The legendary F-4 Phantom flew for the first time on 27 May 1958. To celebrate, we went up to the attic, found those ol’ Phantom photos, fired up the ol’ scanner…. and actually had a very good time. Even more ‘double uglies’ are to be found in our Phantom Afterparty, first published two years ago when the Germans said ‘auf Wiedersehen’ to their final Phantoms.
Let’s start with some more or less random Germans. The Luftwaffe flew Phantoms from January 1971 – when the first of 88 RF-4Es arrived – right up to June this year, when the last of a total of 175 F-4Fs were retired.
In the United Kingdom, the Phantom was operated by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in three different versions: The Phantom FG1, Phantom FGR2 and the F-4J(UK). The first two had British Rolls-Royce Spey engines, while the F-4J(UK) aircraft were basically standard US Navy aircraft that were brought in to strengthen UK air defences after the 1982 Falklands war. Ten years later, the British stopped flying the Phantom.
The Ejército del Aire started flying Phantoms in 1971 in the shape of F-4Cs and RF-4Cs. The latter were retired in 1989 while the former soldiered on until 2002.
South Korea was a large Phantom operator, using the F-4D, F-4E and RF-4C. The F-4D has been replaced by the F-15K Slam Eagle, but the F-4E is still defending the country in significant numbers.
Japanese Phantom have lured many – and we mean many – aviation photographers to the land of the rising sun. The number of Japanese Phantoms has dwindled over the last few years though. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force is looking towards the F-35 as a replacement.
The largest Phantom operator – by no small amount – was of course the United States. The USAF, US Navy and US Marines Corps used the aircraft extensively throughout the sixties, seventies, eighties and into the nineties. It saw prominent action over Vietnam and remained the US military backbone for years after that conflict ended.
© 2013 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest