The Collings Foundation's F-4D, NX749CF, at Randolph
AFB, Texas, USA.
Photo by Buck Wyndham.
F-4 is one of the most famous fighter aircraft of the post-World War II era, having been
used in large numbers by the air forces of many western nations, where it gradually
evolved in capability and mission diversity. First flown on 27 May 1958, the Phantom was
developed as a private venture by McDonnell and was first ordered by the US Navy as a
carrier-based attack aircraft (the F-4B).
Soon after its introduction to active service in December 1960, a fly-off competition was
conducted between the Phantom and various frontline Air Force fighters. The Phantom
excelled in the competition in such a decisive way that the US Air Force ordered a
slightly different version of the aircraft (the F-4C) and the
Phantom went on to equip over three-quarters of the USAF's fighter wings.
US involvement in the war in Vietnam saw the F-4
utilized in an increasingly multi-role capacity, delivering bombs in huge multi-aircraft
formations, shooting down North Vietnamese MiGs, and earning its rightful place in
history. Improvements in the aircraft's electronic systems, engines and airframe resulted
in many variants, including the F-4E (with more powerful
engines, leading-edge wing slats to improve maneuverability, and a 20-mm cannon); the RF-4E
(export version designed for tactical reconnaissance); the F-4F
(air superiority version for the German Luftwaffe, with air-to-ground weapons
system removed); the F-4G ("Wild Weasel" anti-missile
version); and the F-4K/M (Royal Navy/Royal Air Force versions,
The latest variant, and certainly the last, are the QF-4N
pilotless target drones operated by the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at
Tyndall AFB, Florida. In addition to several others performing civilian-contract test work at
Mojave, California, a sole privately operated F-4 was made airworthy in the 1990s in the
USA, thanks to the hard work of both the USAF and the Collings Foundation. This F-4 is
still flown at airshows around the USA. (See photo above.)
The F-4 remains in service in several nations around the
world, including Germany, Japan, Greece, Turkey and South Korea.
Nicknames: Double Ugly; Rhino; Old
Smokey; Lead Sled; Elephant, Eisenschwein ("Iron
Pig"), Fliegender Ziegelstein ("Flying Brick"),
Luftverteidigungsdiesel ("Air Defense Diesel) (Luftwaffe nicknames); Tomb (early RAF nickname); Kurnass
(Israeli nickname meaning "Hammer")
Engines: Two 17,900-pound thrust afterburning General Electric J79-GE-17 turbojets
Weight: Empty 29,535 lbs., Max
Takeoff 61,651 lbs.
Wing Span: 38ft. 5in.
Length: 63ft. 0in.
Height: 16ft. 6in.
1,485 mph (Mach 2.25) at 40,000 ft.
One 20-mm M61A1
Sparrow missiles or 3,020 pounds of weapons under fuselage;
Up to 12,980
pounds of various weapons on underwing pylons.
Number Built: 5,195
Number Still Airworthy: One in civilian
hands; A few dozen still in US military service as target drones and research aircraft;
Active service in Germany, Japan, Greece, Turkey and South Korea.
Foundation's F-4D / (Additional site)
F-4 Phantom II Society
F-4 Phantom Site (UK)
German Air Force Flying Training Center --
Home of some of the last military F-4s in the USA, at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Michel Klaver's F-4 Site -- Many, many
great photos and links.
Phantom Phlyers -- (Text in German)
UGA Media's F-4 Phantom Reference
Phantom Reflections: The Education of an
American Fighter Pilot in Vietnam
By Mike McCarthy
200 pages, Hardcover
Published 2006 by Praeger Security International
"A welcome addition to any
aviation buff's bookshelf. The memoir includes many humorous and
serious accounts of what life was like during this turbulent yet
transformational period in Air Force history... addictively
engrossing and a must read for anyone interested in a close-up view
of the Vietnam air war."
Price: $35.96 (Your Save 20%!)
McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II: Production and
By William R. Peake
360 pages, Paperback
Published 2005 by Midland Publishing, Ltd.
This book is an exhaustively-researched
record of what happened to each and every one of the 5,000+ Phantoms
built in St. Louis. Contains approximately sixty pages of fascinating
Price: $32.97 (You Save 34%!)
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