cones could be affixed to the fuselage depending on the desired mission. The US Navy was intrigued by this concept and requested a full-scale mock-up of the design. Assessing the design, it ultimately passed as it was satisfied with the supersonic fighters already in development such as the Grumman F-11 Tiger and Vought F-8 Crusader .  

Design & Development

Altering the design to make the new aircraft an all-weather fighter-bomber featuring 11 external hardpoints, McDonnell received a letter of intent for two prototypes, designated YAH-1, on October 18, 1954. Meeting with the US Navy the following May, McDonnell was handed a new set of requirements calling for an all-weather fleet interceptor as the service had aircraft to fulfill the fighter and strike roles. Setting to work, McDonnell developed the XF4H-1 design. Powered by two J79-GE-8 engines, the new aircraft saw the addition of a second crewman to serve as a radar operator.

In laying out the XF4H-1, McDonnell placed the engines low in the fuselage similar to its earlier F-101 Voodoo and employed variable geometry ramps in the intakes to regulate airflow at supersonic speeds. Following extensive wind tunnel testing, the outer sections of the wings were given 12° dihedral (upward angle) and the tailplane 23° anhedral (downward angle). Additionally, a "dogtooth" indentation was inserted in the wings to enhance control at higher angles of attack. The results of these alterations gave the XF4H-1 a distinctive look.

Utilizing titanium in the airframe, the XF4H-1's all-weather capability was derived from the inclusion of the AN/APQ-50 radar. As the new aircraft was intended as an interceptor rather than a fighter, early models possessed nine external hardpoints for missiles and bombs, but no gun. Dubbed the Phantom II, the US Navy ordered two XF4H-1 test aircraft and five YF4H-1 pre-production fighters in July 1955.

On May 27, 1958, the type made its maiden flight with Robert C. Little at the controls. Later that year, the XF4H-1 entered into competition with the single-seat Vought XF8U-3. An evolution of the F-8 Crusader, the Vought entry was defeated by the XF4H-1 as the US Navy preferred the latter's performance and that the workload was split between two crew members. After additional testing, the F-4 entered production and commenced carrier suitability trials in early 1960. Early in production, the aircraft's radar was upgraded to the more powerful Westinghouse AN/APQ-72.

Specifications (F-4E Phantom I I)

  • Length: 63 ft.
  • Wingspan: 38 ft. 4.5 in.
  • Height: 16 ft. 6 in.
  • Wing Area: 530 sq. ft.
  • Empty Weight: 30,328 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight: 41,500 lbs.


  • Power Plant: 2 × General Electric J79-GE-17A axial compressor turbojets
  • Combat Radius: 367 nautical miles
  • Max. Speed: 1,472 mph (Mach 2.23)
  • Ceiling: 60,000 ft.
  • 1 x M61 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling cannon
  • Up to 18,650 lbs. of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and most types of bombs

Setting several aviation records just prior to and in the years after introduction, the F-4 became operational on December 30, 1960, with VF-121. As the US Navy transitioned to the aircraft in the early 1960s, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara pushed to create a single fighter for all branches of the military. Following an F-4B's victory over the F-106 Delta Dart in Operation Highspeed, the US Air Force requested two of the aircraft, dubbing them the F-110A Spectre. Evaluating the aircraft, the USAF developed requirements for its own version with an emphasis on the fighter-bomber role.

Adopted by the USAF in 1963, their initial variant was dubbed the F-4C. With the US entry in the Vietnam War , the F-4 became one of the most identifiable aircraft of the conflict. US Navy F-4s flew their first combat sortie as part of Operation Pierce Arrow on August 5, 1964. The F-4's first air-to-air victory occurred the following April when Lieutenant (j.g.) Terence M. Murphy and his radar intercept officer, Ensign Ronald Fegan, downed a Chinese MiG-17 . Flying primarily in the fighter/interceptor role, US Navy F-4s downed 40 enemy aircraft to a loss of five of their own. An additional 66 were lost to missiles and ground fire.

Also flown by the US Marine Corps, the F-4 saw service from both carriers and land bases during the conflict. Flying ground support missions, USMC F-4s claimed three kills while losing 75 aircraft, mostly to ground fire. Though the latest adopter of the F-4, the USAF became its largest user. During Vietnam, USAF F-4s fulfilled both air superiority and ground support roles. As F-105 Thunderchief losses grew, the F-4 carried more and more of the ground support burden and by the end of the war was the USAF's primary all-around aircraft.

To support this change in mission, specially equipped and trained F-4 Wild Weasel squadrons were formed with the first deploying in late 1972. In addition, a photo-reconnaissance variant, the RF-4C, was used by four squadrons. During the Vietnam War, the USAF lost a total of 528 F-4s (of all types) to enemy action with the majority being down by anti-aircraft fire or surface-to-air missiles. In exchange, USAF F-4s downed 107.5 enemy aircraft. The five aviators (2 US Navy, 3 USAF) credited with ace status during the Vietnam War all flew the F-4.

Following Vietnam, the F-4 remained the principal aircraft for both the US Navy and USAF. Through the 1970s, the US Navy began replacing the F-4 with the new F-14 Tomcat. By 1986, all F-4s had been retired from frontline units. The aircraft remained in service with the USMC until 1992 when the last airframe was replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the USAF transitioned to the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. During this time, the F-4 was retained in its Wild Weasel and reconnaissance role.

These two latter types, the F-4G Wild Weasel V and RF-4C, deployed to the Middle East in 1990, as part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm . During operations, the F-4G played a key role in suppressing Iraqi air defenses, while the RF-4C collected valuable intelligence. One of each type was lost during the conflict, one to damage from ground fire and the other to an accident. The final USAF F-4 was retired in 1996, however several are still in use as target drones.

As the F-4 was initially intended as an interceptor, it was not equipped with a gun as planners believed that air-to-air combat at supersonic speeds would be fought exclusively with missiles. The fighting over Vietnam soon showed that engagements quickly became subsonic, turning battles that often precluded the use of air-to-air missiles. In 1967, USAF pilots began mounting external gun pods on their aircraft, however, the lack of a leading gunsight in the cockpit made them highly inaccurate. This issue was addressed with the addition of an integrated 20 mm M61 Vulcan gun to the F-4E model in the late 1960s.

Another problem that frequently arose with the aircraft was the production of black smoke when the engines were run at military power. This smoke trail made the aircraft easy to spot. Many pilots found ways to avoid producing the smoke by running one engine on afterburner and the other at reduced power. This provided an equivalent amount of thrust, without the telltale smoke trail. This issue was addressed with the Block 53 group of the F-4E which included smokeless J79-GE-17C (or -17E) engines.

The second-most produced Western jet fighter in history with 5,195 units, the F-4 was extensively exported. Nations that have flown the aircraft include Israel, Great Britain, Australia, and Spain. While many have since retired the F-4, the aircraft has been modernized and is still use (as of 2008) by Japan , Germany , Turkey , Greece, Egypt, Iran, and South Korea.

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    Before production began, extensive wind tunnel testing revealed stability problems above Mach 2 and numerous design changes would be made to become the now familiar F-4 Phantom. The wing was originally designed with a 45 degree sweepback with a constant anhedral, but it was found that a three degree dihedral was needed to improve stability. 8 Rather than design a new wing requiring major modifications, outer wing panels were added with a twelve degree dihedral. 9 The 12 degree panel corresponds to a 3 degree dihedral overall. This became one of the F-4 Phantom's most distinguishing features, which incorporated a dog-tooth leading edge and drooping ailerons or flaperon —flaperons move down only, not up. Ahead of each flaperon were spoilers, which aided in lateral control. The YF4H-1 was fitted with wing leading edge flaps which extended from the wingtip all the way inward to about one-quarter span. There were two segments with the division at the wing folding point. The leading edge flaps would extend on landing to provide additional lift at low speeds. The tailplane was a one-piece stabilator, requiring 23-1/2 degree anhedral that placed it away from wing downwash at high speeds, 10 The J79-GE-8 was delayed coming into use and the J79-GE-3A turbojet with 9,600 lb. s.t. and 14,800 lb s.t. with afterburner (w/ab) was used in May 1958. McDonnell Douglas F-4A Phantom II     F-4A (F4H-1F) changes were a leading edge flap boundary layer air control system first used on the 5th preproduction aircraft and blown flaps introduced on the 7th preproduction aircraft. 11 The wing leading edges and trailing edge flaps were blown by high-pressure bleed air from the engine compressors, which produced a thin layer of air which helped keep airflow attached at high angles of attack. Originally fixed geometry inlet cheeks were placed on the fuselage to provide smooth inlet air flow, but this was changed to a two-piece configuration with forward variable ramps that were controlled by an air data computer. On the 19th aircraft, the canopy was redesigned to improve visibility and a bulbous radome was installed to accommodate the a new larger 32" radar dish for the AN/APQ-72 air intercept radar as well as under nose bulge for infra-red heat seeking equipment creating a droop nose effect. Provisions were provided for six Sparrow III air-to-air missiles under the wings and fuselage. For air-to-ground missions, the aircraft was capable of carrying 16,000 lb of ordinance on four underwing pods and one centerline station or a single nuclear weapon. In place of ordinance, external fuel could be carried in three tanks and a retractable in-flight refueling probe was installed on the forward starboard fuselage. Twenty-three preproduction aircraft were given the J79-GE-2 or -2A with 10,350 lb s.t. (16,150 lb s.t. w/ab) which was replaced on later F-4As with J79-GE-8s, bringing the aircraft to almost full F-4B standards. 12 The McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom was the first major production type.     F-4Bs (F4H-1) were the first major production type with construction beginning in 1961 for 192 aircraft. 13 It was given the AN/APQ-72 air intercept radar and used AAA-4 infrared sensor beneath the nose radome. Missile combinations were six Ratheon Sparrow IIIs or four Sparrow IIIs with four GE/Philco sidewinder air-to-air missiles (AAM) mounted on two wing pylons and in four semi-recessed under fuselage bays. For the attack role, the F-4B could accommodate four wing and one fuselage attach points for a total of 16,000 lb of assorted bombs, including nuclear, conventional, napalm, missiles, rockets or three fuel tanks in place of weapons. It was given the J79-GE-8 turbojet engine with 10,900 lb s.t. (17,000 lb s.t. w/ab). In naval service, the F-4Bs were progressively upgraded as a result on combat experience in Vietnam. Chaff dispensers were added and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) were improved with the addition of Radar Homing and Warning Systems (RHAWS) and Deception Systems (AN/ALQ-51 and AN/ALQ-100). The tailplane was retrofitted with slotted stabilizers as on the "J" models to reduce landing speeds. Production of the F-4B ended in 1967 with the completion of 649 aircraft. 14 Forty-six unarmed photo-reconnaissance versions were designated as the RF-4B, of which all 46 were procured by the USMC. 228 F-4Bs were upgraded in 1972 and were designated as the F-4N.

1. December 6, 1959. Absolute altitude record of 98,556 ft (30,040 m). 2. September 5,1960. Attained and average speed of 1,958 mph over a triangular course for 15 min and 91 sec. 3. September 25,1960. 100 km closed circuit speed record of 1,390 mph (Mach 2) with a continuous sustained turn of 3Gs. 19 4. May 24,1961. Ontario, CA to Brooklyn, NY (Floyd Bennett), 2 hr 47 min, @ average speed of 870 mph. 2,446 miles (3,936 km). 5. August 28,1961. Low altitude record of 125 ft (38 m) at 902 mph (1,452 km) for 1.86 miles (3 km). 6. December 5,1961. Sustained altitude record of 66,443 ft (20,252 m). 7. February 21,1962. Time to height record. 9,843 (3,000 m) in 34.52 sec. 8. February 21,1962. Time to height record. 19,685 (6,000 m) in 48.78 sec. 9. March 1,1962. Time to height record. 29,528 (9,000 m) in 61.62 sec. 10. March 1,1962. Time to height record. 39,370 (12,000 m) in 77.15 sec. 11. March 1,1962. Time to height record. 49,213 (15,000 m) in 114.54 sec. 12. March 31,1962. Time to height record. 65,617 (20,000 m) in 178.50 sec. 13. April 3,1962. Time to height record. 82,021 (25,000 m) in 230.44 sec. 14. April 4,1962. Time to height record. 98,425 (30,000 m) in 371.43 sec. 15. April 4,1962. Absolute altitude record of 100,000 ft (30,480 m). Not officially recorded by the FIA. Specifications: McDonnell F-4 Phantom II Dimensions: F-4B RF-4C F-4E F-4J F-4M Wing span: 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m) 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m) 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m) 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m) 38 ft 5 in (11.70 m) Length: 58 ft 3 in (17.77 m) 62 ft 10 in (19.17 m) 63 ft 0 in (19.20 m) 58 ft 4 in (17.78 m) 57 ft 7 in (17.55 m) Height: 16 ft 3 in (4.95 m) 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m) 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m) 16 ft 3 in (4.95 m) 16 ft 1 in (4.90 m) Weights: Empty: 28,000 lb. (12,701 kg) 28,276 lb. (12,826 kg) 29,535 lb. (13,397 kg) 30,770 lb. (13,957 kg) 31,000 lb. (14,061 kg) Gross: 44,600 lb (20,231 kg) 39,788 lb (18,048 kg) 40,562 lb (18,399 kg) 46,833 lb (21,243 kg) - Max T/O: 54,600 lb (24,766 kg) 58,000 lb (26,308 kg) 61,651 lb (27,965 kg) 59,000 lb (26,762 kg) 56,000 lb (25,402 kg) Performance: Max Speed: 1,485 mph (2,390 km/h) @ 48,000 FT (14,630 m) 1,459 mph (2,348 km/h) @ 40,000 FT (12,192 m) 1,430 mph (2,301 km/h) @ 36,000 FT (10,973 m) 1,584 mph (2,549 km/h) @ 48,000 FT (14,630 m) 1,386 mph (2,231 km/h) @ 40,000 FT (12,192 m) Service Ceiling 62,000 ft. (18,898 m) 59,400 ft. (18,105 m) 62,250 ft. (18,974 m) 70,000 ft. (21,336 m) 60,000 ft. (18,288 m) Combat Ceiling 56,850 ft. (17,328 m) - 59,600 ft. (18,166 m) 54,700 ft. (16,673 m) - Combat Range 400 miles (644 km) 840 miles (1,352 km) 595 miles (958 km) 596 miles (959 km) 1,000 miles (1,609 km) Max Range 2,300 miles (3,701 km) 1,750 miles (2,816 km) 1,885 miles (3,034 km) 1,956 miles (3,148 km) 1,750 miles (2,816 km) Powerplant Armament F-4B Two General Electric J79-GE-8A/-8B/-8C 10,900 lb s.t. (4,944 kg) 17,000 lb s.t. ab (7,711 kg) Six or eight air-to-air missiles, 16,000 lb (7,257 kg) bombs/rockets RF-4C Two General Electric J79-GE-15 10,300 lb s.t. (4,672 kg) 17,000 lb s.t. ab (7,711 kg) None F-4E Two General Electric J79-GE-17 11,870 lb s.t. (5,384 kg) 17,900 lb s.t. ab (8,119 kg) One 20 mm rotary cannon, 16,000 lb (7,257 kg) missiles/bombs/rockets F-4J Two General Electric J79-GE-8B/-8C/-10 10,900 lb s.t. (4,944 kg) 17,900 lb s.t. ab (8,119 kg) Four air-to-air missiles, 16,000 lb (7,257 kg) missiles/bombs/rockets F-4M Two Roll-Royce Spey RB-168-25R Mk 202/203 12,250 lb s.t. (5,556 kg) 20,515 lb s.t. ab (9,305 kg) Four British Aerospace Sky Flash air-to-air missiles 16,000 lb (7,257 kg) missiles/bombs/rockets Notes:

1. Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers. Sparkford Nr: Hayes Publishing Group, 1987. 314. 2. Bill Yenne. McDonnell Douglas, A Tale of Two Giants. New York: Crescent Books, 1985. 214. 3. J.W.R. Taylor. Warplanes of the World. New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1966. 87. 4. Rene J. Francillon. McDonnell Douglas Since 1920, Volume II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990. 176. 5. William Green and Gerald Pollinger. The World's Fighting Planes. New York: Hanover House, 1959. 193. 6. Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers. 311. 7. Douglas J. Ingells. The McDonnell Douglas Story Fallbrook, Ca: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1979. 109. 8. Lloyd S. Jones. U.S. Fighters. Fallbrook, CA: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1975. 310. 9. Paul St. John Turner. Profiles in Aircraft, Volume 9, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1971. 62. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 63. 12. Francillon. 183. 13. Paul St. John Turner. 65. 14. Francillon. 185. 15. Paul St. John Turner. 62. 16. Francillon. 197. 17. Ibid. 199. 18. Kenneth Munson. Fighters in Service, Attack and Training Aircraft since 1960. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1971. 134. 19. Paul St. John Turner. 64. Other Sources: William Green and Gordon Swanborough. The Complete Book of Fighters. New York: Smithmark, 1994. 369.

The Navy Got Its Hands On Its First Operational F-4 Phantom Sixty Years Ago Today

The service introduction of the mighty Phantom wasn’t without its problems.

The Navy Got Its Hands On Its First Operational F-4 Phantom Sixty Years Ago Today

The extraordinary career of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II began exactly 60 years ago when a first example was handed over to the U.S. Navy to begin training aviators on the “Bent Wing Wonder.” That delivery launched a monumental run for the classic Cold War-era fighter, in the hands of three U.S. services and a multitude of foreign operators. The curtain only finally came down on the Phantom’s U.S. military service in 2016, an event that The War Zone marked here .

It was Fighter Squadron 121 (VF-121), the “Pacemakers,” that had the honor of inducting the first Phantoms to see military service anywhere in the world. Back on December 30, 1960, VF-121 took charge of its first F4H, as the Phantom was then known, the fighter being delivered from the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, in St. Louis, Missouri, to the squadron’s home at Naval Air Station Miramar , California. It was not until September 1962 that the Phantom received its more familiar F-4 designation under the tri-service system of nomenclature.


These very first Phantoms for VF-121 were the F4H-1F model, known as the F-4A from 1962 on, only 45 of which were manufactured. That’s a relative drop in the ocean compared to the 5,195 examples of the F-4 eventually built, not just in the United States but also in Japan, where the type has only just been withdrawn from frontline use . Meanwhile, in Greece , Iran, Turkey , and South Korea, the Phantom still soldiers on. 

As the first recipient of the big new all-weather fighter, the role of VF-121 “Pacemakers” was tasked to train up pilots and radar intercept officers (RIOs) for the Phantom, as the West Coast Fleet Replacement Air Group (RAG), or schoolhouse for the type. Since the Phantom added a RIO the training effort was increased proportionately — a second crewmember had not featured in a U.S. Navy fighter cockpit since the subsonic F3D Skyknight around a decade earlier. The job of the RIO was to operate the sophisticated Phantom’s Westinghouse radar, part of a space-age avionics suite that also boasted a Raytheon missile fire-control system, advanced navigation kit, and an analog air-data computer. 

An idea of the caliber of the newly minted Phantom aviators coming out of VF-121 is provided by Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad and Lieutenant Richard F. “Dick” Gordon , both of whom went from training with the “Pacemakers” to taking part in the Apollo 12 moon mission.


Over on the East Coast, the equivalent RAG was VF-101, the “Grim Reapers,” at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, a detachment of which had actually separated and moved to Miramar to become VF-121 in advance.

Aside from the two crewmembers, the Phantom was already a huge advance over the F3H Demon and F11F Tiger that the “Pacemakers” had operated until now. It was significantly bigger and more powerful — with twin engines, rather than a single one. Despite lacking the planned J79-GE-8 turbojets, even the interim GE-2 series engines in the F4H-1F each provided over 16,000 pounds of thrust with afterburning, capable of propelling it to speeds in excess of Mach 2.

In terms of armament, the Phantom was designed without a gun, relying instead on guided missiles, an oversight that would have to be addressed after the jet was thrown into the close-quarters combat of the Vietnam War. The same conflict saw the F-4 emerge as a true multirole platform, perhaps the first of its kind, carrying a greater quantity of more varied weapons than any of its contemporaries.

The early days of Phantom flying were hazardous, however. The first prototype F4H-1 crashed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in October 1959, during a workup sortie for an attempt on the world speed record, claiming the life of test pilot Gerald “Zeke” Huelsbeck .


Then, in May 1961, Commander J. L. Felsman was killed while conducting a high-speed low-level run in an early-production F4H-1. This crash, and another at Patuxent River, Maryland, both carried the hallmarks of pilot-induced oscillation, or PIO, when excessive pilot inputs on the flight controls led to the aircraft vibrating, effectively shaking itself apart.

Among the first at VF-121 to get their hands on the Navy’s new Phantom was Commander Wilbur Norton, who reflected on the jet’s teething troubles:

The Phantom itself was remarkably stable. Indeed, the stability of the design was a remarkable improvement over what we were flying then. But those who were ham-fisted would overcontrol the Phantom, or overcorrect if something went awry. The aircraft would then oscillate like mad. The best way to get out of this high-vibration problem is to remove your hands from the controls and just watch. At high altitude, you can recover easily. At low altitude, PIO is instant death.

Ultimately, the PIO reflected not any inherent failing in the basic design of the Phantom but had more to do with pilots learning to adapt to the intricacies of this extraordinarily high-powered machine. The training syllabus at the RAGs was adapted accordingly, emphasizing a light touch on the controls, even when throwing the jet around in simulated combat.


The early experience with the Phantom goes to show that even the creation of a thoroughbred is not without its difficulties, with airframes and lives lost in high-profile accidents. By February 1962, however, the F4H-1 was ready to go to sea for the first time in an operational capacity, when VF-102 went aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65). The most advanced aircraft carrier in the world — then on its shakedown cruise — made a suitable perch for the Phantom, which would soon establish itself as the pre-eminent naval fighter before going on to forge an equally successful career on land.

Contact the author: [email protected]


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F-4 Phantom Fighter Bomber

The F-4 Phantom (previously called the F-4 Phantom II) is a fighter bomber developed by McDonnell Douglas.

Supersonic fighter bomber


McDonnell Douglas

US, UK, Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey

Maiden Flight

27 May 1958

Entry into Service

1961 (US Navy)

Numbers Produced

Production ceased.

Mach 2.2 (2,309kmph)

us f 4 phantom

The F-4 Phantom (previously called the F-4 Phantom II) is a fighter bomber developed by McDonnell Douglas. The supersonic aircraft can travel at double the speed of sound (Mach 2.2). Originally built for the US Navy, the ‘Phabulous Phantom’ took off on its maiden flight on 27 May 1958 and entered into service in 1961.

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The F-4 has set 16 records for speed, altitude and time-to-climb. It established the world altitude record at 98,556ft in 1959 and speed record at 1,604mph on a 15-mile circuit in 1961.

Though developed for the US Navy, the F-4 was used by both the US Air Force and the Marine Corps. The aircraft has been in service in 11 other countries including: Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

The F-4s participated in the Vietnam War and the Operation Desert Storm. Production was stopped in 1985, after 5,195 Phantom IIs had been manufactured. As many as 4,138 aircraft were operational with US defence forces, while 919 were sold to various countries. Japan manufactured 138 aircraft.

The US retired the Phantom in 1996, but the aircraft is expected to continue its in service in other countries until 2015.

Turkey – Syria controversy over downed F-4

On 22 June 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish RF-4E (F-4) after the aircraft allegedly intruded into the country’s airspace.

Turkey has maintained that the fighter aircraft was within international airspace and was on an unarmed training mission.

The aircraft was downed in the Mediterranean and both the pilots onboard were reported as missing.

Turkey has sought Nato intervention, citing a threat to its national security.

Mission capabilities of the F-4 fighter

The US Navy initially used the Phantom as an interceptor, while the Marine Corps used the aircraft as a ground-support bomber. The aircraft can also undertake air superiority missions, close air support, interception, air defence suppression, long-range strike, fleet defence and attack and reconnaissance missions.

The all-weather aircraft can also be pressed into service for short training missions or exercises in search of anti-aircraft defence systems.

Development of the supersonic fighter bomber

Related project, f-5 tiger ii supersonic fighter aircraft.

The F-5 Tiger II, a single-seat twin-engine supersonic fighter aircraft, was developed by Northrop Grumman, US.

The preliminary design of the Phantom II as a single-seat aircraft was developed in 1953. The design was, however, modified into both single and double-seats models. The US Navy selected the two-seat model.

McDonnell received a letter of intent from the US Navy in October 1954, for two prototypes and one static test aircraft. Detailed specifications, which were signed in 1955, required the primary mission of the Phantom to be all-weather fleet air defence. Its attack capability was also retained.

The first prototype, F4H-1, took off on its maiden flight from Lambert St. Louis International Airport in May 1958.

The aircraft was named the F-4 Phantom II, as a tribute to FH-1 Phantom, the first jet fighter of McDonnell. It subsequently became F-4 Phantom as it was the only Phantom in service.

The US Navy awarded a limited production contract to McDonnell in December 1958. The first Phantom was inducted into service in 1961.

The first international contract (with the UK) was signed in September 1964.

Design and performance of the ‘Phabulous’ Phantom

The two-seat Phantom is 58.3ft long and 16.6ft high. It has a wing span of 38.5ft. The aircraft weighs 55,597lb (25,200kg) and its maximum takeoff weight is 60,000lb (27,000kg).

The maximum speed of the fighter is 1,485mph (2,309kmph), with a range of 1,750 miles (2,816km). It has an initial climb rate of more than 41,000ft/min. The service ceiling is 56,100ft.

Engines and payload of the McDonnell Douglas aircraft

The F-4 Phantom runs on two 17,900lb-thrust J79-GE-17 jet engines manufactured by General Electric.

The Phantom has nine external hardpoints with the capacity to carry up to 15,983lb (7,250kg) of payload (weapons). The aircraft is equipped to carry air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as unguided, guided and nuclear bombs. There is also an internal 20mm nose-mounted M-61 ‘Vulcan’ cannon.

Variants of the F-4 Phantom

The US Navy and the US Marine Corps used the variants F-4A, B, J, N and S. The F-4N was an upgrade of the F-4B while the F-4S was upgraded from the F-4J.

The F-110 Spectre, F-4C, D and E are the variants for the US Air Force. The internal M61 Vulcan cannon was introduced in F-4E. The F-4G Wild Weasel V was an upgrade of F-4E and has the ability to carry anti-radiation missiles.

The F-4K and M variants, developed for the British Army, have Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans engines. The F-4EJ is the licensed variant built by Mitsubishi for Japan; 138 aircraft were built by the company.

The F-4F is the simplified variant of F-4E exported to Germany. The QF-4B, E, G, N and S were converted into remote-controlled target drones for use in research. The RF-4B, C, and E are tactical reconnaissance variants.

The F-4s have undergone various upgrades over the years to suit the requirements of the user countries.

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us f 4 phantom


Where have all the phantoms gone.

How a fighter-bomber-recon-attack superstar ended up as fodder for target practice

Ralph Wetterhahn

DJ09_Phantom Flash.jpg

The F-4 Phantom II lives. But the life it leads today is an odd one.

It still flies in other countries; in northern Iraq, for example, the Turks use it in combat with the Kurds. But in the United States, it leads a twilight existence. It’s a warplane, but it no longer fights. Its mission is weapons testing, but no pilot flies it. Mostly, you’ll find these F-4s either sitting in the desert or lying at the bottom of the sea.

The F-4 entered service in 1960, flying for the U.S. Navy. After studying its potential for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations, the Air Force added the F-4 to its fleet in 1963. Eventually the Phantom ended up even in the U.S. Marine Corps’ inventory. In four decades of active service to the United States, the aircraft set 16 world performance records. It downed more adversaries (280 claimed victories) than any other U.S. fighter in the Vietnam War. Two decades later, it flew combat missions in Desert Storm.

In 1996 the aircraft was retired from the U.S. fleet. But the venerable McDonnell design has one last mission to perform for the military: to go down in flames.

Since 1991,  254 Phantoms have served as unpiloted flying targets for missile and gun tests conducted near Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The use of F-4 drones (designated QF-4s) is expected to continue until 2014.

When an airframe is needed for target duty, one is pulled from storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in the Arizona desert. The airframe is given refurbished engines and instruments, then sent to Mojave Airport in California. There, BAE Systems turns the aircraft into remote-controlled drones, installing radio antennas and modifying the flight controls, throttles, landing gear, and flaps.

QF-4 production test pilot Bob Kay is responsible for testing the converted aircraft, then flying them from Mojave to Tyndall and Holloman. Kay has been captivated by the F-4 since the age of seven, when his father took him to an airshow. “I saw a Navy A-3 refueling two Phantoms as they flew over so low and with that noise,” he says. “That’s all I remember of that airshow, but I knew I wanted to fly that fighter.”

I ask if he has any second thoughts about being part of a system that destroys an airplane he loves, an aviation legend.

He thinks for a moment, then says, “What better way is there for a warrior to end its life than to go down in a blaze of glory?”

The Phantom has been called  “double ugly,” “rhino,” “old smokey,” and monikers even less flattering. The design does have its share of ungainly bends and angles. The horizontal stabilizers droop 23.25 degrees. The outer wing sections tilt upward 12 degrees. When an engineer looks it over, the first thing that probably comes to mind is “stability and control problems.” A brutal example of that weakness occurred during a May 18, 1961 speed record attempt. While Navy test pilot Commander J.L. Felsman flew below 125 feet over a three-mile course, his F-4 experienced pitch damper failure. The resulting pilot-induced oscillation generated over 12 Gs. Both engines were ripped from the airframe and Felsman was killed. (A later attempt succeeded.)

Control sensitivity varies widely. It takes full aft stick to raise the nose for takeoff, yet at certain fuel loadings and at speeds just above Mach 0.9 at low altitude, moving the stick only one inch can produce 6 Gs on the airframe. At above Mach 2, on the other hand, the shock wave that is created moves the center of lift so far aft that pulling the stick all the way back produces only about 2 Gs.

With all its peculiarities and faults, legions have had love/hate relationships with the aircraft. “The F-4 is the last of the fighter pilot’s fighters,” says BAE’s Bob Kay. “You have to fly the F-4.” It has none of the bells and whistles of next-generation fighters. Instead of the multi-function flight displays found in modern fighters, the cockpit instruments are “steam gauges”—round dials with needles. It has an inertial navigation system, best described as cranky. There is no flight management system, no GPS, no Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS), and no “Bitching Betty” voice system to alert the pilot to hazards. You have to navigate, bomb, shoot missiles, fire the gun, look for problems, and evaluate every one of those actions instrument by instrument. For the pilot, this means a lot of time is spent head down, analyzing instrument data; in modern aircraft, on the other hand, much of the information is presented compactly, in head-up displays above the instrument panel.

My affair with the Phantom began upon graduation from pilot training in 1964, when I landed a tour in the Air Force F-4C. Though the Navy and Marine Corps assigned radar operators to the “pit,” as we referred to the second seat, the Air Force thought it would be more effective to use the configuration for two pilots. Wrong. No true fighter pilot chooses to serve as

copilot. The assignment was akin to a shotgun marriage. For two years I languished six feet behind my more experienced comrades, calling off altimeter readings as they bombed, strafed, and fired rockets in training exercises on the gunnery range. Backseaters had to beg, cajole, and whine for stick time, and when we got it, we found that every aspect of flying the F-4 from the rear cockpit was a nightmare. The meager instruments were placed haphazardly in a straight line across the panel. The useless clock and G-meter were located in the center. Why? Because they fit there! Instrument approaches gave you a migraine. And to spot the runway, you had to peer through a knothole on either side of the cockpit, which made landing from the pit an adventure, especially with a crosswind.

Front-seaters were not always thrilled with the F-4 either. In 1972, during his second tour in Vietnam, U.S. Air Force Major Dan Cherry, now a retired brigadier general, flew 185 combat missions in the Phantom; today he recalls: “The F-4 cockpit was uncomfortable, the instruments were poorly arranged, crew coordination was a hassle, it was ugly, and it used fuel like nobody’s business.”

Crews that flew the airplane for the Navy had their own share of problems. By 1966 the Rolling Thunder bombing campaign waged by the Navy and Air Force had really heated up. Large formations of fighter-bombers were striking targets in the Hanoi area daily. That year Commander Dick Adams’ squadron flew combat in F-4s off the carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each Phantom launched from the Rosie’s short catapult with four 500-pound and four 1,000-pound bombs, plus an empty centerline tank, which was refueled during climbout. Before a carrier landing, Phantoms had to achieve a certain landing weight; landing heavy would overstress the arresting cables. For this carrier, the F-4 was a heavy aircraft, and as such could try an approach with fuel for only one or two attempts. On the 1966 cruise, one of the squadron jets on a landing attempt was waved off, and when the pilot ran out of fuel before completing a second pattern, the engines flamed out and the aircraft went deep-six. The crew survived.

In March 1966, I was told that if I agreed to take a combat tour, I’d get the front seat. Are you kidding?  I made my first front-seat flight at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. I still remember it: a gunnery mission. And oh, the visibility from the front

chair! My landing was the smoothest of “grease jobs.” At that moment, the shotgun marriage turned into a love affair.

After passing my checkout flight, I was stationed at Ubon Air Base in Thailand, a member of the 555th—“Triple Nickle”—Squadron in Colonel Robin Olds’ famed Eighth Wing.

At Ubon, the F-4 was all things to all people. One squadron flew only at night, popping flares and dropping bombs. The other two squadrons flew both day and night, dive-bombing bridges, strafing ground targets, rocketing truck parks, and tangling with the ever-elusive MiGs over Hanoi.

On October 11, 1966, I discovered how tough the Phantom was. An 85-mm round blew a four-foot section off my right engine, and the aircraft caught fire. Still, it held together through the 400 miles back to Ubon.

By the end of 1966, the Phantom had revealed a host of shortcomings. Number one was the dismal record of missile hits against the North Vietnamese MiG-17s and MiG-21s. The AIM-7 radar-guided missile had a probability of kill below 10 percent. Richard Keyt, who flew F-4s for the 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron during the Vietnam War, recalls: “Our missiles were designed to work in a non-maneuvering environment—a non-turning, 1-G shot at the bomber target flying straight and level at high altitude.” The reality: “F-4s fired in high-G turns at small MiGs that were turning hard and pulling Gs.” To remedy the problem, the Air Force expanded its Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Combat crews were given practice in firing missiles at towed radar-reflective targets.

My backseater, First Lieutenant Jerry K. Sharp, and I took part in that exercise over the South China Sea in December 1966, scoring a hit. On January 2, 1967, we used the skills we had honed in that exercise when we merged with a flight of four MiG-21s that were turning hard to get at us. Sharp got a radar lock-on while under heavy Gs. Then I centered the steering dot, fired two AIM-7s, and watched as the second missile exploded and tore the tail section from the MiG in front of us.

For other F-4 shortcomings, the military contracted out quick fixes. Modifications included the installation of Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) gear—a cockpit system that alerted pilots when their aircraft was being tracked by anti-aircraft-artillery radars or surface-to-air-missile sites. Also added were radar jamming pods, plus chaff and flare dispensers used in combination to confuse tracking radars and to dupe radar-guided or heat-seeking missiles.

The C variant had a number of design problems; one of the biggest was lack of a gun. The rules of engagement over Vietnam required that an adversary be identified visually before a missile could be fired at it. The MiGs were small, and to make the ID, shooters had to get close, often much less than the minimum distance that the AIM-7 radar-guided and AIM-9B heat-seeking missiles required to hit a target. At short range, “if you didn’t have a gun, you couldn’t shoot down anything,” says Rich­ard Keyt. The quick fix was the SUU-16/A gun pod with the M61A1 20-mm cannon.

But without a lead-computing sight and with no tracer ammunition, F-4C pilots were denied the visual cues needed to correct aiming errors. Then, in 1967, the F-4D arrived. The D model introduced a lead-computing optical sight for use with the gun pod. In addition, the normal ammunition load now included tracers.

On November 6, 1967, the gunfighter Phantom proved its worth. Captain Darrell “D” Simmonds and First Lieutenant George H. McKinney Jr. were escorting a flight of F-105s that came under attack by two MiG-17s. “We picked up the MiG-17s visually that were shooting at the Thuds [F-105s],” says Simmonds. “I was able to get in there and maneuvered for a perfect ‘uphill dart’ shot. I hit him, came alongside, and looked at him, and he looked at me, then ejected just before the plane hit the trees.” McKinney spotted another MiG-17 and Simmonds swung into a hard turn, accelerating as he lined up for the shot. “We were close, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity,” the pilot remembers. “I fired and he blew up.” Later, Simmonds realized: “We had used just 497 rounds for the two kills—less than five seconds of firing.”

The D model, however, was not a cure-all. “The guns on the D hung externally, on the centerline, and that created drag,” says Keyt. As for the missiles, the underperforming AIM-9B was abandoned for the Hughes AIM-4D Falcon. Designed to bring down strategic bombers, it required cooling of the seeker head prior to launch and needed a direct hit to score a kill. As pilots found out during what became known as the “Falcon Fiasco,” it came up short in a dogfight. Major James R. Chamberlain, a backseater stationed with the “Gunfighters”—the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang—notes, “The biggest problem with the AIM-4D was the limited amount of cooling time available [two minutes or less], which meant that the missile could not be pre-cooled for a quicker lock-on. And, once available liquid nitrogen was consumed, the missile was a blind, dead bullet—derisively called the ‘Hughes Arrow.’ ” After firing four of the missiles in combat without success, Robin Olds insisted the missiles cost him his fifth kill. He ordered them removed from his fleet.

The Air Force soon trashed the AIM-4D. Newer Sidewinders were substituted. The military also recognized the benefits of an internal gun: The F-4E, introduced in 1967,  had an M-61A cannon mounted beneath a solid-state AN/APQ-120 radar, both inside the aircraft nose. During the time Richard Keyt’s 35th Tactical Fighter Squadron was based at Korat air base in Thailand,  five squadron aircrews were credited with MiG kills, and four used the internal gun.

In 1973, during my third tour in Southeast Asia, I was assigned to the early E model. It was a dream to fly, not only because of the improvements made in gun and missile technology but also because the Air Force had realized the folly of putting two pilots in a fighter. After 1967, virtually all the GIBs—guys in back—were either navigators or radar intercept operators.

The follow-on Es brought enhancements: A horizontal tailplane with a fixed inverted slat gave improved control at high angles of attack. Leading-edge slats on the wings enabled tighter turns at slow maneuvering speeds. A Northrop system called TISEO (target identification system, electro-optical) identified airborne targets.

By the time my final tour was up, in 1974, a fleet of Phantom variants had safely taken me through a gauntlet of fire and flying experiences that would constitute the greatest adventures of my life.

Three-plus decades later, I was once again in the company of Phantoms. This time the setting was the tarmac at Tyndall.

The commander of the 82nd Aerial Target and Recovery Squadron, which conducts the drone shootdowns, is Lieutenant Colonel J.D. “Bare” Lee. A former F-16 pilot, Lee also has 1,500 hours in the Phantom. He still recalls the first time he took to the air in one. “I was shocked at how much more difficult it was to fly than I thought it would be,” he told me. “When I got home, I told my wife, ‘I think I just traded in a Porsche for a ’72 Cadillac.’ ”

At any one time, a total of up to 80 F-4s are stationed at Tyndall and at Lee’s Holloman detachment in New Mexico. Twenty-one Phantoms sat on a ramp called the Swamp, awaiting movement to Death Row, the holding area for the soon-to-be targets.

At mid-afternoon the drone mission briefing took place. The meeting included the drone “fliers,” Lockheed Martin personnel headed by pilot/controller Matt

LaCourse. “Today’s mission is in support of WSEP, so there’ll be a lot of shooters out there,” said Lee. “WSEP” is the same Weapons System Evaluation Program I had participated in four decades earlier in Vietnam, when I’d practiced shooting at towed targets from F-4s. Now the F-4 was the target.

LaCourse explained that four F-22 Raptors would each fire the latest AIM-120 air-to-air missile. The shooters and chase plane would take off from the main runway, while the drone used a strip three miles east.

Most Phantoms wind up in the Gulf of Mexico within one to three missions. But not all: One, nicknamed “Christine,” after the Stephen King book and film about a crazed car with a mind of its own, had survived 10 missions. Another, “Son of Christine,” has come back from 12 sorties, the current record.

Some drone missions are not meant to be shootdowns: The Phantom is loaded with missile jammers, and missiles without warheads are fired against the craft to test how well the jamming works. Other Phantoms are spruced up with Vietnam War-era camouflage and flown to airshows.

One Phantom was saved by its former pilot. On April 16, 1972, Dan Cherry, flying an F-4D, had scored a victory over a North Vietnamese Mig-21. Thirty-two years later, during a trip with friends to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, Cherry encountered the aircraft he had flown that day. It was on display in the little town of Enon, outside Dayton.

“In spite of her flat tires, weeds growing up all around, bird droppings everywhere, and faded gray paint, she was beautiful,” he recalls. “Walking around her and answering my friend’s questions made me realize how much I loved her and how much I owed her for taking such good care of me. Suddenly all those things that seemed like negatives before paled in comparison to the strong bond I felt at that moment.” Cherry took on the task of relocating the aircraft to the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where it was restored and is now displayed. Then he decided to learn about the pilot of the MiG he had shot down. (Cherry’s story about meeting his former enemy in Vietnam will appear in a future issue of Air & Space/Smithsonian.)

At Tyndall, the heat and humidity hit my face like a wet washcloth. The van driver took us from Death Row to the end of the runway, where F-4E tail number 73-1165 was positioned about 20 feet to the right of the runway centerline.

I asked if I could approach the aircraft. My unit escort, Major Kevin Brackin, obtained permission. I got out of the van and walked across the concrete. When I reached the aircraft, I placed my hand on the radome. Because of the cloud cover, the nose was warm to the touch, not the usual egg-frying hot. The Phantom felt alive.

I felt a wave of dread. Within minutes this magnificent machine might be in pieces at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

A photo was taken, and I headed back to the van to listen to the radio chatter.

Lee says it cost the Air Force $2.6 million to get the aircraft from the boneyard in Tucson to the runway at Tyndall. Is it worth it? “The F-4E has the built-in ability to launch flares and chaff and can carry an assortment of jamming pods, all of which put our latest weapon systems through their most rigorous tests,” says Lee. Had we taken the time to test our missiles properly in the early 1960s, the Vietnam air war might have turned out like the one over Baghdad: a clean sweep.

We positioned ourselves behind the drone to await the launch order. Both engines were started. The canopy was closed, and the self-destruct bomb was armed for use in case the drone went out of control. Finally, the intake screens in front of the engine inlets were removed.

Then came an ominous ground transmission: The “shooter aircraft have problems,” and a storm cell had slung cloud

layers over a wide swath of sky. We sat and waited.

Finally, after a 15-minute delay, the mission was ordered back on.

The drone launch order was soon passed, and the operators got the Phantom rolling. LaCourse made a correction to get the aircraft precisely on centerline as both afterburners lit. Fifteen seconds later, I watched the pilotless aircraft take off.

The F-4 proceeded out over the gulf. The first aircraft fired its missile. The ground controller monitoring the telemetry radioed the air crews: “No hit.”

The Phantom flew on.

My emotions tangled: I wanted the aircraft to survive, but I also wanted it to fulfill its intended mission.

The four F-22 Raptors spread out. Each launched a missile. Over the radio we heard “Fox-four”—all shooters had fired.

Then: “Splash.” A direct hit.

Brackin and I walked back to the van and got in. Brackin was staring straight ahead. Then he turned to me. “So now you know,” he said, grinning. “It takes four Raptors to kill an F-4.” 

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Remembering the U.S. Navy F-4G, the Phantom that could perform automatic carrier landings

  • Cold War Era
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us f 4 phantom

In 1966 the 12 U.S. Navy F-4G aircraft were to test a new tactical camouflage for embarked aircraft

In March, 1963, 12 F-4Bs were pulled from the McDonnell assembly line for the addition of special equipment.

These Phantoms were to test the new AN/ASW-21 air-to-ground data link. The new communication system and an approach power compensator were installed just aft of the rear cockpit in place of the No. 1 fuselage fuel cell. AN/ASW-21 data link communication system and approach power compensator coupled with the shipboard AN/SPN-10 radar and AN/USC-1 data link allowed hands off carrier landings to be accomplished. A radar reflector had to be attached to the nose in order to produce a larger radar target that would permit the AN/SPN-10 ship-borne radar to track the F-4 during automatic landings. Initially, the radar reflector was bolted onto the nose gear door, but in production versions the reflector retracted into a cavity underneath the nose immediately ahead of the landing gear.

Remembering the U.S. Navy F-4G, the Phantom that could perform automatic carrier landings

The twelve modified aircraft were redesignated F-4Gs. Their serial numbers were BuNos 150481, 150484, 150487, 150489, 150492, 150625, 150629, 150633, 150636, 150639, 150642 and 150645. The first of these (150481) flew on 20 March 1963.

The data link system and approach power compensator were the only changes to an otherwise standard F-4B airframe.

According to Larry Davis book F-4 Phantom II In Action , when the U.S. Navy went to war in Vietnam, the F-4Gs were assigned to VF-213 Black Lions which had been deployed with Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) to Vietnam from 19 October 1965 to 13 June 1966. During the deployment F-4G 150645 was lost over North Vietnam .

Remembering the U.S. Navy F-4G, the Phantom that could perform automatic carrier landings

In 1966 the service used the 12 F-4Gs to test a new tactical camouflage for Navy aircraft . The upper surfaces were painted overall in either 34102 or 34079 Green, or a combination of both; the undersurfaces remained White. Several other aircraft types were also tested the new camouflage colors including A-1s and A-6s. However, the U.S. Navy decided that camouflage paint did not hide the aircraft to any great extent, and was found to be a negative factor when attempting to move an aircraft under the carrier deck at night. Navy aircraft would remain in the standard scheme of 36440 Gull Gray upper surface, with Gloss White undersides and control surfaces, until 1970s.

Eventually the F-4Gs were returned to the U.S. and converted back to F-4B specifications.

The U.S. Navy dropped the F-4G designation but the AN/ASW-21 data link system became standard equipment on the F-4J .

The “F-4G” designation was later again used for U.S. Air Force (USAF) “Wild Weasel” conversions of F-4Es .

Remembering the U.S. Navy F-4G, the Phantom that could perform automatic carrier landings

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Dario Leone

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Here's What Made The F-4 Phantom II Such An Excellent Fighter Jet

Posted: December 24, 2023 | Last updated: December 26, 2023

The F-4 Phantom II began flying fleet defense for the U.S. Navy in 1958 but wasn't used by the Air Force until 1963 (as the F-4C). The two-seat, twin-engine tactical jet fighter bomber was built by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (later the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation). It could fly in any weather scenario and perform a variety of roles, including air superiority, interdiction, and close-air support.

It was the first fighter aircraft to fly simultaneously with the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and the only one to be flown at the same time by the flight demonstration teams from both the Air Force (Thunderbirds) and Navy (Blue Angels). By the time it retired in 1996, it had earned a reputation as one of the best fighter jets developed during the Cold War  because it was produced in such large quantities, had an incredible service length (38 years), and always performed admirably.

In 1965, the F-4 was used aggressively in the Vietnam War, flying air-to-air missions and attacking targets on the ground. Initially, it was only armed with air-to-air missiles. However, several (unsuccessful) early dogfights with Soviet-built MiG fighters showed the need for additional close-range armaments, so it was retrofitted with 20-millimeter cannons. The Phantom went on to rack up over 100 MiG kills during the war.

When fully loaded it could carry 16,000 pounds of ordnance on nine external hardpoints in any number of configurations that included nuclear or conventional bombs, rockets, missiles, or 20mm cannon pods. By comparison, it carried more than twice that of a World War II B-17 bomber.

Read more: 14 Best Fighter Planes And Jets Of All Time

This Phantom Scared All Of Its Enemies

The fighter was powered by two General Electric J-79-GE-15s, each creating 17,000 pounds of thrust. It had a maximum speed of 1,400 mph, with a cruising speed of 590 mph. Its range (1,750 miles) and flight ceiling (59,600 ft.) also gave it a considerable advantage. Various iterations of the F-4 (of which there were many) reached speeds of Mach 2.2 (at one time it was one of the fastest fighters in the world ), carried 18,000 pounds, had ceilings above 62,000 feet, and went much further (the F-4B had a range of 2,300 miles). 

Nearly 5,200 were built by the time production ended in 1979 -- 2,600+ for the USAF, 1,200+ for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, while some 1,400 of the multi-purpose Phantoms served with as many as 12 other friendly nations.

The Navy's last F-4 landed aboard the USS America in October 1986. During Operation Desert Storm, the Air Force launched F-4G Wild Weasels (a rebuilt version of the F-4E) to track enemy radar and suppress enemy air defenses like SAM batteries. The effectiveness helped the U.S. military control the skies above Iraq and Kuwait within 24 hours.

As of 2020, the F-4 was still in service with Iran, Japan, South Korea, Greece, and Turkey. Germany's Air Force still uses Phantoms at Holloman AFB as training platforms for its fighter pilots. Designated as the QF-4 Aerial Target, it still serves as -- you guessed it -- a supersonic reusable unmanned aerial target for live air-to-air and surface-to-air missile tests. According to the Air Force, there are 84 active QF-4s currently in operation at Tyndall Air Force Base (Florida) and Holloman AFB (New Mexico).

Read the original article on SlashGear .

McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II fighter bomber aircraft

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F-4 Phantom (U.S. Navy & Marines)

F-4 phantom (u.s. navy & marine versions) information file:.

When it was introduced into service with the U. S. Navy, the McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom was clearly superior to any fighter then in the Air Force inventory. Only a few years before the Phantom made its first flight, the Air Force looked at Navy fighters as being inferior, so it was inconceivable that the Air Force would ever purchase a Navy aircraft that would eventually become its standard fighter for more than two decades. But the superiority of the Phantom over any Air Force fighter in service or on the drawing boards was so evident, that is exactly what happened. The Phantom was also the final proof that the best fighters in the world could operate from aircraft carriers, and as such, the introduction of the Phantom into fleet service was a defining and confirming event in the history of carrier aviation.

The Phantom began as an unsolicited study by McDonnell and was made as an attempt to keep that company involved in the production of jet fighters for the Navy. It was envisioned that the new fighter would eventually replace McDonnell’s F3H Demon as an all-weather fleet defense interceptor.

As originally conceived, the Phantom was an improved version of the Demon, and therefore called the F3H-G. It was a single-seat fighter-bomber with two engines and variable inlet ramps to control airflow to the powerplants. In 1954, the Navy assigned the AH-1 designation to the mockup, denoting the ground attack capability of the aircraft. But shortly thereafter, the four 20-mm cannon were replaced with Sparrow missiles, and the designation was changed to F4H-1. The Navy also requested that the new fighter be changed to a two-seat design.

The first flight by the initial XF4H-1 took place on May 27, 1958, and after a fly-off competition with Vought’s XF8U-3 Crusader III, McDonnell received its first orders for production aircraft. Because the name Phantom had been used on the previous McDonnell FH-1, the new fighter was officially named the Phantom II, but the II was usually dropped except for the most official use of the name.

Following the two XF4H-1 prototypes, forty-five F4H-1 production aircraft were delivered in small production blocks. Some changes in the aircraft’s design took place along the way, the most noticeable of these being a slightly higher rear canopy, redesigned air inlets, and a larger nose with a radome to house the APQ-72 radar. Shortly after these aircraft entered service, the Department of Defense ordered the standardization of aircraft designations throughout the U. S. military, and the F4H-1 was changed to F-4A. These first production Phantoms were used for tests and evaluations as well as for a number of record setting flights, and a few saw service in the first fleet squadron to transition to the new fighter. But these were soon replaced by the F-4B, so the F-4As were reassigned to test and evaluation units as well as a few utility and composite squadrons.

The F-4B was the first major production version of the Phantom, and it was built in larger numbers than any other Navy variant with a total of 649 being delivered. The F-4B was equipped with the AJB-3 bombing system and could carry a wide variety of weapons on five hardpoints beneath the fuselage and wings. It was the first jet fighter in the Navy to enter service without an internal cannon, and this would later prove to be a mistake. Instead, four AIM-7 Sparrow radar guided missiles were carried in recessed bays beneath the fuselage. These were to be the Phantom’s primary weapon in its intended role of fleet defense interceptor. The capability to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared guided missiles was added, and these were mounted on launch rails attached to the sides of the two inboard wing pylons.

Two of the reasons the Phantom won the fly-off with the Crusader III were that it had two seats and two engines. The Navy wanted the radar intercept officer (RIO) in the back seat to control the radar and guide the pilot to the enemy aircraft during an engagement. The Navy’s position was that a two man team was more efficient because it spread out the work load. The Navy also preferred two engines since they provided an extra margin of survivability and reliability which was very important over vast expanses of ocean. But another point in the Phantom’s favor was that it could carry a large load of bombs, rockets, guided missiles, and other ordnance that could be used against ground targets. It was a relatively short time before this fighter-bomber capability was first put to use in Vietnam. While Phantoms would score many of the Navy’s air-to-air victories against enemy aircraft in Vietnam, they also joined the Navy’s attack aircraft in delivering a wide variety of ordnance against targets on the ground.

Once the Air Force acquired its first Phantoms, it developed a dedicated reconnaissance version designated the RF-4C. The Navy had not originally planned to have a reconnaissance version of the Phantom, preferring to use the RF-8 Crusader and RA-5C Vigilante instead. However, the Marine Corps did need a new reconnaissance aircraft, so the Navy decided to have forty-six F-4Bs completed with an elongated nose section similar to that on the RF-4C. This modified nose had positions for vertical, oblique, and forward-looking cameras, and all forty-six of the aircraft were assigned to the Marines. The last ten RF-4Bs were built with the thicker wings and wider wheels and tires used on the F-4J and on Air Force Phantoms. The last three were built with a more rounded nose section which unfortunately precluded repositioning of the cameras while in flight. Unlike Air Force RF-4Cs, which could deliver a tactical nuclear weapon, RF-4Bs were completely unarmed. Twelve F-4Bs were converted to F-4Gs with an ASW-21 two-way digital data link and an approach power compensation system for automatic carrier landings. Painted in an unusual green camouflage scheme, these F-4Gs were assigned to VF-213 which made a deployment to Vietnam aboard USS KITTY HAWK, CVA-63, to evaluate the system. This test proved successful and the feature became standard on the subsequent F-4J. The F-4Gs were converted back to F-4B standards, thus freeing up the F-4G designation to be used again on the Air Force’s Wild Weasel version.

The second production version of the Phantom developed for the Navy was the F-4J. This was a considerable improvement over the F-4B, and the F-4J could be visually distinguished from the earlier variant by its lack of an infrared sensor under the radome and by the larger exhaust nozzles on its engines. The F-4J also had wider main landing gear wheels and tires, and a thicker inner wing section was required to accommodate them when the gear was retracted. This wider landing gear had been used on the Air Force versions, and it proved to be better for operating from land bases.

To improve the Phantom’s capabilities in the interceptor role, the AWG-10 missile control system and its pulse doppler APG-59 radar were installed in the F-4J. The AJB-7 bombing system enhanced the F-4Js ability to attack targets on the ground. Communications, navigation, and IFF systems were upgraded with solid state electronics. More powerful J79-GE-10 engines were installed, each of which produced 17,900 pounds of thrust in afterburner.

Experience in Vietnam had demonstrated the need for electronic countermeasures and threat warning devices. Throughout the war, improved radar homing and warning (RHAW) gear was added to the Phantom and other aircraft, and these often showed up as antenna fairings on the tail and elsewhere. During its service, antenna fairings were added near the upper edge of each air inlet of the F-4J.

F-4Js gradually took the place of F-4Bs in fleet squadrons, but they never entirely replaced the older variant. When production ended, a total of 522 F-4Js had been built.

In 1971, the Navy began an extensive program to update and improve F-4Bs. The 227 Phantoms that went through this upgrade were then redesignated F-4Ns. A visual identifying feature of the F-4N was the addition of antenna fairings along the upper side of each intake. These were similar to the ones used on the F-4J, but they were considerably longer. But most improvements were internal and could not be detected by the eye. A Visual Target Acquisition System (VTAS) was added, as was a Sidewinder Expanded Acquisition Mode (SEAM). The airframe was strengthened to increase service life, and a new electrical generating system was added. All wiring and connectors were replaced. A new dogfight computer was added, as was an improved air-to-air identification friend-of-foe (IFF) system. These changes permitted the F-4N to remain in service into the 1980s, more than twenty years after the original airframes had been delivered as F-4Bs.

In 1975, a similar and more extensive upgrade was begun on the F-4J. The 302 aircraft that went through this program were given the F-4S designation. This again included structural strengthening to increase the service life of the airframes, but the most important change was the addition of maneuvering slats along the leading edge of the wings. These were like those fitted to late production Air Force F-4Es and converted F-4G Wild Weasels. Another important improvement made on the F-4S, as well as on some late F-4Js, was the change to a low-smoke engine. In Vietnam the huge smoke trail left by the J79 was often criticized, because it exposed the presence and location of the Phantom to an enemy pilot long before the aircraft itself could be seen. Unfortunately the problem was not solved until long after the war in Vietnam had ended.

By the end of 1986, Phantoms had been retired from the Navy’s active and reserve squadrons. This was more than five years before the last Phantoms were retired from the U. S. Air Force. A few served on as remotely controlled drones and were designated QF-4B, QF-4N, and QF-4S.

The importance of the Phantom to carrier based aviation in the U. S. Navy cannot be overstated. It proved to all the critics that the most capable and powerful jet fighters could operate from carriers, thus helping insure the future of the large deck supercarriers for many years to come.



Wingspan 38 feet, 5 inches Wing Area 530 square feet Length 58 feet, 3.75 inches Height 16 feet, 3 inches Weight Empty 28,000 pounds Gross 44,600 pounds Combat 38,500 pounds Max T. O. 54,600 pounds Landing 34,000 pounds (arrested) Speed Max 1,485 mph at 48,000 feet Cruising 575 mph Stall 95 mph Rate of Climb 1 minute 28,000 feet Ceiling Service 62,000 feet Combat 56,850 feet Maximum Range 2,300 feet


Wingspan 38 feet, 5 inches Wing Area 530 square feet Length 58 feet, 3.75 inches Height 16 feet, 3 inches Weight Empty 30,770 pounds Gross 46,833 pounds Combat 41,400 pounds Max T. O. 59,000 pounds Max Speed 1,584 mph at 48,000 feet Rate of Climb 1 minute 41,250 feet Ceiling Service 70,000 feet Combat 54,700 feet Maximum Range 1,956 miles

us f 4 phantom

F-4B, U. S. Navy General Photo Set:

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Navy F-4B Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of Navy F-4Bs.

us f 4 phantom

F-4N, U. S. Navy General Photo Set:

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Navy F-4N Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of Navy F-4Ns.

us f 4 phantom

F-4J, U. S. Navy General Photo Set:

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Navy F-4J Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of Navy F-4Js.

F-4B/N, U. S. Marine Corps

General photo set:.

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Marine Corps F-4B and F-4N Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of Marine Phantoms..

us f 4 phantom

F-4J/S, U. S. Marine Corps

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Marine Corps F-4J and F-4S Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of Marine Phantoms.

us f 4 phantom

PRF-4B, U. S. Marine Corps

This photo set contains general photographs of U. S. Marine Corps RF-4B Phantom IIs not included in other more specific photo sets of F-4 Phantoms.

us f 4 phantom

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The Military’s Phantom ‘Extremists’

An independent study puts to rest another false media narrative..

Jan. 1, 2024 5:45 pm ET


Good news: The U.S. military isn’t packed with violent extremists. That’s the gist of a new report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2021 and released quietly with little notice in December. The result won’t surprise Americans who have spent time in uniform, but it should calm the media frenzy about right-wing radicals in the armed forces.

After reports that some service members participated in the Jan. 6 riot, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered an independent study to get “greater fidelity” on extremism in the ranks. The think tank tasked with the report, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), “found no evidence that the number of violent extremists in the military is disproportionate” to U.S. society. A review of Pentagon data suggested “fewer than 100 substantiated cases per year of extremist activity by members of the military in recent years,” the report says.

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Nike Phantom GX Elite

Calzado de fútbol de perfil bajo para terreno firme.

Calzado de fútbol de perfil bajo para terreno firme Nike Phantom GX Elite

¿Te obsesiona perfeccionar tu arte? Diseñamos el calzado Elite para ti y para las estrellas más grandes del mundo, para así poder brindarte calidad de alto nivel, porque exiges lo mejor de ti mismo y de tu calzado también. Confeccionado con el revolucionario Nike Gripknit, este calzado proporciona un mejor toque, con un diseño intuitivo que ayuda a mejorar tu precisión tanto al hacer tiros como en el control cercano.

  • Color que se muestra: Hiperturquesa/Sueño fucsia/Blanco/Negro
  • Estilo: DC9968-300

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Evaluaciones (56).

4.7 Estrellas

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Fantastic boot.

Elcey - 19 dic 2023

I bought these as a gift for my 13 year old daughter. They were comfortable on the first wear and look amazing. One very happy footballer.

Great Soccer Cleat

CJ - 28 nov 2023

Shipping was quick. Shoe fits perfect. My daughter didn't really need to break them in. The Phantom is her favorite soccer cleat and since the sole got changed to a full sole again no issues with that either. ...

Diego Regalado - 20 nov 2023

Being a goalkeeper having puma future ultimates to copa pure 1s to these in the past year the nike phantom gx’s are my favorite. Personally i like a very close touch to the ball for the most consistency and accuracy on my kicks and these cleats allow that to my highest demand. With surprising grip and aggressive yet pivotal traction im loving these boots. ...

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Máxima precisión

Tienes el entrenamiento necesario. Has perfeccionado tus habilidades. Ahora prepárate para llevar tu temporada al máximo con la precisión incomparable del Phantom GX.

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Como Phil Foden sabe, controlar el balón en espacios pequeños es la clave para triunfar en el partido. Por eso, el Phantom GX cuenta con Nike Gripknit. Nike Gripknit es una combinación de dos tipos de hilo en una textura de huella dactilar que crea una superficie ligeramente adherente y mejora el agarre del balón al hacer pases, regates y tiros para que destaques en los partidos más importantes.

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Constancia y flexibilidad

El material Nike Gripknit, integrado en la parte superior, está diseñado para brindar control y una sensación uniforme del balón en todo momento, llueva o haga sol, porque la precisión no cambia de acuerdo al tiempo que haga. Debajo, la placa combina flexibilidad con la cantidad ideal de soporte, para que puedas seguir tu instinto frente al arco o en un lugar pequeño.


Toque mejorado

Nike Gripknit es un material adherente que proporciona un mejor toque del balón. Ocupa casi toda la parte superior, incluidas las dos primeras agujetas, que cubren las zonas de impacto más comunes del pie. Se amolda a la forma del pie y te brinda el mismo agarre en condiciones húmedas o secas.

Moldeado para tu comodidad

La asimetría en el cuello y el talón proporciona comodidad. Los elementos suaves en el talón facilitan el proceso de moldeado y reducen la irritación y la presión sin comprometer la estabilidad y la estructura.

Tracción para el campo

Los tacos tri-star trabajan en conjunto con las ranuras flexibles en el antepié para proporcionar una tracción óptima y ayudar a desbloquear el cambio de dirección. ¿Ves las líneas en la suela? Se adaptan a tus movimientos habituales en el campo para ayudarte a avanzar en zigzag antes de hacer un tiro.

Datos del producto

  • Para usar en campos con pasto corto ligeramente húmedo
  • Plantilla con amortiguación
  • Este producto no está diseñado para usarse como equipo de protección personal (EPP)


  1. McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II

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  5. The Navy Got Its Hands On Its First Operational F-4 Phantom Sixty Years

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  1. F-4E Phantom II getting ready to depart

  2. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

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  4. The U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom#shorts

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  1. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

    The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is an American tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed by McDonnell Aircraft for the United States Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it entered service with the Navy in 1961 before it was adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, and by the mid ...

  2. McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II

    McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II. First flown in May 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense. The U.S. Air Force's first version, the F-4C, made its first flight in May 1963, and production deliveries began six months later. Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built -- more than 2,600 ...

  3. Why the F-4 Phantom is one of the US military's most beloved airplanes

    The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom was the workhorse of the U.S. military during its operational lifetime. First introduced in 1961, it served the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force until the mid-1990s. There's a reason the United States built more F-4s than any other supersonic aircraft. F-4s were the go-to fighters over Vietnam, the only plane ...

  4. Exploring the legacy of the F4 Phantom: history and features

    The F4 Phantom boasts several groundbreaking features that contributed to its success. Its twin-engine configuration, with each engine generating 17,000 pounds of thrust, provides exceptional performance and reliability. The aircraft's speed and acceleration are impressive, with a top speed of Mach 1.9 and the ability to reach altitudes above ...

  5. F-4

    By the time it went out of production in 1979, more that 5,000 Phantoms had been built, and it had become one of the most successful fighter aircraft since World War II. In its original versions the F-4 had a wingspan of 38 feet 5 inches (11.7 m) and a length of 58 feet 3 inches (17.7 m). The wings folded for carrier stowage in the navy version.

  6. Why the F-4 Phantom Is Such a Badass Plane

    Size and engine power enabled the Phantom to carry a remarkable payload for its time. The F-4 could heft 18,000 pounds of missiles, bombs, external fuel tanks, and jamming gear on nine hardpoints ...

  7. F-4 Phantom II in the Vietnam War

    Vietnam War: F-4 Phantom II. In 1952, McDonnell Aircraft began internal studies to determine which service branch was most in need of a new aircraft. Led by Preliminary Design Manager Dave Lewis, the team found that the US Navy would soon require a new attack aircraft to replace the F3H Demon. The designer of the Demon, McDonnell began revising ...

  8. McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

    The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was one of the largest postwar programs and was the first US Navy fighter to be adopted by the USAF. It could carry a bomb-load greater than the Avro Lancaster or Boeing B-29 Superfortress, and it served with twelve nations.Considered one of the greatest and most versatile (yet ugliest) jet fighters ever built, it was first in many areas of aerospace ...

  9. The Navy Got Its Hands On Its First Operational F-4 Phantom ...

    The extraordinary career of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II began exactly 60 years ago when a first example was handed over to the U.S. Navy to begin training aviators on the "Bent Wing ...

  10. F-4 Phantom Fighter Bomber

    A Turkish Air Force F-4 Phantom, Syria shot down an F-4 of Turkey in June 2012. The F-4 Phantom is a fighter bomber initially developed for the US Navy. The US Marine Corps used the F-4 as a ground-support bomber. The Phantom was retired from the service of the US defence forces in 1996. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Gary Rice.

  11. Where Have All the Phantoms Gone?

    December 2008. F-4s at Arizona's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the warplane retirement home. Mark Bennett. The F-4 Phantom II lives. But the life it leads today is an odd one. It still flies in ...

  12. F-4 Phantom II: America's Most Prolific Jet Fighter In History

    The F-4 Phantom II. In 1958, McDonald Aircraft Corporation delivered a prototype, twin engine, supersonic, all-weather, long range fighter - a design the US Navy could not ignore.It would go on to become the most produced American jet fighter in history and an icon of the Cold War.

  13. A special aircraft: between 1959 and 1962, the F-4 Phantom II set 16

    In response to US Navy requirements for a high-altitude interceptor to defend carriers with long-range air-to-air missiles against attacking aircraft, McDonnell Aircraft Company delivered the F4H-1 (later redesignated F-4) Phantom II. The aircraft's maiden flight occurred in 1958 with deliveries to Navy and Marine Corps squadrons beginning in ...

  14. Most Feared Fighter Jet of the Vietnam War

    The F-4 Phantom is often regarded as the deadliest fighter in Vietnam. This tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor ...

  15. Why Does Iran Have U.S. F-4 Phantom Fighters?

    The F-4 Phantom is a two-seat, two-engine, all-weather interceptor and fighter-bomber that served with distinction with the United State in Vietnam. The F-4's greatest advantage was its speed ...

  16. List of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II U.S. operators

    The 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing at MacDill AFB was the first unit to receive the Phantoms. The first combat unit to receive F-4Cs was the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1964. [1] B83 nuclear bomb test with F-4C Phantom 1983. F-4C Phantom II of 557th TFS over Vietnam in 1969. F-4C Phantom with AGM-12 Bullpups.

  17. Remembering the U.s. Navy F-4g, the Phantom That Could Perform

    According to Larry Davis book F-4 Phantom II In Action, when the U.S. Navy went to war in Vietnam, the F-4Gs were assigned to VF-213 Black Lions which had been deployed with Carrier Air Wing 11 (CVW-11) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) to Vietnam from 19 October 1965 to 13 June 1966.

  18. F-4 Phantom

    The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is arguably one of the greatest cold war jet fighters, serving with distinction over Vietnam, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Iran,...

  19. Here's What Made The F-4 Phantom II Such An Excellent Fighter Jet

    The F-4 Phantom II began flying fleet defense for the U.S. Navy in 1958 but wasn't used by the Air Force until 1963 (as the F-4C). The two-seat, twin-engine tactical jet fighter bomber was built ...

  20. F-4 Phantom (U.S. Navy & Marines)

    The F-4B was the first major production version of the Phantom, and it was built in larger numbers than any other Navy variant with a total of 649 being delivered. The F-4B was equipped with the AJB-3 bombing system and could carry a wide variety of weapons on five hardpoints beneath the fuselage and wings. It was the first jet fighter in the ...

  21. F-4 Phantom

    McDonnell F-4A Phantom II in the NASA Flight Research Center hangar undergoing maintenance inspection in preparation for a flight. Notice... Photographed from above in 1984 the "tufting" on the upper surfaces of the F-4C wings are clearly seen.

  22. F-22 Raptor vs. Iranian F-4 Phantom: A Stealthy Encounter in

    The U.S. Air Force's coveted F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, equipped with cutting-edge technology, recently showcased its prowess in intercepting Iranian F-4 Phantom jets attempting to engage a U.S ...

  23. F-4 Phantom II Documentary (1987)

    About Press Copyright Contact us Creators Advertise Developers Terms Privacy Policy & Safety How YouTube works Test new features NFL Sunday Ticket Press Copyright ...

  24. The Military's Phantom 'Extremists'

    Good news: The U.S. military isn't packed with violent extremists. That's the gist of a new report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2021 and released quietly with little notice in December. The ...

  25. Nike Phantom GX Elite

    The Phantom is her favorite soccer cleat and since the sole got changed to a full sole again no issues with that either.... Más. Gk review. Diego Regalado - 20 nov 2023. Being a goalkeeper having puma future ultimates to copa pure 1s to these in the past year the nike phantom gx's are my favorite. Personally i like a very close touch to the ...

  26. Wings Great Planes : F-4 "Phantom"

    For educational purposesThe McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom II" is an American tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet intercepto...

  27. F-4 Phantom II is my favorite "bird" on Instagram: "A colorful

    629 likes, 1 comments - f4_phantom_is_my_favorite_bird on December 14, 2023: "A colorful formation of U.S. Navy McDonnell F-4 Phantom fighters from Air Test and Evaluation Squ ...