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F-4 Phantom II

The F-4 Phantom II was a twin-engine, all-weather, fighter-bomber. The Phantom was first used by the U.S. Navy as an interceptor but also was capable of flying as a ground-support bomber for the U.S. Marine Corps. The aircraft could perform three tactical air roles - air superiority, interdiction and close air support - as it did in southeast Asia. McDonnell designed one of the greatest fighters of the postwar era as a company venture to meet anticipated future needs. Planned as an attack aircraft with four 20mm guns, it was quickly changed into a very advanced gunless all-weather interceptor with advanced radar and missile armament. The aircraft flew every traditional military mission: air superiority, close air support, interception, air defense suppression, long-range strike, fleet defense, attack and reconnaissance.

Fun Facts about the Phantom:

  • In 48 seconds, the Phantom II can climb four miles to intercept enemy aircraft.
  • With the throttles two-blocked, the F-4 consumes enough fuel in 60 seconds to drive an average American car more than 3,000 miles, and it carries enough fuel to drive that car about 35,000 miles.
  • More than 643,000 fasteners are used to hold the Phantom together.
  • Flight time from St. Louis to Chicago is 12 minutes.
  • Its generators can push enough power through its 14 miles of electrical wiring to supply a subdivision of 30-40 homes with enough power to operate lights, washing machines, TV's, toasters, can openers, vacuum cleaners, etc.
  • And speaking of vacuum cleaners, its engines at full bore draw in enough air to collapse a typical six-room house in two seconds.
  • Painting one F-4 takes two days, 36 people and 28 gallons of paint, enough to cover seven six-room houses.
  • The catalyzed epoxy paint withstands temperatures up to 450 degrees and is resistant to engine and hydraulic oil.
  • It can slow to a mere 125 knots or streak through the sky at more than 1,300 mph. For routine travel, it eases along at 570 mph for more than 1,500 miles without refueling.
  • On takeoff it can hold an external load of more than eight tons.
  • Unrefueled range from carriers or existing suitable friendly bases allows the Phantom to carry its payload of ground strike weapons over 92 percent of the earth's surface.

The Phantom was the first multiservice aircraft, flying concurrently with the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. It is the first and only aircraft ever to be flown concurrently by both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. The name Phantom II was chosen to declare the aircraft's lineage from McDonnell's FD-1 Phantom which was the first all-jet aircraft the Navy operated. Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 in 15 different models had been built -- more than 2,600 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for other nations, including to Israel, Iran, Greece, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, West Germany, Australia, Japan, and Great Britain. The US Air Force purchased more than 2,600 F-4s and, as a result, a large portion of the Air Force's pilots, navigators and maintenance people spent a great deal of their careers around and in F-4s. Used extensively in the Vietnam War, later versions of the aircraft were still active in the US Air Force inventory well into the 1990s. F-4s are no longer in the USAF inventory but are still flown by a number of other nations.

The Phantom is powered by twin General Electric J79 engines, mounted side by side along the length of the fuselage. Of the engine's sub-models, the most important is the J79-GE-17. Each engine delivers a thrust of 5,385 kg. without using its afterburners, and 8,210 kg. thrust with the afterburners. The Phantom is a two seater, with the navigator/WSO sitting behind the pilot. In case of an emergency, the WSO can fly the plane from his seat.

The armament of the F-4 incorporated four all-weather radar-guided Sparrow XII air-to-air missiles or, alternatively, Falcon short-range missiles, or Sidewinder IR homing missiles, or the M-61 20mm Gatling Gun cannon. The F-4, in an air-to-surface mission, is capable of carrying more than 8 tons of conventional bombs, rockets, missiles, land or sea mines, guns, napalm, or nuclear weapons.

In the 1960s, most of the thousands of McDonnell employees were involved in delivering the Phantom. Between 1966-67, production averaged 63 F-4 aircraft each month. Production peaked at 72 Phantom aircraft a month in 1967. By 1978, production was 4 to 6 aircraft a month. In all, production of the F-4 contributed to more than 1 million man-years of employment at McDonnell.

The F-4 had the lowest maintenance man-hours per flight hour required of any US fighter aircraft. It has established many world and class records for altitude and speed over a closed course, and time to climb to various altitudes. Set in the early 1960's, these records were only beginning to be replaced, primarily by Russian-built aircraft, in the latter 1960's and early 1970's, by planes such as the MIG-23 Foxbat. The F-4 was the mainstay attack plane for Air Force, Marine, and Navy flyers in Vietnam.

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