F-4 Phantom: the best fighter of the US Navy?

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What made the F-4 Phantom special? In the 1950s, McDonnell Aircraft began development of what was once described as one of the greatest post-World War II fighters. Originally developed as an attack aircraft with four 20mm cannons, the F-4 Phantom evolved into an advanced, but gunless, all-weather interceptor that was equipped with advanced radar and weaponry. anti-missile. Just thirty-one months after its first flight, it was adopted by the United States Navy in 1961, becoming the fastest, fastest flying and longest fighter in service.

Soon after, the aircraft was adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. The two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic interceptor and fighter-bomber proved to be perfectly suited to the needs of the army during the Cold War.

It was well armed and could carry over 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and various bombs. Later models also incorporated the M61 Vulcan rotary cannon to give the warbird a bit more firepower. The plane was also equipped with a Westinghouse APQ-72 radar, IR detector in a small fairing under the nose.

Ghost or Ghost II

The plane had many colorful nicknames, including “Spook”, “Flying Brick”, “Double Ugly”, “Rhino”, and “Big Iron Sled”. However, it was officially named the Phantom II on July 3, 1959, in a ceremony held at the McDonnell factory in St. Louis, Mo., to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary.
However, over time the “II” cipher had been dropped; the F-4 had become the only Phantom.

speed demon

Capable of traveling at twice the speed of sound – Mach 2.2 – the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II set sixteen records for speed, altitude and time to climb; setting the world altitude record at 98,556 feet in 1959 and the speed record of 1,604 mph over a 15-mile circuit in 1961.

It was the only aircraft used by both U.S. military flight display teams: the Navy Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds; who flew the Phantom II from 1969 to 1973.

F-4 Ghost

Model of the McDonnell F3H-G/H proposed by the US Navy. In 1953, McDonnell Aircraft began work on revising its F3H Demon fighter, seeking expanded capabilities and better performance. The company has developed several projects including a variant powered by a Wright J67 engine, and variants powered by two Wright J65 engines, or two General Electric J79 engines. The J79-powered version promised a top speed of Mach 1.97. On September 19, 1953, McDonnell approached the United States Navy with a proposal for the Super Demon. Uniquely, the aircraft was to be modular – it could be fitted with one- or two-seat noses for different missions, with different nose cones to accommodate radar, photo cameras, four 20mm cannons or 56 unguided rockets FFAR in addition to the nine hardpoints under the wings and fuselage. The Navy was interested enough to order a full-scale model of the F3H-G/H. It depicted the different sizes of the Wright J65 and General Electric J79 afterburners, with the J79 on the right side of the mockup and the J65 on the left. Further development led directly to the F4H Phantom II.

F-4 Ghost

McDonnell Douglas (Mitsubishi) F-4EJ Kai Phantom II

Operational history

This F-4 participated in multiple combat operations during the Vietnam War. The Air Force sent its first F-4Cs to Southeast Asia in 1965, where they flew air-to-air missions against North Vietnamese fighters as well as ground targets. In its air-to-ground role, the F-4C could carry twice the normal load of a World War II B-17.

The F-4 Phantom II remained in service throughout the Cold War and even took part in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq before being retired by the US military in 1996.

Between 1958 and 1981, a total of 5,068 aircraft were built by McDonnell Douglas – making it the most-produced US supersonic military aircraft in history – while another 127 were built by Mitsubishi in Japan.

In addition to service in the United States military, the Phantom II has been adopted by nearly a dozen other countries, including Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and the UK.

Some of the aircraft in foreign service were still operational last year.

The Phbulous Ghost

Powered by two 17,900-pound-thrust General Electric J79-GE-17 jet engines, the aircraft offered a top speed of 1,485 mph and a range of 1,750 miles. The F-4 had an initial rate of climb of over 41,000 feet per minute, while its service ceiling was 56,100 feet.

F-4 Ghost

A rear right view of two Marine Photo Reconnaissance Squadron Three (VMFP-3) RF-4B Phantom II aircraft over Marine Corps Air Station El Toro during a training mission.

The F-4 Phantom II featured nine external hardpoints, which provided a capacity to carry up to 15,983 lb (7,250 kg) of payload, and the aircraft was equipped to carry air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles , as well as unguided, guided and nuclear bombs. It was also armed with a nose-mounted 20mm M-61 “Vulcan” internal cannon.

During its service career, the F-4 Phantom II was used extensively as an interceptor by the United States Navy, while the Marine Corps used the aircraft as a ground support bomber.

Additionally, the F-4 was able to undertake air superiority, close air support, interception, air defense suppression, long-range strike, fleet defense, and strike missions. and recognition.

F-4 Ghost

Image: Creative Commons.

F-4 Ghost

Image: Creative Commons.

The all-weather aircraft could also be fielded for short training missions or exercises in search of air defense systems.

As the F-4 was retired in 1996, the aircraft were used in a new role – serving as aerial targets for the next generation of US military aviators. According to Boeing (which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997), modified Phantoms designated QF-4 were used as remote control aerial targets over the Gulf of Mexico in 2014 to test pilots and other aircraft such as drones and weapons at Tyndall Air Force Base ( AFB) near Panama City, Florida.

Today’s editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He writes regularly on military hardware and is the author of several books on military headgear, including A Gallery of Military Headdress, available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a contributing writer for Forbes.

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