One of the US military’s most game-changing aircraft is set to end its days in the sky. The F-4 Phantom series of aircraft constitutes one of the leading designs which remained in service for almost five decades. Military.com recently paid tribute to the aircraft, and we felt it important to do the same. So, first, we’ll go through a little bit of background on the amazing aircraft.
King of the Skies
Following the Korean War, McDonnell Douglas noticed that, lacking any sort of upcoming design needs expressed by the military, the Navy was in need of a new sort of aircraft that could take on multiple jobs — especially in the “attack” variety of aircraft. The development took almost a full 9 years from inception to fielding, but it was worth it. The problems that the development of the F-4 Phantom II aircraft had been taken to task and the US Navy proceeded to use the aircraft to break several aviation world records of the time.
In Vietnam, it became yet another test of US air power against the Soviets. In all, F-4 pilots shot down over a hundred aircraft. While their combat losses were extensive, these were mainly due to anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles. In terms of air superiority and eventually supremacy, the F-4 helped to ensure that the air was clear to drop ordinance and devastate enemy troops and positions.
One of the first US military aircraft to make air-to-air missile dogfighting the norm, it ushered in a new era of fast-paced air combat that would change the face of aviation forever.
Foreign Policy Export
One of resons for the F-4 being so recognizable is its use in militaries all over the world. In total, there are 11 other nations which have employed the F-4 in their national defense. This includes Australia, Egypt, Israel, the UK and even Iran.
The popularity of this aircraft is understandable. From nearly every Vietnam war movie (minus Flight of the Intruder, of course) the F-4 can be seen as the aircraft that escorts, delivers close air support, bombs targets and in general kicks ass all over the place. This is the reputation that this aircraft has worked hard to earn over the years.
Heaps of Praise
There has been no shortage of kind words for the Phantom, while still understanding that it wasn’t perfect. Craig Schorzman, a retired Air Force Colonel out of Tucson, AZ, noted that “It was not the best of anything but it could do everything.” Whereas there were doubtless aircraft which had more of a single-purpose, the F-4 could do almost any job assigned it, from surveillance and reconnaissance to dogfighting to close air support and everything in between.
In fact, in June of this year, Forbes marked the F-4 Phantom II as the aircraft which exemplified third-generation fighter jets, noting that this class of aircraft was the first to have fully integrated jet engines with afterburner, radar and targeting systems for the pilot and could carry up to four tons of payload to accomplish any mission given.
All I can think about with this is how previous generations have marked the passing of such classic fighters as the P-38 and P-51 which were game-changers in their own respects from World War II, along with the F-105 in Korea. These planes not only changed the face of human aviation, but they helped in critical moments of our nation’s defense.
There are many scores of infantrymen who served in the jungles of Vietnam who were incredibly grateful for the cover that the F-4 could bring, as well as higher echelons who were doubtlessly pleased that one weapon system could cover such a broad spectrum of desperately needed tasks.
From movies to real life, the F-4 Phantom has a special place in Americana as a whole. It is emblematic of an entire era and we will surely be sad to see it go. As part of Nine Line News’ focus on relentless patriotism, we wanted to make sure to send this aircraft off with a bang.