Again a goodbye to the legendary McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet that has rocked many of the world’s air spaces since the 1970s. This time the farewell is at Tyndall AFB in Florida USA, where the final QF-4 aerial target took off on 27 May 2015 – after the type has served for 20 years at the base.
The rather sad faith of these particular Phantom version was sealed about 30 minutes ago, when the two QF-4s that took off remotely-controlled by people at the ground station were destroyed in mid-air by fighter jocks flying other aircraft.
Tyndall’s QF-4 program initially started in 1997 and the destruction of the last two QF-4s marks its replacement with the QF-16 Falcon. Like the QF-4, the QF-16 is a full-scale aerial target that can be flown manned or unmanned. Unlike the QF-4, the QF-16 has all the capabilities of a newer generation aircraft.
“We get much more maneuverability out of it, and essentially we have a fully capable F-16 Falcon,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, 82nd ATRS director of operations. “It can pull 9 G’s, go supersonic and climb up to 55,000 ft. just like the front line fighters. We now have that as a target.”
The South Korean airbase of Cheongju for the next two weeks is the stage of a large Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) biannual exercise called Soaring Eagle. Taking part is the old and the ROKAF stuff, from nearly obsolete F-4E Phantoms to new indigenous Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50 Golden Hawks.
In the ROKAF’s words, the aim of the large-scale aerial exercise aims is to boost capabilities of blocking enemies’ surprise infiltration and destroying key military assets – in other words, to block any effort of South Korea’s northern neighbour. The air force also wants to evaluate and improve the strategic and light attack combat capabilities of the FA-50. Two Golden Hawks take part in the exercise.
Cheongju, visited by Airheadsfly.com editors in 2004, is located about 140 kilometers south of Seoul. The airbase is home to South Korea’s remaining F-4E Phantoms, and also provides ’Top Gun’ training for fighter pilots.
Next to FA-50s and F-4Es, also taking part in Soaring Eagle are F-5E, F-15K and KF-16 fighters. In total, forty aircraft are involved, as well as 320 personnel.
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter-bombers have been attacking the so-called Islamic State forces in the Diyala region of Eastern Iraq. At least, that is want the US Department of Defense says.
The Iranian attacks were not part of the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve, as Teheran and Washington are not the greatest friends. If true, the Iranian attacks were technically at targets in another souvereign country, and that might be part of the reason why the Iranian leadership initally denied its involvement to press agency Reuters. Later British newspaper The Guardian quoted another Iranian official that did confirm the strikes.
Despite that Iran didn’t talk with Washington about it and judging the statements from the US capital, the American military didn’t or wouldn’t mind that or if Iranian jets act against the ISIS/ISIL forces. “We co-ordinate our air strikes against ISIS with the Iraqi government and it’s up to that government what happens inside Iraqi airspace,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said to the media.
This week’s presumed attacks by Iranian Phantoms – and at least five Sukhoi Su-24MKs according to sources – were not the first ordered by Teheran against ISIS. Earlier this year Iranian air assets are known to have struck as well, although less advertised as the USA and its allies were not involved themselves yet in a large scale air operations.
The then Imperial Iranian Air Force received 225 American-built F-4Ds, F-4Es and RF-4Es during the 1960s and 1970, before a revolution overthrew the then Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It is believed the current Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force has about 35 to 70 Phantom jets left, with many domestically upgraded.
Iraq ignited a destructive war against Iran in 1980 and when the two countries finally ceased fire in 1988 many aircraft had been lost, many troops and scores of civilians were dead.
Old aircraft, new museum. That about sums it up for the soon to be opened Nationaal Militair Museum (no, we’re not gonna translate that into English) in the Netherlands – although not quite. This 35,000 square meter museum offers more than aircraft from old to not-so old; it offers a complete retrospective of the Dutch military over the years – but again, not quite.
A twelve tonnes F-15 Eagle shows there’s even more to this museum, since the Dutch military did fly the Gloster Meteor, Hawker Hunter, F-84F Thunderstreak, F-5, F-16 and F-104 Starfighter present in the museum – or the Dassault Breguet Atlantic outside – but it never flew the F-15. This however, is where the exact location of the NMM comes into place: former Soesterberg Airbase, once home to 32nd ‘Wolfhounds’ Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force in Europe. It also explains the F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super Sabre and F-102 Delta Dagger the museum has in its collection, although not all are presented to the public.
The F-4, once an inmate of the US Air Force ‘boneyard’ in Tucson, is hiding elsewhere. The museum’s spokesperson says there are plans to display it in or in front of a hardened aircraft shelter at Soesterberg airbase, but nothing is certain. As Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk noted during his visit on 2 December the Phantom II is in a superb restored condition.
Of all ex-US Air Force aircraft only the F-15 hangs inside, together with 18 other aircraft. The rest of the American stuff, including the F-86 Sabre and the Delta Dagger, are on the former platform in front of the museum. The other American planes are near the museum depot, which is the former hangar of 298 Squadron, about 150 yards/metres from the museum.
Moreover a museum spokespersons says he hopes to add a F-104 to the military vehicles currently serving as gate guard to the museum. The Starfighter in question earlier got looks mounted on a pole near highway A28. But there is a Starfighter hanging beautifully inside, as well as a Hawker Hunter that looks stunning despite its age.
But above all, Soesterberg signifies the birthplace of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, back in 1913. The place breathes history for aviation fans, who’d do well to also to visit those parts of the museum offering interactive experiences and personal memories of working for the Dutch military. The main hall was built to resemble an aircraft hangar. Costs for the museum totaled 108 million EUR and is effectively a fusion of the former Army Museum in Delft and the Military Aviation Museum earlier in Soesterberg.
The building also offers a nice view of the former airbase, which now has largely been converted to a park, but which also made local headlines these days due to the possible demolition of the ‘Zulu Barn’, from where the 32nd Squadron used to fly Quick Reaction Alert duties. In the light of history and the present day interceptions of Russian aircraft, this discussed demolition seems rather misguided.
A guide book will probably be presented to Dutch King Willem Alexander on 11 December, during the formal opening of the National Military Museum of the Netherlands. We’re also quite sure he won’t have to pay the 9,75 euro (about 10 dollars) entrance fee – but he will be immersed in military aviation history. Go see it for yourself.
Just over a year ago, everything seemed fine for Boeing and its F-15SE Silent Eagle, with an order for 60 jets from South Korea in the pipeline. But now, as announced on Wednesday 24 September 2014, the Republic of Korea and Lockheed Martin have finalized the order for forty F-35A Lightning II aircraft, and the Boeing F-15SE will forever be one of those aircraft that never was.
It last year practically took a revolt from former Air Force generals to stop Seoul from buying the newly re-designed F-15SE, to serve next 60 Boeing F-15K Slam Eagles already delivered to the Republic of South Korea Air Force (ROKAF). Eurofighter Typhoon was also considered. The decision for the F-15SE was however said to be mostly on money rather then effectiveness during a war against North Korea.
The F-X fighter acquisition program was reopened with the sole purpose of getting forty conventional take off F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft into the ROKAF inventory. Indeed, the F-35 was finally selected in March this year. The aircraft replace a fleet of old McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom aircraft, currently still operating from Cheongju airbase in central South Korea.
A Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the U.S. and Korean governments for the jets will be signed within weeks. The deal is worth 7 billion USD, with initial deliveries beginning in 2018. Of interest is that neighbour-on-not-always-friendly-terms Japan is to receive an initial 42 F-35As.
In a somewhat uncharacteristic message posted on Twitter on Wednesday, engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney says it appreciates the confidence that the Republic of South Korea has placed in the F-35 and in the F135 engine. It was the very same engine that caused a US F-35 to catch fire earlier this year, preventing the type to appear at its planned international airshow debut in the UK. The cancellation of the airshow tour was a major PR-embarrassment for both Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney. Meanwhile, the cause of the fire is said to have been narrowed down to four suspected parts of the engine, and a solution is being worked on on Pratt & Whitney’s expense.
Customers for the F-35 include the US, UK, Turkey, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Israel, Japan and now South Korea. Orders from Canada are expected, and also Denmark and Belgium are looking into the new fighter aircraft to replace their aging F-16s.