McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
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McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

For a quarter-century, the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II has risen from land and sea to take command of the air, to carry out the strike mission, to fight MiGs, and to join the Thunderbolt, Mustang and Sabre among the immortals of American fighter aviation. Its bent wings, drooped tail and twin-engine configuration a trademark, the Phantom was the first aircraft which could detect, intercept and destroy any target within its radar range without assistance from surface-based radar. Built as an interceptor, it became a MiG killer, but it also excelled at ground attack, 'fast FAC', reconnaissance, and other duties.

The F-4A (US Navy F4H-1F) was a developmental variant, the first making its maiden flight at St Louis on 27 May 1958. It was followed by the US Navy's operational F-4B (F4H-1), powered by two 7711kg afterburning thrust General Electric J79-GE-8 engines. The F-4B model attained an altitude record of 30040m on 6 December 1959, a speed record of 2585km/h on 22 November 1961, and a low-altitude speed record of 1452km/h on 20 August 1962, the last-named not being beaten for 16 years!

The EF-4B designation went to one airframe used for ECM training, and two modified, development airframes bore the NF-4B designation. The QF-4B is a drone conversion. The RF-4B reconnaissance derivative served only with the US Marine Corps.

The F-4C (F-110A) was the US Air Force's first Phantom, the first example being flown on 27 May 1963. The F-4C became operational with the 12th and 15th Tactical Fighter Wings at MacDill AFB, Florida, in January 1964. Some 583 were built, 40 being transferred to Spain. The service-test YRF-4C (YRF-110A) led to the RF-4C (RF-110A), 499 of which were constructed for the photo-reconnaissance role. The F-4D Phantom fighter-bomber introduced a capability to deliver precision-guided munitions (PGM), or 'smart' bombs. Some 825 were built, including 32 delivered new to Iran and 36 transferred to South Korea.

Once in action in Vietnam in 1965, the Phantom seemed to need a gun to augment its missile armament in close-quarter battles with MiGs. The SUU-16/A 20mm external gun pod was an interim measure. The F-4E, first flown on 7 August 1965, introduced more powerful J79-GE-17 engines but its principal change was the internally-mounted M61A1 20mm cannon. Although superior pilot training would later prove more important than the cannon in establishing a 2.5-to-1 kill advantage over North Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters, the F-4E became the definitive Phantom, and 1,397 rolled off the line. Examples were supplied to Australia (on loan), Greece, Iran, Israel, Turkey, South Korea and West Germany; and 140 F-4EJs were licence-built by Mitsubishi in Japan. The RF-4E was an export reconnaissance derivative, supplied to Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan and West Germany.

By the mid-1960s, the Phantom was just about the best-known fighter in the world. On 2 January 1967 in Operation 'Bolo', F-4Cs of the 8th TFW under Colonel Robin Olds shot down seven North Vietnamese MiGs. Increasingly, F-4Ds took over from the Republic F-105 the job of bringing ordnance to bear on Vietnamese ground targets. Visitors to St Louis, where McDonnell took over Douglas in 1967, wanted not merely to see the heavy, complex fighter put together by Herman Barkey's design team, but to buy it.

The F-4F was a specialised air superiority version for the West German Luftwaffe, and 175 were delivered. The F-4G designation had been used initially for 12 aircraft taken from the US Navy F-4B production line. They had the two-way ASW-21 data-link system for automated carrier landings, and all later reverted to F-4B standard. In the 1970s, the F-4G appellation was used again for the US Air Force's 'Advanced Wild Weasel' electronic warfare aircraft, 116 of which were converted from F-4E standard. Originally seen as a counter to enemy SAM missile sites and associated radars, the F-4G now carries out a wide portfolio of electronic missions. Aircraft are stationed as far afield as the 3rd TFW Clark Field, Philippines, and 52nd TFW, Spangdahlem AB, West Germany.

The F-4J was an improved production fighter for the US Navy with 8119kg afterburning thrust J79-GE-10 engines, enlarged wing and improved avionics. The F-4K was developed for the UK's Royal Navy and the F-4M for the Royal Air Force, though both are now operated by the latter service which, with expanded commitments following the 1982 Falklands war, has also inherited 15 ex-US Navy F-4Js. The F-4N is an upgraded 'rebuild' of the F-4B, and has in turn been converted to the QF-4N drone. The F-4S is an upgraded F-4J with wing manoeuvre slats and was the final Phantom variant to serve aboard an aircraft carrier, with VF-151 and -161 aboard the USS Midway.

Phantoms serve widely with the Reserve and Air National Guard and are likely to remain in front-line service with some air forces into the 21st century.

F4H-1 Phantom (1962)

 ENGINE2 x GE J-79-GE-17, 52.8kN
    Take-off weight20282 kg44714 lb
    Wingspan11.7 m38 ft 5 in
    Length19.4 m64 ft 8 in
    Height5.0 m16 ft 5 in
    Wing area49.2 m2529.58 sq ft
    Max. speed2300 km/h1429 mph
    Ceiling18420 m60450 ft
    Range w/max.payload700 km435 miles
 ARMAMENT1 x 20mm cannon, missiles

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIA three-view drawing (1648 x 1190)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60 61-80 81-100 101-120 121-140 141-160 161-180 181-200 201-220
Engine Eddie, 21.02.2010

Was fortunate to be 33rd pilot to live through more than 200 combat missions in F4B from aircraft carriers Enterprise and Constellation 1965-1967, was flying fighter escort right next to LtCdr John McCain when he was shot down by 1 of 14 SAMS shot at us in less than 5 minutes.

Earl Mundy, 21.02.2010

My first job out of engineering school was with McDonnell Aircraft in St. Louis. I cut my teeth working on the wing trailing edge and later the forward fuselage structures. I want to tell you what a dedicated hard working bunch of folks built these airplanes. We worked 48 to 60 hours a week to make sure we met delivery schedules. I am still proud of my small role in delivering one of the best fighters aver to fly.

Vic Jeffers, 20.02.2010

The F4 was a great aircraft, with plenty of power from the J79 GE engines. Worked F4s at Shaw AFB 1965&66,Udorn RTAFB 1966&67, Eglin AFB 1967to69 and was FTD Jet Engine Master Instrucor from 1975 to 1982 at Seymour Johnson AFB,FTD 205 on the J79 engine, taught F4 engine mech's from Israel,Jordan,Saudi Arabia and Iran. Had the pleasure of working on Col, Robin Olds and Col Chappie James F4s.

Dick Mansfield, 17.02.2010

Vietnam 1965-1966, CVAN-65, VF-92 Great airplane except for turning radius at altitude. Sparrow performance was poor, but sidewinders were OK. Retired in '71.

Bill Ayers, 14.02.2010

Use to refuel them at Bergstrom AFB in the early 70's. Loved watching them take off in the late sunset, what a sight.

Bobby Thrower, 09.02.2010

While in Air Force - worked on C's @ D's at Bentwaters, Eng. Good plane. Only trouble was the ground troops. They really didn't care and it really showed with the maintenance troubles.

Lance Grace, 02.02.2010

Had to get my name in here right next to Bater's. First met him in an F-4E at Hahn in 82, then at Edwards in 85 in all kinds of F-4s, then in 89 at Holloman in other fighters. Expereienced my first departure in an F-4 with Rick, but that's a long story. I last flew my personal F-4D in 2003 flying with BAE Systems out of Mojave. When I would stop by some Air Force base for fuel, the old men would come out just to touch the plane once again. As one of the last three American pilots who were current in air refueling, I went over to Egypt and ferried back a handfull of F-4E models that had been sitting in the sand for a number of years. Some great stories go with those trips. The old boomers just loved being able to give us fuel while the young boomers were afraid of us, having heard too many bar stories through the years. As a test pilot, I had the opportunity to fly lots of airplanes including very modern ones. But there is a special place in my heart for the Rhino!

Rick Bates, 01.02.2010

Correction to my typo on previous. I have one less landing than takeoff.

Rick Bates, 01.02.2010

She was/is a "Lovely Beast". I have about 2500 hours in the C,D,E,Thunderbird E,F,and RF. Havew flown lots of others from the FG-86 and F100 to the F-15 and 16. It's still my favorite. Flew it in combat as a WSO in VietNam, as a front seater in the US an USAFE. She didn't do any one thing better than wvewryone elsae but she did so much so good. I flew air to air, air to mud, fast fac, laser name it. The engines were her heart, she proved the aerodynamic theory that we could get the Pentagon supersonic with big enough engines. She was sure stout. I have one landing tghan takeoff thanks to the north Vietnamese.

Joseph Parker, 30.01.2010

As a child of an Air Force doctor I lived on Clark Air Base from '67 to '69 and I used to love the camo'ed beasts flying overhead. Little did I know that a few years later I would be loading bombs and missles on the same birds. I was an AO in VF-151 on the USS Midway for two years and had a ball loading those things. For those of you who have not seen the photos of it, look up "USS Midway shipwreck" and see the photos. We were turning the "Alert 5", fully load with Sidewinders and Sparrows when this ship collides with us. The ships name was the Cactus and you should see what it did to the Phantoms on deck. Luckly, myself and another squadron mate pulled out the pilot and rio before the plane might have slipped off the deck. The damage was amazing but they actually sent the birds off to get repaired. What a plane... One of the best to ever fly!!!

William J. Griffin, 27.01.2010

I flew 110 combat missions out of Chu Lai in F4B & F4D's. This bird is the "Rolls royce of fighter aviation. If you missed the 500knot breaks at Chu Lai and the whistle of the Phantom you haven't lived!

Buck Seibert, 22.01.2010

Air Force here. 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing 62-66. MacDill and Davis-Monthan. We were the first AF Wing to go operational with the F-4. Actually started with 29 F-4Bs on loan from the Navy. I am an Air Force trained jet engine mechanic plus 33 years testing Development Engines at GE Evendale. I've been retired for 8 years.

AL, 22.01.2010

Anyone here stationed at Macdill in '63 to '66?
That was my home base for 4 years, with a TDY to Clark AB, Ramney, P.R. and Rygge in Norway, all in 1965. I love the F-4. (First squadron to get them from the Navy...F-4B's)

Jeff, 18.01.2010

The first jet I ever crewed was the E model at Homestead, 1979. We got the D models in after our E's were sold to Egypt. I loved crewing the D. Bless them hydraulic wing folds! Besides the great guys I worked with, such as Wes Coles, other notables were the 31st Vice, Col. Eugene Fischer, my pilot was Jeff (Fang) Feinstein (last USAF ACE), our 307th CC was Lt. Col Anderson (i believe)later lost in the massive loss with the Thunderbirds (?).

After a tour at Griffiss I went back to E models at Keflavik Iceland in Feb 1983 where i became run certified. When the 57th deployed back to the US for the first time in years I stayed at Keflavik as a liason for the two units that came in for two weeks each to pull our alert commitment. I remember one was the Rainbow Guard out of NY but I don't remember who the other unit was. I left the Kef in Sept 84, after having temp. reunited with Wes Coles again, who was returning to Keflavik after having been there for the transition from C's to E's and would now be there for the transition from E's to F-15s I heard.

Gary Eubanks, 16.01.2010


I was assigned combat camera to 192 TRG Nevada ANG. We were a recce outfit and were using F-101 H/B's when I got in and RF-4C's at the end. Great new concept of a war story about a Phantom "battle damage" absorption and definitive OJT for a back seater. (navigator)
Bird is buzzing a big desert lake (unofficial SOP) at 450kts. Bird meets big bird in form of rare white species of pelican which is WAY bigger than the little brown ones in the Atlantic. Equation is:45,000# bird (fast) vs 20# bird (slow)-mass x velocity= energy, squared.
Bird plays kissy face with pilot (thank God for visors) after bull's eye hit in center plexi. Pilot out like a light, front cockpit (thanks MD guys for partition between seats) spray paints everything with blood, guts, "stuff" and feathers.
Navigator now pilot in charge, could'nt punch out because pilot had inertia reels unlocked and he's hanging way forward and would'nt have survived the G load of the E-seat.
Forward vision left a lot to be desired but low time nav greases them in for a perfect landing. Any of you Phantom jocks ever practice landing from the back seat looking through a soda straw with the top down?
Since the endangered species bird committed suicide by Phantom, no apology to US Wildlife Dept.
Unit sent to the Gulf War with something the guys in 'Nam would have killed for; GE finally figured out how to stop the J-79's from smoking. Our guys took all the pictures of the good stuff in Baghdad, we all saw it totally blown to hell on TV.
To Paul Gettinger- yes everybody and his brother and kids just had to have a "Spook" patch and I've still got one on my old MA-1 jacket.
To Luis- if you don't like (love) this airplane you never strapped one on. The best seat at a race track is in the lead car, same thing with Phantoms.
(well, maybe sex applies too)

Paul Gettinger, 15.01.2010

After my discharged from the AF I went to work at McDonnell Aircraft for 42 years. I cut my baby teeth on the F4 Phantom II. Later I accepted a job as Tech Rep and worked side by side with the military at such bases as George, Bergstrom and Eglin. During this time I deployed to Saigon, (Tan Sun Nuht) Viet Nam when SOD McNamara ordered the first deployment of the RF-4C's to Viet Nam. That was a very exciting tour. Second tour was to Udorn (1969) The F-4 was 50 yeaars old in 08 (1958-2008) and do any of you F-4 buffs remember the "Spook" patch? The Phantom was a great aircraft, but working with the military folks were even greater. Sadly I left the Phantom and spent the next 25 years with the F-15 Eagle, another great aircraft.

CMSgt Mike Jacobssen, 11.01.2010

I crewed C's at D-M in 69, Ds at Phu Cat 69-70, Es on the Thunderbirds 72 and 73, and Ds and Es again with 301st FW (Reserves) in the 1980s. Flew a phinal phlight (retirement ride) in QF-4E (74-1626) this past Oct (29th) at Holloman. Loved that ole beast!

T Schott, 07.01.2010

After accumulating over 23,000 hours in many different aircraft, including 5 supersonic fighters, the F-4 still moves my heart strings. I flew many different Navy models during the 10 years that I flew the Phantom all over the world, from land and sea. Although not a particulaly easy aircraft to fly it had abundant qualities of power and speed. In the hands of a highly capable pilot, that employed it properly, the F-4 was always a force to held it's own and more. During a fighter derby that consisted of newer generaion fighters I saw the F-4 barely miss first place,on the last day of competition while flying against 7 other squadrons in an extremely high level of competition. Of course the crews flying the F-4's were highly experienced reserve pilots flying against active duty pilots with mixed experience levels. It was shown once again that man is the dominant factor in air combat.
I loved the power..From a standstill to 400 kias at the other end of the runway or from sea level to 35,000 feet, 60 seconds ... that was a thrill.

martin waldman, 07.01.2010

Went to korat ab in 1968 with the first f-4e from Eglin A.F.B. Florida.

Paul Perry, 03.01.2010


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