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 final McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom aerial target has joined the US Air Force’s 82nd Aerial Target Squadron in November to head for a certain distruction in the near future.
The Phantom became legendary during the war in Vietnam and has according to many aviation enthousiasts one of the most impressive fighter looks ever. The particular final machine turned into remotely controlled aerial vehicle has serial 68-0599 and spent the last 20 years in the desert storage of AMARG in Arizona.
The supersonic, reusable QF-4 provides a realistic full-scale target for air-to-air weapons system evaluation, development and testing. The 82nd ATRS will eventually launch the QF-4 on an unmanned flight where it will act as a target for a modern piloted jet. The QF-4 as an aerial target replaced QF-106s in 1998. Fifty QF-4s alone were delivered during the last four years. But with the end of the legendary aircraft in sight, the QF-4s role will be taken over by newer QF-16s in 2014. The first QF-16 already flew (SEE WITH VIDEO!).
Of the more than 300 QF-4s delivered, about 250 were actually destroyed during a mission for which it was designed for: shot and killed in the air above the Gulf of Mexico or New Mexico aerial combat ranges near Holloman AFB. About 60 QF-4s currently remain at Tyndal AFB and Holloman AFB.
The Air Force first flew the F-4 in 1963 with the aircraft seeing first combat in 1965 against North Vietnamese fighters.
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.