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McDonnell F-4 Phantom II



The low wings are swept back at 45 degrees, swept-back tail surfaces and 23 degrees anhedral on the one-piece all-moving tailplane. The wings have a ‘dog-tooth’ leading edge and dihedral on the outer panels which fold upwards for stowage. The ailerons move only down and are supplemented by spoilers on the upper surface of each wing. Trailing-edge flaps and small leading-edge flaps are blown. The tricycle undercarriage has a single wheel on each main unit and twin wheels on the nose unit. The mains retract inward into the wings and the nose wheels retract rearwards. A fire-control radar is in the nose, with infra-red equipment in a small bulge underneath.


The first flight for the F4H-1 Phantom prototype came on 27 May 1958. This aircraft differed from the 1955 mock-up mainly in the flying surfaces and around the jet intakes.
To protect against suspected lateral instability, the outer panels of the wings were canted upwards and the anhedral already planned for the tailplanes was increased. The jet intakes were enlarged and the edges cut back from the top to bottom.
The sixth Phantom protype (BuNo 143391) was used for initial catapult launching testing.
sixth Phantom protype (BuNo 143391) Feb 1960
By February 1960 a second missile had been added with an IR sensor, and an AAA-4 seeker was fitted under the radome of the F4H-1’s 24in antenna APQ-50 search radar.
In late 1959, after it had been relieved of primary test responsibilities by the four remaining RTD&E airframes, the first Phantom far assigned to Project ‘Top Flight’, for a manned aircraft altitude record. On 6 December 1959 it reached 98,557 ft, breaking the previous Russian record by more than 4000ft.
Operation Top Flight
Powered by two 7711kg afterburning thrust General Electric J79-GE-8 engines. The first Phantom attained a speed record of 2585km/h on 22 November 1961, and a low-altitude speed record of 1452km/h on 20 August 1962.
During the testing of early Phantoms, some problems had been encountered with the original design of the intake, and in an attempt to improve airflow at all speeds a number of different configurations were tried. Here the splitter plate has been enlarged and the rake in the leading edge eliminated.
Of the 47 F4H-1/F-4As, 27 were assigned to test duties, the remainder going to training squadrons.
Eleventh Phantom BuNo 145310 with another variation in splitter plate and intake leading-edge design, and extended cooling intake behind radome which replaced NACA-style flush inlet of earlier prototypes.


The first squadron to receive F4H-1s was the ‘Grim Reapers’ of VF-101. The eleventh prototype was re-assigned from RTD&E to Det A of VF-101 in 1961.
Aircraft 145310 in August 1951 was in Operation Sageburner, a high-speed, low altitude, cross-country test run from San Diego, California, to NAS Oceana, Virginia.
Operation Sageburner
Aircraft 145310 was again on test duties in June 1963, by now designated F-4A.
Aircraft 145310 June 1963


The F-4B differed from the -A with a larger radar, the 32in-diameter APQ-72 introduced on a few F-4As, became standard, along with the requisite larger radome; the back seat was raised; and the entire canopy redesign was altered to give better forward vision for both crewmen. F-4Bs were also fitted with uprated engines, J79-GE-8s, in place of th -A’s -2s.
F-4B BuNo 149449
F-4B BuNo 149449 was assigned Project ‘High Jump’ to break the world’s time-to-climb records. During April 1962 new records were set at all eight recognised height increments between 3000 and 30,000m, reaching 30,000m in 371.43 seconds.


Production of the F-4B amounted to 649 aircraft. A large number of the F-4Bs have since been updated to F-4N standard

The RF-4B reconnaissance derivative served only with the US Marine Corps. The RF-4B was the second photo reconnaissance version of the Phantom, being a standard F-4B fitted with the nose developed for the Air Force F-4C. The first was RF-4B BuNo 151975t.
RF-4B BuNo 151975t March 1965
Photo Phantoms exchanged the large APQ-72 for a smaller APQ-99 radar.


The USAF reached an agreement with the Navy to take 27 more F-4Bs off the assembly line, all to be re-designated F-4C. A series of changes to the basic F-4B were implemented to make the Phantom more suitable for land-based service. These included larger, low-pressure mainwheel tyres (necessitating the thickening of the wing root) and the fitting of full dual controls and cartridge starters. The Navy retractable refuelling probe was replaced by a receptacle behind the cockpit.
The fourth F-4C 63-7410 on 27 Jan 64


The F-4C (F-110A) Phantom was the initial version for the USAF. The USAF's Phantom II program was first designated F-110A Spectre but this name was later dropped and the USAF's Phantom II was designated F-4C. The USAF F-4C made its first flight on May 27, 1963, and production deliveries began in November 1963 and the F-4C became operational with the 12th and 15th Tactical Fighter Wings at MacDill AFB, Florida, in January 1964. The F-4C was powered by J79-GE-15 engines.

Although very similar to the US Navy’s F-4B, it included some slight differences to make the aircraft suitable for air force use. Some of the items are: 1. The probe-and-drogue method of in-flight refuelling favoured by the US Navy was discarded in favour of the standard USAF boom’ method. 2. Full flying controls and instrumentation were duplicated in the rear cockpit. 3. In order to allow use from un-sophisticated airfields an anti-skid braking system was fitted, which included the use of thicker main-wheels. 4. The USAF version could carry a greater variety of external wea-ponry.

The aircraft has flown a lot of combat mission in South-East Asia during the Vietnam War and has claimed 277 air-to-air combat victories.

During the Vietnam War in 1967 production was 72 Phantom IIs a month. 583 F-4Cs were built. 40 were 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. Consideration was given to the possibility of developing a reconnaissance configured variant of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom at an early stage in the type's operational career, but it was not until the US Air Force selected, the basic fighter model to equip Tactical Air Command units that this proposal began to move ahead rapidly. Known by the designation RF-4C, the resulting aircraft flew in prototype form for the first time on 8 August 1963, the last of which was formally handed over to the USAF over 10 years later, on 16 January 1974.

Easily recognised by the modified nose section which contains cameras and other reconnaissance sensors, the RF-4C entered operational service at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, in September 1964, although nearly a year passed before the first unit could be considered as combat ready. When that milestone was reached, overseas deployment followed quickly, aircraft being dispatched to South East Asia for combat duty by the end of 1965, and the RF-4C remaining in use as the principal tactical reconnaissance tool for the remainder of the Vietnam War.

The second reconnaissance model to appear, designated RF-4B, was intended specifically for service with the US Marine Corps and this made its maiden flight on 12 March 1965 with deliveries to El Toro, California, following just two months later. A total of 46 RF-4Bs was supplied to this service, and were the subject of modification and life-extension programmes.

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.

F-4 Phantom IIs in Israeli service are claimed to have shot down 116 aircraft during a number of conflicts.

Some F-4Cs were converted into EF-4Cs under the 'Wild Weasel' programme to suppress enemy weapon radar systems.

The F-4D differed from the -4C externally only in having a slightly larger nose cross-section, in order to house the new APQ-109 radar with its improved air-to-ground capability. A new weapons release computer and 30kVA generator occupied the forward fuselage fuel cell, reducing fuel capacity and range.
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.


On 28 March 1974, the Royal Hellenic Air Force received the first of 38 F-4 Phantom IIs ordered.

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 the 17,900 lb thrust (with afterburning) General Electric J79-GE-17 engines but its principal change was the internally-mounted M61A1 20mm cannon. The F-4E established a 2.5-to-1 kill advantage over North Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters. Armament is one 20 mm M61A-1 multi-barrel cannon and eight air-to-air missiles or up to 16,000 lb (7,250 kg) of ground attack weapons.

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. The RF-4E was an export reconnaissance derivative, supplied to Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan and West Germany.

As well as producing reconnaissance Phantoms for the home market, McDonnell Douglas also developed the RF-4E variant, initially in response to a Luftwaffe requirement for 88 aircraft to undertake this mission. Flown for the first time on 15 September 1970, the RF-4E subsequently also joined the air arms of Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan and Turkey, just over 160 aircraft of this type being built before production ceased.

The RF-4E reconnaissance version and the F-4M RAF version carrys the service designation FGR.Mk 2.

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-4EJ Phantom II was built under licence in Japan for the JASDF. Virtually all the 127 aircraft received were built in Japan by Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi was the prime contractor in a modernization programme for up to 110 of the JASDF’s fleet of F-4EJ Phantoms. Known as the F-4EJKai, the prototype updated aircraft flew in July 1984. Improvements include installation of a Westinghouse AN/APG-66J pulse-Doppler radar, a Kaiser/VDO headup display, a Litton LN-39 inertial navigation system, and a J/APR-4Kai radar warning receiver. The F-4EJKai will have a look-down capability, armed with AIM-9L Sidewinders and AIM-7F Sparrows, and will also be able to carry two ASM-1 anti-shipping missiles. Funding for the first eight production F-4EJKai conversions was authorised in the FY1987 budget. Aircraft not covered by the upgrade programme will be converted later to RF-4EJ reconnaissance fighter stan-dard.

Israel Aircraft Industries has flown a prototype conversion with one PW1120 turbofan and one standard J79 turbojet. This aircraft flew in July 1986, and has since been further modified and flown with two PW1120s. Flight testing continues.

An improved version of the EF-4C has been developed as the F-4G Advanced Wild Weasel, being basically a modified F-4E equipped with special electronics and carrying air-to-surface missiles to detect and attack early warning and weapon radar systems. The first of 116 entered service in 1978.

During its bombing attacks on North Vietnam, the USAF proved the effectiveness of the 'Wild Weasel' concept; that is the use of specially-equipped aircraft flying with, or slightly in advance of the main attack and tasked with destruction or suppression of hostile radars, particularly those associated with SAM and AA gun guidance, Republic F-105G Thunderchiefs performed well in this role in the early 1970s and 35 FAC Phantoms were similarly converted in 1968-9, but when the specification for an Advanced 'Wild Weasel' aircraft was drawn up in 1975 the F-4E variant of the Phantom was selected as the basis for modification. Already established as one of the world's most effective interceptor and fighter-bomber aircraft, the Phantom took to the mission with ease, becoming the McDonnell Douglas F-4G ‘Wild Weasel’ in the process. First requirement of a ‘Wild Weasel’ is to locate and classify enemy radars. This is undertaken by a McDonnell Douglas AN/APR-38 radar homing and warning system (RHAWS), the principal external features of which are a receiver and computer pod beneath the nose (replacing the Vulcan rotary cannon) and 56 antennae in a small fintip pod, on the fin sides, upper fuselage and other locations. Three cathode-ray tube displays in the rear cockpit (backed by digital readouts, aural warning system and indicator lights) provide the electronic warfare officer with a detailed picture of the tactical situation and automatically allocate attack priorities to the 15 most pressing threats in order of the danger which they represent. Weapons delivery is also aided by computer, allowing the F-4G to attack its target 'blind' with bombs, anti-radiation missiles and the latest AGM-65D Maverick which has infra-red TV-type guidance. There were 116 conversions to F-4G, these aircraft entering service in 1978 and including 24 based at Spangdahlem, West Germany, with the 81st RFS/52nd TFW for operations on the NATO Central Front.

The F-4K was developed for the UK's Royal Navy and the F-4M for the Royal Air Force, though both were operated by the RAF which, with expanded commitments following the 1982 Falklands war, has also inherited 15 ex-US Navy F-4Js.




Those supplied to the Royal Navy (F-4K) were powered by Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines. Two versions of the Rolls Royce Spey-powered Phantom entered service with the Royal Air Force. The FG1 (the version also used by the Royal Navy) in the interceptor role and the FGR2 in the ground attack and tactical reconnaissance role in Germany. From 1977, all the Royal Air Force Phantoms were used exclusively as interceptor fighters over United Kingdom air-space.


Originally, adapting F-4B to smaller British carriers seemed to require only a change from GE J79 to RR Spey engines would be needed. By 1964, more modifications were required including drooped ailerons to slow landing speed, extended wing area and fuel capacity and others. These delayed closing the deal to reconfigure feasibility and costs.

Great Britain bought fifty two Phantom FG1s and 118 Phantom FGR2s.




With the deployment of Phantoms to the South Atlantic in 1982 an additional order for 15 Phantoms was placed. These were second hand United States Navy F-4Js fitted with General Electric F-79 engines. After an extensive refurbishment and the fitting of some British equipment they were designated F-4J(UK).

The collapse of the threat from the Eastern Europe led to an accelerated run down of the Phantom fleet and the last unit disbanded at the end of September 1992.

The German Luftwaffe was the biggest operator of the Phantom flying the F-4F ICE upgrade until the Eurofighter takes over its air defence role. Turkey and Greece were also still flying the F-4, their F-4E aircraft undergoing extensive upgrade work. Turkey was upgrading them to F-4E/2020 Terminator in cooperation with IAI. The Greek Air Force (HAF) upgrade program is known as Peace Icarus I&II and covered 40 aircraft. They also operated a number of RF-4 photo reconnaissance aircraft.

The Air National Guard was the last US operator of the F-4 until retirement in 1995/1996.

The EF-4B designation went to one airframe used for ECM training, and two modified, development airframes bore the NF-4B designation.

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.

Production ended in America after more than 5,050 had been delivered.

Operators: US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps, Germany, United Kingdom, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea

By March 2000, 336 F4E and F4G airframes - most at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona - had been identified for conversion to drones. The newer "G" and "E” models were chosen because their airframes typically have time remaining before USAF-regulated depot maintenance would be required for safe flight.

The fighters are flown to Mojave, Calif, where BAE Systems removes certain equipment and installs a drone autopilot, new computers, improved navigation systems and an onboard destruction package. Tails and wingtips are painted orange for easier visual acquisition during live-fire missions. Converting each F4 to a drone configuration costs approximately $2 million. Once QF-4s arrive it Tyndall AFB, they are classified in one of three roles: A manned flyer, flyable-storage drone, or a mission-ready drone. Some are sent to an 82nd ATRS detachment at Holloman AFB, N.M., to support Army and other aerial target requirements.

About 14 QF-4s are maintained as "manned" aircraft and flown regularly by USAF and Lockheed Martin pilots for mission rehearsals, proficiency and pilot upgrades.




Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (AFNS) -- The 82nd Aerial Target Squadron received the last of the "new" QF-4 aerial targets on 19 November 2013.

The QF-4, Aircraft 68-0599, spent more than 20 years in the Air Force "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., before being brought back to life for one last mission.

The supersonic, reusable QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing.  Since the QF-4 replaced the QF-106 in 1998, more than 300 found a new purpose. The Phantoms began returning to work after the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group reinstalled the parts to the aircrafts making them serviceable again. The next step involved contractors BAE Systems converting the F-4 to the QF-4, which would be flown remotely by highly-trained civil service pilots with an average of 4,000 flight hours.

The teamwork of contractors, civilian and military members contributed to more than 16,000 manned and 600 unmanned QF-4 missions. Ultimately, 250 of the Phantoms succeeded in their missions and been successively destroyed over the Gulf of Mexico and the ranges near Holloman Air Force Base, NM.

There are only about 60 QF-4s remaining in the program both at Tyndall AFB and Holloman AFB by the end of 2013. The limited availability of F-4s and the continuing advancement of fighter aircraft such as the F-22 Raptors are forcing a shift to the fourth generation QF-16, a converted F-16 Fighting Falcon that should be ready for use in 2014.




F-4A (F4H-1F)

F-4B (F4H-1)
Engines: 2 x General Electric J79-GE-2A, 16,150 lb
Wing span: 38 ft 5 in (11.7 m)
Length: 58 ft 3 in (17.76 m)
Height: 16 ft 3 in (4.96 m)
Max TO wt: 54,600 lb (24,765 kg)
Internal fuel capacity: 3665 gal
External fuel capacity: 500 gal (under fuse) / 2x300 gal underwing.
Max level speed: M2+.

F-4C (F-110A)
Engine : 2 x General Electric J79-GE-8 (4950/7711kp), 75645 N
Length : 62.828 ft / 19.15 m
Height : 16.273 ft / 4.96 m
Wingspan : 38.386 ft / 11.7 m
Wing area : 530.019 sq.ft. / 49.24 sq.m
Max take off weight : 54606.8 lb / 24765.0 kg
Weight empty : 28003.5 lb / 12700.0 kg
Max. speed : 1376 kt / 2548 km/h
Cruising speed : 499 kt / 925 km/h
Service ceiling : 70997 ft / 21640 m
Cruising altitude : 40026 ft / 12200 m
Wing load : 103.12 lb/sq.ft / 503.0 kg/sq.m
Maximum range : 1998 nm / 3700 km
Range : 1998 nm / 3700 km
Range (max. weight) : 783 nm / 1450 km
Crew : 2
Armament : 4x AIM 7E Sparrow III, 4x AIM 9 Sidewinder / 16,000 lb / 7250kg ext.


Power Plant: Two General Electric J79-GE-17A axial-flow turbojets each with a normal continuous rating of 11,110 lb St (5044 kgp), a max continuous (30-mm) rating of 11,870 lb st (5 390 kgp) and an afterburner rating of 17,900 lb st (8 127 kgp)
Fuel capacity, 1 225 US gal (46371) in seven bladder tanks in fuselage, 630 US gal (23851) in two integral wing tanks and up to 1,340 US gal (50721) in three drop tanks; max possible capacity, 3,333 US gal (12615 lt)
Max speed, Mach= 2.17, 1,245 kts (2304km/h) at 36,000 ft (10 973 m)
Max rate of climb (clean), 49,800 ft/mm (253 m/sec)
Service ceiling (clean), 58,750 ft (17 907 m)
Ferry range, 1,401 naut mls (2593 km)
Range w/max.payload: 700 km / 435 miles
Empty weight, 30,328 lb (13770 kg)
Basic weight, 31,853 lb (14461 kg)
Design weight (for 8.5g subsonic, 6.5g supersonic), 37,500 lb (17 025 kg)
Design take-off weight (7.75g subsonic, 5.93g supersonic), 58,000 lb (26 332 kg)
Max take-off weight, (5.17g subsonic, 3.95g supersonic), 61,795 lb (28 055 kg).
Max. payload : 31476.4 lb / 14275.0 kg
Span, 38 ft 4 in (11,68 m)
Span folded, 27 ft 6 in (8,38 m)
Length, 63 ft 0 in (19,20 m)
Height, 16 ft 5 in (5,00 m)
Undercarriage track, 17 ft 9 in (5,41 m)
Wing area, 530 sq ft (49,24 sq.m)
Aspect ratio, 2.82:1
Dihedral, zero on centre wing, 12 deg on outer panels
Sweepback, 45 deg at quarter chord.
Landing speed : 148 kt / 275 km/h
Cruising speed : 504 kt / 934 km/h
Initial climb rate: 29921.26 ft/min / 152.00 m/s
Wing load : 114.6 lb/sq.ft / 559.0 kg/sq.m
Crew : 2
Hardpoints: 9
Armament: One General Electric M61A1 multi-barrel 20-mm cannon under forward fuselage with 640 rounds. Provision for four AIM-7E-2 Sparrow missiles semi-recessed under fuselage. Centre line pylon up to 2,170-lb (986-kg) + up to 3,020-lb (1 371-kg) + four wing pylons / one AGM-45A Shrike or one Walleye ASM + inner pylons two AIM-4D Falcon or two AIM-9D or -9E Sidewinder AAMs.


Wing span: 38 ft 5 in (11.71 m)
Max speed: M2.2.


F-4G Wild Weasel Phantom

Powerplant: two 8119-kg (17,900-1b) thrust General Electric J79-GE-17A afterburning turbojets.
Maximum speed with external stores Mach 2 +
Initial climb rate at maximum take-off weight 2003 m (6,570 ft per minute)
Service ceiling 16580 m (54,400 ft)
Combat radius 1145 km (712 miles).
Empty weight 13757 kg (30,328 lb)
Maximum take-off weight 28030 kg (61.795 lb)
Span 11.77 m (38 ft 7½ in)
Length 19,20 m (63 ft 0 in)
Height 5.02 m (16 ft 5½ in)
Wing area 49.2 sq.m (530 sq ft).
Hardpoints: 7
Armament: up to 7258 kg (16, 000 lb)



F-4K (FG.Mk 1)

F-4M (FGR.Mk 2)





Powerplant: two General Electric J79GE-15 turbojets, 7711-kg (17,000-lb) afterburning thrust.
Maximum speed at low level 1464 km/h (910 mph) or Mach 1.19
Maximum speed at altitude 2414 kph (1,500 mph) or Mach 2.27
Ferry range 3700 km (2,300 miles)
Empty weight 13290 kg (29,300 lb)
Maximum take-off 26309 kg (58, 000 lb)
Span 11, 71 m (38 ft 5 in)
Length 19.20 m (63 ft 0 in)
Height 5.02 m (16 ft 5 1/2 in)
Wing area 49.24 sq.m (530 sq ft)









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