F-4 Phantom II, McDonnell

F-4 Phantom II

The big F-4 fighter-bomber was gradually evolved from the F3H, with which it had no more than a configurational similarity. Despite its size and bulky look, the F-4 had excellent performance and good manoeuvrability; it was adopted by both the USN and the USAF. Early F-4's had no fixed gun, but this was corrected after combat experience in Vietnam showed the need for one. Over 5000 were built, making the F-4 one of the most numerous modern combat aircraft. Many are still in service. Now and then, plans are announced to upgrade the F-4 with new engines and electronics. The RF-4 is a recce version of the F-4 fighter with a camera nose. Currently retired F-4s are being converted into QF-4 target drones.

Type: F-4E
Country: USA
Function: fighter
Year: 1967
Crew: 2
Engines: 2 * 8120kg GE J79-GE-17A
Wing Span: 11.71 m
Length: 19.20 m
Height: 5.03 m
Wing Area: 49.24 m2
Empty Weight: 13397 kg
Max.Weight: 17964 kg
Max. Speed: 2410 km/h
Ceiling: 21600 m
Max. Range: 4180 km
Armament: 1*g20mm 1370 kg 5888 kg 4*AIM-7

The F-4 Phantom II (simply "F-4 Phantom" after 1990) is a two-place (tandem), supersonic, long-range, all-weather fighter-bomber built by (originally McDonnell Aircraft Corporation) McDonnell Douglas Corporation. It was operated by the US Navy, the USMC and later the USAF, from 1961 until 1995. It is still in service with other nations. In service, it earned it nicknames like "Rhino" (a reference to both its prodigious nose and its rhinoceros-like toughness) and "Double-Ugly"/"DUFF" (Double Ugly Fat F*er, a reference to the B-52 Stratofortress).

Its primary mission capabilities are: long range, high-altitude intercepts utilizing air-to-air missiles as primary armament; long-range attack missions utilizing conventional or nuclear weapons as a primary armament; and close air support missions utilizing a choice of bombs, rockets and missiles as primary armament. It was one of the few aircraft types that have served in the US Navy, USMC and USAF. It was one of the longest serving military aircraft post-war.

First flown May 27, 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for US Navy fleet defense. The initial F4H-1 (later F-4B) entered service in 1961. The USAF evaluated it (as the F-110A Spectre) for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF version, the F-4C. The F-4C made its first flight on May 27, 1963, and production deliveries began in November 1963. The Navy/USMC version progressed to the improved F-4J mark, with earlier F-4Bs upgraded in service to F-4N and later the F-4J upgraded to F-4S standard. The USAF replaced the F-4C with the optimized F-4D, and then, from 1967, the F-4E with an internal M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon. 116 F-4Es were later converted for the SEAD "Wild Weasel" role as the F-4G. Reconnaissance versions were also built, the RF-4C for the USAF, RF-4B for the USMC, and the export RF-4E.

Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built -- more than 2,800 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations.

In 1965 the first USAF Phantom IIs were sent to Vietnam. Early versions lacked any gun armament. Coupled with the unreliability of the air-to-air missiles (AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder) of the time, this major drawback resulted in the aircraft loss after they ran out of missiles. During the course of the Vietnam War, its contemporaries, the MiG-19 and MiG-21, inflicted heavy losses on the F-4s when the American aircraft were ambushed after returning from bombing assignments. This prompted the USAF to introduce an M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon in the nose of the aircraft, below the radome (although no Navy or Marine Phantoms ever had an integral gun). This later version was the mainstay of the USAF Phantom II forces. The last Phantoms in USAF service were retired in December 2004 with the deactivation of the 20th Fighter Squadron, the Silver Lobos. The last Phantoms in Marine Corps service were F-4S models of VMFA-112 and were retired in 1992 when VMFA-112 transitioned to the F/A-18A.

Naval aviators flying the F-4 transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat in the mid seventies. Some aircraft, however, remained in service aboard the Midway class ships, as their decks and hangars were too small to handle the much larger F-14. Eventually, all Navy F-4s were replaced by the F-14 or F/A-18 Hornet. The F-14 boasted more powerful engines, better agility, a longer-range weapons system, and better close-range dogfight capability.

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