Tag Archives: QF-4 Phantom aerial targets

Loyal Wingman, 1974 Edition

Of course, you have probably seen this, the first successful mid-air refueling of an F-18 from an MQ-25 UAV in naval history, which occurred 4 June. The fact that this could eliminate tying down tactical aircraft as buddy stores refuelers is huge for the use of carrier air wing tactics. 

The current “Loyal Wingman” or “Airpower Teaming” concept– matching up high-performance UAVs with a manned aircraft in a single flight– is seen as revolutionary to the future of naval warfare, and it is, but keep in mind that it is not wholly unheard of/unseen in the past with more analog technology.

Check out this Naval Missile Center (NMC) Point Mugu Vought DF-8F Crusader drone controller (BuNo 145528, NMC-105) in-flight with its unmanned McDonnell QF-4B Phantom II NOLO (no on-board live operator) drone (BuNo 149466, NMC-41) in 1974.

Beautiful picture.

These QF-4s could often prove death-defying. 

Either way, interesting concept, then and now.

Hanging by a thread, 45 years ago today

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.

Pharewell Phantom

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.

Pharewell robo-Phantoms


Flight Global reports the last 22 QF-4 Phantom aerial targets, currently part of the 53rd Wing’s Detachment 1, 82 Aerial Targets Sqn, based at Holloman AFB will be out of service by the end of 2016.

When they are expended, they will end the U.S. military’s 58 year love affair with the big smoky J79-engined F-4 whose first flight was 27 May 1958.

Which in the end is rather poetic.