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F-4 Phantom II Design, History, Deployment & Photographs

F-4 Phantom II Development History

In 1953, McDonnell Aircraft began work on revising its F3H Demon naval fighter plane, seeking expanded capabilities and better performance. In September of 1953, McDonnell approached the U.S. Navy with a proposal for the “Super Demon”. Subsequently, the McDonnell design was reworked into an all-weather fighter-bomber.

In July of 1955, the Navy ordered two XF4H-1 prototype test aircraft, and five YF4H-1 pre-production fighter planes. The Phantom made its maiden flight on May 27, 1958. The airplane entered service in 1961.

The Phantom was first used by the U.S. Navy as an interceptor but also was capable of flying as a ground-support bomber for the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft flew every traditional military mission: air superiority, close air support, interception, air defense suppression, long-range strike, fleet defense, attack and reconnaissance.

McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II > National Museum of the United States Air Force™

The USAF F-110A Spectre

The U.S. Air Force received Phantoms as the result of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara’s push to create a unified fighter for all branches of the military. The USAF began accepting deliveries of its F4C version (originally called the F-110A Spectre) in 1963.

The F-4D, with major changes that increased accuracy in weapons delivery, was delivered to the USAF in 1966, the Air National Guard in 1977, and the Air Force Reserve in 1980.

F-4 Phantom Performance

The two-place, twin-engine, all-weather supersonic F-4 Phantom II flew at Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), and could carry a payload of up to 16,000 pounds of bombs, rockets, missiles and guns. Each aircraft had 54,197 feet of wiring and 643,000 fasteners holding it together.

In air combat, the Phantom’s greatest advantage was its thrust, which permitted a skilled pilot to engage and disengage from the fight at will.

The aircraft could perform tactical air roles such as air superiority, interdiction and close air support, as it did in Southeast Asia.

The Phantom was the first multi-service aircraft, flying concurrently with the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. It is the first and only aircraft ever to be flown concurrently by both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds.

F-4 Phantom, Pacific Coast Air Museum’s collection.
Wings Over Wing Country Air Show, Santa Rosa, CA, USA
September 25, 2015
Photographer: Timothy S. Allen

F-4 Phantom Specifications

Engines: Two General Electric J-79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 1,400 mph
Cruising speed: 590 mph
Range: 1,750 miles

Ceiling: 59,600 ft.
Span: 38 ft. 5 in. (27 ft. 6 in. folded)
Length: 58 ft. 2 in.
Height: 16 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 58,000 lbs. loaded

F-4 Phantom Production Statistics

From 1958 to 1979, when the production line stopped, a total of 5,195 F-4 Phantom II aircraft were built. Of those, 5,057 rolled off the McDonnell Aircraft (later McDonnell Douglas) production line in St. Louis, MO.

The last 138 planes were built under license by Mitsubishi Aircraft Co. in Japan.

Of the 5,057 airplanes built in the United States, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of 2,874 aircraft; the Navy and Marine Corps, 1,264; and international customers, a combined total of 919 planes.

The Phantom still holds the record for the largest production run of any supersonic fighter built in the United States.

The F-4 Phantom II aircraft, which still flies in defense of 8 nations, was retired in 1996 from U.S. military forces, ending a record-studded 38-year career.

The Last F-4 Phantom Leaves Davis-Monthan AMARG in April, 2013

The final F-4 regenerated from storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group performed its last flight over Tucson, Arizonza on April 17, 2013, before flying to Mojave, California.

Tail number 68-0599, an RF-4C Phantom, arrived at AMARG for storage on January 18, 1989 and had not flown since. The jet’s assigned call sign was “Last One.”

AMARG’s technicians re-installed hundreds of parts and performed thousands of hours of maintenance to return the fighter to flyable status. This aircraft represents the 316th F-4 withdrawn from storage in support of Air Combat Command’s full-scale aerial target program.

BAE Systems will convert the aircraft into a QRF-4C drone, and then deliver it to the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

The last F-4 departs Davis-Monthan

F-4 Phantom Photos

 

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