F-4C Phantom II
The first prototype F-4C flew on 27 May 1963, and production deliveries began in November 1963. A total of 583 planes of this model were purchased initially. These were basically F-4B's that had been refitted for ground operations. The Air National Guard began flying the F-4C in January 1972. The RF-4C is a multi-sensor, long-range, reconnaissance version of the F-4C.
In compliance with a Secretary of Defense directive, the Air Force evaluated the Navy's F4H and was forced to conclude that the naval fighter was a far more flexible weapons system than its own contemporary tactical fighter, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. Although the Thunderchief was a superb strike fighter, it was under powered for the heavy loads it was intended to carry and could not be modified into a satisfactory air superiority fighter. The USAF evaluated the Phantom for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations, and on 17 January 1962 the Air Force decided to buy the Phantom. On 24 January 1962 two Navy F4H Phantom II fighters, designated F-110A by the Air Force, arrived at Langley AFB for use in orientation courses preliminary to the assignment of Phantom's to units of the Air Force Tactical Air Command. The Air Force ordered a modified version of the Phantom into production in March 1962. On 18 September 1962, the USAF and US Navy aircraft designation systems were combined into a single scheme, under which the USAF F-110A and US Navy F4H-1 became F-4C and F-4B respectively.
The "Old Man" of Vietnam MiG killers -- Robin Olds -- flew 152 missions of which 117 were over North Vietnam. Flying his F-4C Phantom "SCAT XXVII" he got four kills in the Vietnam conflict, including a MiG-21 downed on 02 January 1967. General Olds, leading the most famous fighter sweep of the war (Operating Bolo), shot down one of seven MiG-21s claimed that day against no American losses.
The F-4C had only the basic requirements the Air Force needed and it was soon modified to the F-4D. The first production F-4D flew on 09 December 1965 out of Lambert Field, St. Louis. The F-4D model, with major changes that increase accuracy in weapons delivery, was delivered to the Air Force in March 1966, to the Air National Guard in 1977, and to the Air Force Reserve in 1980. A total of 825 planes of this model were manufactured, In its air-to-ground role the F-4 could carry twice the normal bomb load of a WW II B-17. The F-4D utilized a choice of bombs, rockets and missiles as primary armament. When operating in the attack or close air support role, it normally carries air-to-air missiles for self protection. Weapons and/or external tanks can be carried on nine external store stations with a combined maximum weight of 15,485 pounds.
The F-4C's first flight exceeded Mach 2. The Air Force accepted the aircraft immediately 65 days ahead of the production schedule. Back in February, the Air Force had received the first of 27 F4-Bs on loan from the Navy. These were used in a training program for instructor pilots and maintenance crews. As the number of F-4Cs grew the B models were returned to the Navy.
Category I testing was the longest, extending from April 1962 to July 1964. Category II continued from September 1963 to December 1964. Category III lasted only during August October 1964.
At MacDill AFB, Fla., with the 4453d Combat Crew Training Wing. The 12th Tactical Fighter Wing (also at MacDill) received the first of its new aircraft in January 1964, was fully equipped in July, and operationally ready in October.
SOR 200 (issued 2 years before) was amended to substitute the AIM-4D Falcon infrared missile for the AIM-9B and D Sidewinders of early F-4Cs. A number of technical changes were also confirmed or spelled out. Some would affect F-4Cs yet to be produced; a few would be retrofitted in others. Actually, most changes were meant for the upcoming D model of the F-4.
F-4Cs went to Southeast Asia in early 1965. On 10 July two F-4C crews shot down their first two MIG 17 jet fighters over North Vietnam with Sidewinder missiles. By March 1966, 7 F-4C squadrons were in South Vietnam and 3 in Thailand-war tolls also rising. During 1965 and 1966 the Air Force lost 54 F-4Cs in SEA combat.
The F-4Cs of the first units in SEA lacked the guns of a complete fighter system. Addition of SUU-16A gun pods with M-61AI-20-mm guns compensated for the lack of internal guns, but degraded aircraft performance. A number of F-4Cs had been modified and equipped with a radar homing and warning system. However, retrofitting the aircraft for Wild Weasel duty ran into serious technical problems. This delayed the planned mid 1966 deployment of at least 4 Wild Weasel F-4Cs to SEA.
Early F-4Cs sprung wing tank leaks that required resealing after each flight. Eighty five F-4Cs had cracked ribs (and stringers) on outer wing panels. Critical shortage of spares also arose. Early F-4C operations in SEA were sustained by collocation of units or by designation of hard-core support bases.
The Flyaway Cost Per Production Aircraft of the F-4C was $1.9 million-airframe, $1,388,725; engines (installed), $317,647; electronics, $52,287; armament, $139,706.
The Air Force lost six F-4s between June 1960 and December 1967, because of defects in cylinder barrels controlling the ailerons. By mid 1968, an inferior potting compound was discovered in various electric connections and relays of 385 early productions (mostly F-4Cs and RF-4Cs). Despite all efforts, it took more than a year to solve either one of these two problems.
The F-4C's Wild Weasel prototype installation did not begin until June 1968- 2 years after the scheduled deployment of Wild Weasel F-4Cs to SEA. Modification of the Wild Weasel aircraft was completed in October 1969, the first of these being sent to the Pacific Air Forces.
Several F-4s were lost because of fire in the engine bay. This triggered a major reconfiguration of both engine and bay, that would be standard for all F-4s and RF-4Cs. The project lasted from January through October 1970, at which point the Air Force Logistics Command was directed to begin a new modification. The latter stemmed from F-4 accidents due to aircrew spatial disorientation. The new modification would put a standby, self contained attitude indicator in the entire F-4 fleet. It would consume at least a year and require careful husbanding of available kits. In addition, F-4Cs would benefit from Rivet Haste, a 1972 improvement program centering on later models of the F-4. Finally, beginning in 1974, the F-4C like the other F-4s would undergo structural modifications to stretch its service life.
Of 583 F-4Cs produced, only 291 remained. Six squadrons were overseas (4 with USAFE, 2 with PACAF). TAC used 100 other F-4Cs for training. Ten had been transferred to the Air National Guard in FY 72. Also, F-4Cs would soon equip the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Keflavik, Iceland `
Four F-4Cs set a new unofficial endurance record for jet fighter aircraft. They touched down at MacDill AFB after an 18 hour flight of nearly 10,000 miles, during which they were refueled by KC-135 jet tankers.
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