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McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II

The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was the main fighter aircraft of the U.S Navy and the U.S Air Forces in the Vietnam War, replacing the F-105 Thunderchief.


The F-4 Phantom II is a twin-engine, all-weather, third generation fighter-bomber. The cost of a new one during its age was 2.4 million. The aircraft could perform four tactical air roles: air superiority, interdiction, close air support and fleet defense, as it did in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. First flown in May 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense and entered service in 1961. The USAF evaluated it for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF version after it was discovered to be over 100 miles per hour faster than the F-104 Starfighter. The USAF's Phantom II, designated F-4C, made its first flight on May 27, 1963. Production deliveries began in November 1963. In its air-to-ground role the F-4 could carry twice the normal bomb load of a WW II B-17. During the 1970s and 1980s, F-4s gradually started getting replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in the U.S. Air Force, the F-14 Tomcat in the U.S. Navy, and the F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built more than 2,600 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations, including to Israel, Iran, Greece, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, West Germany, Australia, Japan, and Great Britain. The F-4 was used extensively in the Vietnam War, where its numerous dogfights with North Vietnamese MiG fighters earned it the nickname "the world's leading distributor of MiG parts." The Phantom also saw service in the Middle East with the Israeli Air Force. The Israeli Phantoms were delivered under the Peace Echo I though IV and Nickel Grass programs. Israeli F-4E Phantoms were nicknamed Kurnass (heavy hammer) while the RF-4E's was called Orev (raven). In the Beqqa Valley the Phantom shot down 4th generation soviet aircraft piloted by Russians under Syrian markings. The last Israeli Phantoms were retired in 2004. Later versions of this aircraft, such as the F-4G Wild Weasel were still active in the U.S. Air Force inventory well into the 1990s with the uses of reconnaissance and "Wild Weasel" anti-aircraft missile suppression missions during the Gulf War of 1991; F-4s finally ending service in 1996. F-4s are no longer in the USAF inventory but are still flown by foreign nations.

F-4 Phamtom in a bombing operation

The aircraft is still used by the USAF in an unmanned drone form (the QF-4E) for training in air-to-air gunnery. In one particular incident, a flight of four F-22 Raptors were on a training mission where they had to 'intercept' a QF-4E. Each Raptor fired missiles at it, but for some reason, all of them missed, despite the QF-4E flying in a straight line the whole time. Finally, all four Raptors fired missiles all at once and finally shot down the aging Phantom. A veteran pilot on the ground was known to have said "So it takes four Raptors to shoot down one Phantom...".

Starting in 1973, F-4E's were fitted with target-identification systems for long-range visual identification of airborne or ground targets. Each system is basically a television camera with a zoom lens to aid in positive identification, and a system called Pave-Tack, which provided day and night all-weather capability to acquire, track and designate ground targets for laser, infrared and electro-optically guided weapons. Another change was a digital intercept computer that includes launch computations for all AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow.



South Korea
  • Luftwaffe - F-4F version, originally intended as a single seat variant of the F-4E


  • Islamic Repulblic of Iran Air Force
United Kingdom
United States


  • F-4A, B, J, N and S

Variants for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines. F-4B was upgraded to F-4N, and F-4J was upgraded to F-4S. (One batch of F-4J aircraft were supplied to the

United Kingdom as F-4J(UK) ).
  • F-110 Spectre, F-4C, D and E

Variants for the U.S. Air Force. F-4E introduced an internal [[

RF-4C Phantom II parked after returning from a mission during Operation Desert Storm

M61 Vulcan]] cannon. The F-4D and E were widely exported. These versions of the aircraft were extensively used under the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system.

A dedicated SEAD variant with updated radar and avionics, converted from F-4E. The designation F-4G was applied earlier to an entirely different Navy Phantom.

  • F-4K and M

Variants for the British Military re-engined with Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans.

  • F-4EJ

Simplified F-4E exported to and license-built in Japan.

  • F-4F

Simplified F-4E exported to Germany.

  • QF-4B, E, G, N and S

Retired aircraft converted into remote-controlled target drones used for weapons and defensive systems research.

  • RF-4B, C, and E

Tactical reconnaissance variants.


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, 17,845 lbf (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)


  • 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)


Related Variants

Similar Aircraft

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