McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor aircraft/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force, and by the mid-1960s had become a major part of their respective air wings.

The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The F-4, like other interceptors of its time, was designed without an internal cannon. Later models incorporated a M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record, and an absolute altitude record.

During the Vietnam War, the F-4 was used extensively; it served as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, and became important in the ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance roles late in the war. The Phantom has the distinction of being the last U.S. fighter flown to attain ace status in the 20th century. During the Vietnam War, the USAF had one pilot and two weapon systems officers (WSOs), and the US Navy one pilot and one radar intercept officer (RIO), achieve five aerial kills against other enemy fighter aircraft and become aces in air-to-air combat. The F-4 continued to form a major part of U.S. military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 in the U.S. Air Force, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat in the U.S. Navy, and the F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.

The F-4 Phantom II remained in use by the U.S. in the reconnaissance and Wild Weasel (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) roles in the 1991 Gulf War, finally leaving service in 1996. It was also the only aircraft used by both U.S. flight demonstration teams: the USAF Thunderbirds (F-4E) and the US Navy Blue Angels (F-4J). The F-4 was also operated by the armed forces of 11 other nations. Israeli Phantoms saw extensive combat in several Arab–Israeli conflicts, while Iran used its large fleet of Phantoms in the Iran–Iraq War. Phantoms remain in front line service with seven countries, and in use as an Target drone in the U.S. Air Force. Phantom production ran from 1958 to 1981, with a total of 5,195 built, making it the most numerous American supersonic military aircraft.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft
Production Period 1958 - 1981
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1958
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Egypt View
Germany View
Greece View
Iran (Persia) View
Israel View
Japan View
South Korea View
Spain View
Turkey (Ottoman Empire) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 1960 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
McDonnell Aircraft 1958 1981 5195 View

On 30 December 1960, the VF-121 "Pacemakers" at NAS Miramar became the first Phantom operator with its F4H-1Fs (F-4As). The VF-74 "Be-devilers" at NAS Oceana became the first deployable Phantom squadron when it received its F4H-1s (F-4Bs) on 8 July 1961. The squadron completed carrier qualifications in October 1961 and Phantom's first full carrier deployment between August 1962 and March 1963 aboard Forrestal. The second deployable U.S. Atlantic Fleet squadron to receive F-4Bs was the VF-102 "Diamondbacks", who promptly took their new aircraft on the shakedown cruise of Enterprise. The first deployable U.S. Pacific Fleet squadron to receive the F-4B was the VF-114 "Aardvarks", which participated in the September 1962 cruise aboard USS Kitty Hawk.

By the time of the Tonkin Gulf incident, 13 of 31 deployable navy squadrons were armed with the type. F-4Bs from Constellation made the first Phantom combat sortie of the Vietnam War on 5 August 1964, flying bomber escort in Operation Pierce Arrow. The first Phantom air-to-air victory of the war took place on 9 April 1965 when an F-4B from VF-96 "Fighting Falcons" piloted by Lieutenant (junior grade) Terence M. Murphy and his RIO, Ensign Ronald Fegan, shot down a Chinese MiG-17 "Fresco". The Phantom was then shot down, probably by an AIM-7 Sparrow from one of its wingmen. There continues to be controversy over whether the Phantom was shot down by MiG guns or, as enemy reports later indicated, an AIM-7 Sparrow III from one of Murphy's and Fegan's wingmen. On 17 June 1965, an F-4B from VF-21 "Freelancers" piloted by Commander Louis Page and Lieutenant John C. Smith shot down the first North Vietnamese MiG of the war.

On 10 May 1972, Lieutenant Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll flying an F-4J, call sign "Showtime 100", shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war. Their fifth victory was believed at the time to be over a mysterious North Vietnamese ace, Colonel Nguyen Toon, now considered mythical. On the return flight, the Phantom was damaged by an enemy surface-to-air missile. To avoid being captured, Cunningham and Driscoll flew their burning aircraft using only the rudder and afterburner (the damage to the aircraft rendered conventional control nearly impossible), until they could eject over water.

During the war, U.S. Navy F-4 Phantom squadrons participated in 84 combat tours with F-4Bs, F-4Js, and F-4Ns. The navy claimed 40 air-to-air victories at a cost of 73 Phantoms lost in combat (seven to enemy aircraft, 13 to SAMs, and 53 to AAA). An additional 54 Phantoms were lost in mishaps.

In 1984, the F-4Ns had been retired, and by 1987 the last F-4Ss were retired in the US Navy deployable squadrons. On 25 March 1986, an F-4S belonging to the VF-151 "Vigilantes," became the last active duty U.S. Navy Phantom to launch from an aircraft carrier, in this case, Midway. On 18 October 1986, an F-4S from the VF-202 "Superheats", a Naval Reserve fighter squadron, made the last-ever Phantom carrier landing while operating aboard America. In 1987, the last of the Naval Reserve-operated F-4S aircraft were replaced by F-14As. The last Phantoms in service with the Navy were QF-4 target drones operated by the Naval Air Warfare Centers at NAS Point Mugu, California. These airframes were subsequently retired in 2004.

Role Interceptor fighter, fighter-bomber
National origin United States
Manufacturer McDonnell Aircraft /
McDonnell Douglas
First flight 27 May 1958
Introduction 30 December 1960
Retired 1996 (US combat use)
2004 (Israel Air Force)
June 2013 (German Air Force)
(Use continues as QF-4 unmanned drone aircraft)
Status In service
Primary users United States Air Force (target droneuse)
United States Navy (former)
United States Marine Corps (former)
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Produced 1958–1981
Number built 5195
Unit cost New build F-4E in FY1965:US$2.4 million


General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 63 ft 0 in (19.2 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft 4.5 in (11.7 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 6 in (5.0 m)
  • Wing area: 530.0 ft² (49.2 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 0006.4–64 root, NACA 0003-64 tip
  • Empty weight: 30,328 lb (13,757 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 41,500 lb (18,825 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 61,795 lb (28,030 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric J79-GE-17A axial compressor turbojets, 11,905 lbf dry thrust (52.9 kN), 17,845 lbf in afterburner (79.4 kN) each
  • Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0224
  • Drag area: 11.87 ft² (1.10 m²)
  • Aspect ratio: 2.77
  • Fuel capacity: 1,994 U.S. gal (7,549 L) internal, 3,335 U.S. gal (12,627 L) with three external tanks (370 U.S. gal (1,420 L) tanks on the outer wing hardpoints and either a 600 or 610 U.S. gal (2,310 or 2,345 L) tank for the centerline station).
  • Maximum landing weight: 36,831 lb (16,706 kg)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.23 (1,472 mph, 2,370 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
  • Cruise speed: 506 kn (585 mph, 940 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 367 nmi (422 mi, 680 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,403 nmi (1,615 mi, 2,600 km) with 3 external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,300 m)
  • Rate of climb: 41,300 ft/min (210 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 78 lb/ft² (383 kg/m²)
  • lift-to-drag: 8.58
  • Thrust/weight: 0.86 at loaded weight, 0.58 at MTOW
  • Takeoff roll: 4,490 ft (1,370 m) at 53,814 lb (24,410 kg)
  • Landing roll: 3,680 ft (1,120 m) at 36,831 lb (16,706 kg)

Armament

  • Up to 18,650 lb (8,480 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including general purpose bombs, cluster bombs, TV- and laser-guided bombs, rocket pods, air-to-ground missiles, anti-ship missiles, gun pods, and nuclear weapons. Reconnaissance, targeting, electronic countermeasures and baggage pods, and external fuel tanks may also be carried.
  • 4× AIM-7 Sparrow in fuselage recesses plus 4 × AIM-9 Sidewinders on wing pylons; upgraded Hellenic F-4E and German F-4F ICE carry AIM-120 AMRAAM, Japanese F-4EJ Kai carry AAM-3, UK Phantoms carried Skyflash missiles
  • 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan 6-barrel Gatling cannon, 640 rounds
  • 4× AIM-9 Sidewinder, Python-3 (F-4 Kurnass 2000)
  • 4× AIM-7 Sparrow, AAM-3(F-4EJ Kai)
  • 4× AIM-120 AMRAAM for F-4F ICE, F-4E AUP (Hellenic Air Force)
  • 6× AGM-65 Maverick
  • 4× AGM-62 Walleye
  • 4× AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-88 HARM, AGM-78 Standard ARM
  • 4× GBU-15
  • 18× Mk.82, GBU-12
  • 5× Mk.84, GBU-10, GBU-14
  • 18× CBU-87, CBU-89, CBU-58
  • Nuclear weapons, including the B28EX, B61, B43 and B57

End notes