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F-4 Phantom II

The F-4 Phantom II is a two-place (tandem), supersonic, long-range, all-weather fighter-bomber built by McDonnell Douglas Corporation. It was operated by the US Navy, the USMC and later the USAF, from 1961 until 1995. It is still in service with other nations.

Its primary mission capabilities are: long range, high-altitude intercepts utilizing air-to-air missiles as primary armament; a 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon as secondary armament; long-range attack missions utilizing conventional or nuclear weapons as a primary armament; and close air support missions utilizing a choice of bombs, rockets and missiles as primary armament. It was one of the few aircraft types that have served in the US Navy, USMC and USAF. It was one of the longest serving military aircraft post-war.


USAF F-4 Phantom II.
Larger version

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 (as the F-110A Spectre) for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF version. 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 can carry twice the normal bomb load of a WW II B-17 Flying Fortress. USAF F-4s also flew reconnaissance and "Wild Weasel" air-defence suppression missions. Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built--more than 2,800 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations.

In 1965 the first USAF Phantom IIs were sent to Vietnam. Early versions (F-4A to F-4D) lacked any gun armament. Coupled with the unreliability of the air-to-air missiles AIM-7 Sparrow AIM-9 Sidewinder at the time, this major drawback resulted in the aircraft loss after they ran out of missiles. During the course of the Vietnam War, its contemporaries, the MiG-19 and MiG-21, inflicted heavy losses on the F-4s when the American aircrafts were ambushed after returning from bombing assignments. This prompted the USAF to introduce the F4-E variant, which added a M61 Vulcan cannon in the nose of the aircraft, below the radome.

This later version was the mainstay of the USAF and USN Phantom II forces and served with the air forces of many countries including Australia, Britain, Greece, Israel, Iran, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Turkey and West Germany.

The last of the F-4s were retired from duty with the US military in 1995; however the aircraft still sees use in a training role, as a drone, and in service to other nations. The UK retired its last Phantoms in 1993.

See also the FH-1 Phantom.

General Characteristics:

  • Primary Function: All-weather fighter-bomber.
  • Contractor: McDonnell Aircraft Co., McDonnell Corporation.
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric J79 turbojet engines with afterburners.
  • Thrust: 17,900 pounds (8,055 kilograms).
  • Length: 62 feet, 11 inches (19.1 meters).
  • Height: 16 feet, 5 inches (5 meters).
  • Wingspan: 38 feet, 11 inches (11.8 meters).
  • Speed: More than 1,600 mph (Mach 2.5).
  • Ceiling: 60,000 feet (18,182 meters).
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 62,000 pounds (27,900 kilograms).
  • Range: 1,300 miles (1,130 nautical miles).
  • Armament: Four AIM-7 Sparrow and four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, AGM-88 HARM missile capability, and one fuselage centerline bomb rack and four pylon bomb racks capable of carrying 12,500 pounds (5,625 kilograms) of general purpose bombs.
  • Cost: US$18.4 million
  • Crew: F-4E -- Two (pilot and electronic warfare officer).
  • Date Deployed: May 1963

Additional versions include:

  • F4-G "Wild Weasel" air defence suppresion.
  • RF-4C Tactical reconnaisance aircraft
  • QF-4 Drone, used for target vehicle


See also: Military aircraft



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