So I just returned from a junket in South Florida where I got to try out a neat new gun that you guys will find out more about in a couple of weeks, but while I was there I noticed a retired Florida Air Guard F-4 gate guard outside of the old Orlando airport (now the executive airport).
It reminded me of this 1980s recruiting poster.
You’ll never convince me there was an aircraft as beautiful as the F-4.
Sure, the F-14 gets lots of love from the Top Gun fans, and the F-15 is an assassin, but the big J79 Phantom was the true muscle car of the Cold War, especially in full-color livery.
U.S. Air Force F-4D Phantom II aircraft assigned to the 119th Fighter Wing “Happy Hooligans”, North Dakota Air National Guard, conduct mid-air refueling from a U.S. Air Force KC-10A Extender aircraft. (A3604) (U.S. Air Force PHOTO by Larry Harrington) (Released), 1/1/1985. 330-CFD-DF-SD-07-26034 Via NARA https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6686225
Originally pitched by McDonnell to the Air Force as the F-110A Spectre, this smokey J-79 twin-engined beast was the Air Force’s version of the famed, albeit Navy, F4H-1.
McDonnell Aircraft Corporation F-110A Spectre SN 149405.
The corporate propaganda from 1962:
Ultimately, the McNamara Pentagon would just call both versions of the plane the F-4 Phantom II, with the Navy using at first the F-4B (the old F4H-1) and the USAF the F-4C (the F-110A). The first Air Force Phantom flew on 27 May 1963.
F-4J-34-MC Phantom II BuNo.155743 of Fighter Squadron 92 (VF-92, the Silver Kings) photographed aboard the USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64) on 9 December 1972. Note the crew is no longer aboard, courtesy of their Martin-Baker seats!
“The crew (Lt. J. R. Brooke & Lt. G. B. Bastian) was able to hook up the cable, but the plane at a certain point ‘swerved’ suddenly left to the left of the bridge. The two men were able to eject and were recovered shortly after an SH-3 Sea King, but the poor rhino was hanged as a crooked painting until the return to the port of San Diego.”
It was in this same year that, while on Yankee Station off Vietnam, another VF-92 Phantom, F-4J #157269, flown by LCDR James McDevitt and Lt. Curt Dose, shot down a Vietnam People’s Air Force Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 with an AIM-9 Sidewinder.
VF-92 was disestablished on 12 December 1975 but the hapless 155743 was saved, put back into service, and was later even converted to F-4S standard, flying with VF-154 and the Marines of VMFA-312 until 1985 when she was put into storage at the AMARC bone yard. Odds are, she was probably scratched as a target drone sometime later.
“Connie,” on the other hand, remained in service until 2003 and was only recently scrapped at Brownsville, Texas.
Hattip The Aviationist: You get double sonic booms from the last U.S. F-4, flown by the last official American Phantom phlyer, Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron commander Lt. Col. Ronald King, USAF
Skyes9: In an attempt at documenting the last USAF F-4 Phantoms in flying service, I flew to Holloman AFB, NM. They’ll be used as ground targets from now on as the QF-16 takes over. In this video you will see the start up, taxi out, and phly by of the F-4s, followed by water cannon salute and then shut down of the USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
The Aviationist reports that in March a U.S. MQ-1 drone came close to being intercepted by an Iranian F-4 Phantom combat plane, but the Iranian aircraft stopped short after a warning by an American pilot.
“Showtime,” is a piece of art painted by Air Force Reserves historian, Maj. Warren Neary, and was presented to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in the Pentagon, June 20, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash) Click to big-up
“He [the Raptor pilot] flew under their aircraft [the F-4s] to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home,’” Gen. Welsh said.
According to The Aviationist, the Iranians came within 16 miles of the drone.