Here’s What Made The Phabulous F-4 Phantom So Special

Here's What Made The Phabulous F-4 Phantom So Special
A Turkish air force F-4 Phantom waits at the end of the runway after catching the barrier on a BAK-12 aircraft arresting system during an annual test Feb. 24, 2014, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Sikorski/Released)

For nearly four decades of service in the U.S. military, the Phabulous F-4 Phantom performed every combat task thrown at it—almost every mission ever defined.

Here’s The philm “The Fabulous Phantom” was made by McDonnell Douglas to commemorate the manufacture of the 5000th Phabulous Phantom II (F-4E-65-MC serial 77-0290) which rolled out on 9 May 1978 and was delivered to the Air Force on 24 May 1978.

Thanks to YouTuber PeriscopeFilm II for uploading this retro shot of Phab Phour goodness.

Over its years in service with the United States Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, the Phantom spawned an entirely new classification of crew members and maintainers. Phantom Phlyers, Phantom Pherrets, and Phantom Phixers wore the patches and proudly misspelled words beginning with F. They were no doubt envied by many a Phantom Phanatic.

Here's What Made The Phabulous F-4 Phantom So Special
James S. McDonnell, Founder and Chairman of the Board, McDonnell Douglas Corporation, with the 5,000th Phantom. (Boeing)

What made the F-4 Phantom so special that the US Air Force, Marine, and Navy all used it as their air wing?

According to Michael Caraker, a former Weapon Systems Officer, F4 Phantom at U.S. Air Force (1975-1995)

Not that it was so special, but it was a story of; in the right place, at the right time. The Vietnam War first involved American troops (as advisors) in 1950. By 1961, troop levels began rising rapidly, until the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, when the numbers exploded.

The Navy introduced the Phantom in 1960 as a Fleet Defense Fighter, and by 1963, it had been adopted by both the USMC and USAF in Ground Attack and Air Superiority roles as well. Because of this unprecedented cross-service adoption, the F4 was the only airframe in production that was available in numbers that the services demanded in the ever-widening Southeast Asian War.

Over 5000 were built between 1960 and 1979. More than 4000 were used in the USAF and Navy, while the rest were exported to nearly a dozen of our allies. (Iran being our ally at one time) Japan produced its own version, under license.

Jack of All Trades, but Master of None, is a perfect descriptor for the Phantom. It could fight air to air (with missiles only, at first; a 20mm cannon was later fitted to the F4E), drop bombs, including Nukes, and provide photo reconaissance in its various configurations. Other airframes were better at each of these roles, but the Phantom was ready and willing to do them all, better yet, it was available.

Full Disclosure; In my 20 years in the Back Seat, I trained and flew all of these missions, yet never saw combat.

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