F-4 Phantom II

F-4 re-directs here; for alternate uses, see F4

F-4 Phantom II

USAF F-4 Phantom II
RoleAll-weather fighter-bomber
First flightMay 27, 1958
Entered service1961
ManufacturerMcDonnell Douglas Corporation
Length62 ft 11 in19.2 m
Wingspan38 ft 11 in11.8 m
Height16 ft 5 in5.02 m
Wing area530 ft²49.24 m²
Empty28,500 lb12,930 kg
Loaded51,440 lb23,340 kg
Maximum takeoff58,000 lb26,300 kg
EnginesTwo General Electric J79 turbojet engines
Thrust2 x 17,900 lbf2x 80 kN
Maximum speed1,430 mph2,305 km/h
Combat range540 miles865 km
Ferry range1,925 miles3,100 km
Service ceiling60,000 ft18,000 m
Rate of climb ft/min m/min
Wing loading40,550 lb/ft²12,360 kg/m²
Avionics Westinghouse Electric Corporation AN/AWG-10B (F-4J/S) radar.
AN/AWG-10C manufactured by Ferranti (F-4K/FG.1 (UK))
Guns20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon with 725 rounds (F-4E/F only)
BombsFive pylon bomb racks 16,000 lb (7,260 kg)
15 CBU-52, 15 CBU-58, 15 CBR-71, 15 CBU-87, 15 CBU-89, 12 MK-20, 6 BL-755
MissilesFour AIM-7 Sparrow in fuselage recesses plus four AIM-9 Sidewinders on wing pylons; most can carry AGM-65 Maverick
Rocketsvarious combinations of 2.75" (70mm) rocket pods
OtherF-4G equipped for AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-78 Standard, and AGM-88 HARM in SEAD role. Israeli F-4Es equipped for Rafael Popeye stand-off missile.

The F-4 Phantom II (simply "F-4 Phantom" after 1990) is a two-place (tandem), supersonic, long-range, all-weather fighter-bomber built by McDonnell Douglas Corporation. It was operated by the US Navy, the USMC and later the USAF, from 1961 until 1995. It is still in service with other nations. In service, it earned it nicknames like "Rhino" (a reference to both its prodigious nose and its rhinoceros-like toughness) and "Double-Ugly"/"DUFF" (Double Ugly Fat Fucker, a reference to the B-52 Stratofortress).

Its primary mission capabilities are: long range, high-altitude intercepts utilizing air-to-air missiles as primary armament; long-range attack missions utilizing conventional or nuclear weapons as a primary armament; and close air support missions utilizing a choice of bombs, rockets and missiles as primary armament. It was one of the few aircraft types that have served in the US Navy, USMC and USAF. It was one of the longest serving military aircraft post-war.

First flown May 27, 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense. The initial F4H-1 (later F-4B) entered service in 1961. The USAF evaluated it (as the F-110A Spectre) for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF version, the F-4C. The F-4C made its first flight on May 27, 1963, and production deliveries began in November 1963. The Navy/USMC version progressed to the improved F-4J mark, with earlier F-4Bs upgraded in service to F-4N and later F-4S standard. The USAF replaced the F-4C with the optimized F-4D, and then, from 1967, the F-4E with an internal M61 Vulcan 20mm cannnon. 116 F-4Es were later converted for the SEAD "Wild Weasel" role as the F-4G. Reconnaissance versions were also built, the RF-4C for the USAF, RF-4B for the USMC, and the export RF-4E.

Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built--more than 2,800 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations.

In 1965 the first USAF Phantom IIs were sent to Vietnam. Early versions lacked any gun armament. Coupled with the unreliability of the air-to-air missiles (AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder) of the time, this major drawback resulted in the aircraft loss after they ran out of missiles. During the course of the Vietnam War, its contemporaries, the MiG-19 and MiG-21, inflicted heavy losses on the F-4s when the American aircraft were ambushed after returning from bombing assignments. This prompted the USAF to introduce an M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon in the nose of the aircraft, below the radome (although no Navy or Marine Phantoms ever had an integral gun). This later version was the mainstay of the USAF Phantom II forces. The last Phantoms in USAF service were retired in December 2004 with the deactivation of the 20th Fighter Squadron, the Silver Lobos [1]. The last Phantoms in Marine Corps. service were F-4S models of VMFA-112 and were retired in 1992 when VMFA-112 transitioned to the F/A-18A.


Phantom in non-US service

The F-4E served with the air forces of many countries, including Australia, Greece, Israel, Iran, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, and West Germany.

The German Version (F-4F) will be used until the Eurofighter Typhoon is produced in sufficient numbers. The newer AN/APG-65 radar (the same used in the F/A-18) was installed in order to use AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, though this upgrade has only been implemented into German and Greek F-4Es. Other F-4E operators improved their Phantom IIs according to their needs, with the most significant being the Israel Aircraft Industries Kurnass 2000 upgrade, which enabled the Phantom II to carry and deliver next generation laser and TV-guided munitions (including AGM-142 Have Lite missiles) with increased precision. A similar upgrade has also been implemented by IAI on Turkish Air Force Phantoms, including an advanced ELTA SPS-100 fire control system/radar, adopted from the abortive IAI LAVI Technology-demonstrator or early 1990s.

The United Kingdom bought the aircraft for use with the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm. British versions were based on the USN F-4J, but fitted with the larger but more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey engine for improved take-off performance. The larger engine improved low-level speed and acceleration, but it caused aerodynamic problems that made it slower in high-level flight, and its development led to protracted problems. RAF Phantoms were designated F-4K, or FG.1 in British service, the RN's aircraft the F-4M, or FGR.2. Fleet Air Arm Phantoms were fitted with a telescoping front undercarriage leg allowing the nose to be raised up high, the increased angle of attack being necessary for catapult launches from the small British carriers.

The last U.S. Phantoms in service, the F-4G and RF-4C, were retired from duty in 1995; however the aircraft still sees use in a training role, as a drone, and in service to other nations. The UK retired its last Phantoms in 1993 as a result of the Options for Change spending cuts.

See also the FH-1 Phantom.

General characteristics:

Phantom in museum
Phantom in museum
  • Primary Function: All-weather fighter-bomber.
  • Contractor: McDonnell Aircraft Co., McDonnell Corporation.
  • Power Plant: Two General Electric J79 turbojet engines with afterburners.
  • Thrust: 17,900 lbf (80 kN) each
  • Length: 63 ft, 0 in (19.1 m)
  • Height: 16 ft, 5 in (5 m)
  • Wingspan: 38 ft, 7 in (11.8 m).
  • Speed: more than 1,500 mph, 2,500 km/h (Mach 2.27)
  • Ceiling: 62,250 ft
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 61,800 lb (28,000 kg)
  • Range: 1,800 miles (2,900 km)
  • Armament: Four AIM-7 Sparrow or AIM-120 AMRAAM (F-4F and upgraded F-4E only) and four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, AGM-88 HARM missile capability, and one fuselage centerline bomb rack and four pylon bomb racks capable of carrying 18,650 pounds (8450 kg) of various types of missiles, bombs, and rockets. Most F-4E and F-4F have one 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon under nose (640 rounds), almost all can carry similar weapon in SUU-16/A or SUU-23/A external pod (1,200 rounds).
  • Cost: US$18.4 million
  • Crew: F-4E -- Two (pilot and weapon systems officer).
  • Date Deployed: Early 1961 (U.S. Navy)


  • F4H-1F (F-4A)
  • TF-4A
  • F4H-1 (F-4B)
  • QF-4B
  • F4H-1P (RF-4B)
  • F-110 (F-4C)
  • EF-4C
  • RF-4C
  • F-4D
  • EF-4D
  • F-4E
  • RF-4E
  • YF-4E
  • F-4F
  • TF-4F
  • F-4G "Wild Weasel IV" SEAD.
  • F-4J
  • RF-4J
  • YF-4J
  • F-4K (Fleet Air Arm McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1)
  • F-4M (RAF McDonnell Douglas Phantom FGR.2)
  • F-4N
  • F-4S

Units using the F-4

United States Navy

United States Marine Corps

Partial List:

  • VMFA-115
  • VMFA-112
  • VMFA-122
  • VMFA-212
  • VMFA-232
  • VMFA-235
  • VMFA-314
  • VMF(AW)-323
  • VMFA-334
  • VMFA-513
  • VMFA-542
  • VMCJ-3

United States Air Force

Royal Air Force

Fleet Air Arm

  • No. 892 NAS

Royal Australian Air Force

  • No. 1 Squadron
  • No. 6 Squadron


  • Jagdgeschwader 71 "Richthofen"
  • Jagdgeschwader 72 "Westfalen" (former Jagdbombergeschwader 36) - (decommissioned)
  • Jagdgeschwader 73 "Steinhoff" (former Jagdbombergeschwader 35)
  • Jagdgeschwader 74 "Mölders"
  • Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 "Immelmann" - (decommissioned)
  • Aufklärungsgeschwader 52 - (decommissioned)
  • Fliegerisches Ausbildungszentrum der Luftwaffe (German Air Force Flying Training Center)

Israeli Air Force

The Israeli Air Force (Heyl Ha'Avir) obtained the F-4 Phantom beginning in 1969. The first F-4E entered service 5 September 1969, with the Israelis scoring their first aerial victory against an Egyptian Air Force MiG-21 on 11 November 1969.

Israeli eventually acquired 42 new-build F-4Es, 12 new-build RF-4Es, and 162 ex-USAF F-4Es. In Israeli service, the combat-capable Phantom was known as "Kurnass" (Sledgehammer). The RF recce aircraft was called "Orev" (Raven).

The IAF had five Phantom squadrons:

  • 201 Squadron ('The One') הטייסת האחת
  • 69 Squadron ('Hammers') טייסת הפטישים
  • 119 Squadron ('The Bat') טייסת העטלף
  • 105 Squadron ('Scorpion') טייסת הערב
  • 133 Squadron ('Knights of the Orange Tail') אבירי הזנב הכתום

The F-4 saw combat service in the War of Attrition between Israel and Egypt; in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, during which approximately 33 Phantoms fell in combat; and in Lebanon in 1982. Although the F-4 by that time was relegated to the ground-attack role (the air superiority mission taken up by Israeli F-15 and F-16 aircraft) it scored its final aerial kill in that conflict on 9 June 1982. All in all, the IDF/AF claimed more than 116 aerial kills with the Phantom.

Israeli F-4Es were equipped to carry a wide variety of weapons, including the AGM-84 Harpoon and Rafael Gabriel anti-ship missiles and later the Rafael Popeye air-to-surface missile. They were also used extensively in the SEAD role.

In the mid-1980s Israel upgraded its Phantoms to Kurnass 2000 configuration, with new avionics, structural refit, and radar, a revised nav/attack ssytem, and HOTAS. A total of 55 aircraft were refitted to that standard. A planned Super Phantom 2000 upgrade, with new Pratt & Whitney PW1120 turbofan engines replacing the older J79, was not implemented for cost reasons.

The RF-4E also underwent several upgrades, with several modified to reach higher speeds (up to Mach 2.4) and altitude (23,800 m/78,000 ft). Three more were fitted with a HIAC (high-altitude camera system) in a rotary assembly in the nose under the Peace Jack program, redesignated RF-4E(S).

The last Israeli F-4s were retired 12 May 2004.

Egyptian Air Force

28 F-4E in services

Greek Air Force

Iranian Air Force

Western Area Command: Noaheh (OIHH) Hamadan, Shahrokhi) 3rd Tactical Air Base 31st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron: RF-4E Phantom II 32nd Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4D Phantom II and F-4E Phantom II 33rd Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4D Phantom II and F-4E Phantom II

Southern Area Command: Bushehr (OIBB) 6th Tactical Air Base 61st Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4E Phantom II 62nd Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4D Phantom II and F-4E Phantom Ii

Bandar Abbas Int'l (OIKB) 9th Tactical Air Base 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4E Phantom II 92nd Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4E Phantom II

Chah Bahar (OIZC) (Chabahar) 10th Tactical Air Base 101st Tactical Fighter Squadron: F-4D Phantom II

Japanese Air Self Defence Force

The F-4EJ was ordered on November 1, 1968. Two F-4EJs (JASDF serials 17-8301 and 17-8302) were built by McDonnell in St Louis and tested beginning on January 14, 1971. The next eleven (JASDF serials 27-8303/8307, 37-8307/8310, and 47-8311/8313) were built by McDonnell in kit form and were assembled in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. The first Japanese-assembled aircraft (27-8303) flew on May 12, 1972. Subsequently, Mitsubishi built 127 F-4EJs under license, the last example being delivered on May 20, 1981. This was the last Phantom built.

As built, the Mitsubishi-built Phantoms were not fitted with inflight refuelling receptacles because of the treaty restrictions that forbade Japan to acquire offensive weapons. However, the hardware needed for such a capability was delivered and stored. Eventually, the restrictions were relaxed and the standard F-4E boom receptacle was retrofitted to most F-4EJs. The JASDF is not known to have any midair refuelling aircraft, but the refuelling capabilities of the F-4EJ were used during training exercises with USAF KC-135s.

Fourteen unarmed reconnaissance versions of the F-4EJ were built by McDonnell and delivered to the JASDF between November 1974 and June 1975. They were designated RF-4EJ. They were virtually identical to the USAF RF-4C, with the only differences being the deletion of certain equipment such as the radar homing and warning suite.

The F-4EJ first entered service with the JASDF in August of 1972. In the JASDF, six interceptor squadrons (hikotai) have operated the F-4EJ. These were the 301st, 302nd, 303rd, 304th, 305th, and 306th. The RF-4EJ was operated by the 501st Hikotai.

Throughout the 1980s, the force of 140 F-4EJs gradually dwindled by attrition and reached 125 in 1992. Conversions to the F-15J began in the late 1980s. Since 1984, a major SLEP (Service Life Extension Program) was undertaken in which most JASDF F-4EJs were upgraded to F-4EJ Kai standards.

Republic of Korea Air Force

Spanish Air Force

Turkish Air Force

169 F-4E in services

External link


Related content
Similar aircraft
Designation series (USN Pre-1962)

FH - F2H - F3H - F4H

Designation series (USAF Pre-1962)

F-106 - YF-107 - XF-108 - F-110 - F-111 - F-117

Designation series (Post-1962)

F-1 - F-2 - F-3 - F-4 - F-5 - F-6 - F-7

Related lists List of military aircraft of the United States - List of fighter aircraft

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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