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Aircraft: F-4C Phantom II

 F-4C Phantom II

The F-4 Phantom II was a two-seat, all-weather, long-range supersonic interceptor and fighter-bomber with twin afterburning turbojet engines. The aircraft could perform three tactical air roles — air superiority, interdiction, and close air support — as it did in Southeast Asia. First flown in May 1958, the Phantom II was originally developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense and entered service in 1961. The United States Air Force (USAF) evaluated it and in 1962, approved a USAF version. In various combinations the F-4 can carry over 18,000 pounds (8200 kg) of externally carried conventional, laser guided or nuclear bombs, rockets, air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and 20mm cannon pods. The early F-4 did not have an internal gun and was used only as a missile/bomb platform. The newer F-4E incorporated an internal 20 mm gun. Specially modified USAF Phantoms also flew reconnaissance (RF-4C) and “Wild Weasel” anti-aircraft missile suppression missions (F-4C WW). F-4s were used extensively in the Vietnam War, while later versions of the aircraft were active in the Air Force inventory well into the 1990s. Although F-4s are no longer in the USAF or Navy inventory, a few are still flown by foreign nations. The Phantom was the first multi-service 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. It has been flown by the defense forces of 11 other nations: Australia, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. McDonnell Douglas built over 5,000 F-4s, making the Phantom the record holder for the largest production run of any supersonic fighter built in the United States.

 More than 800 F-4 Phantom II aircraft are still on active duty with the defense forces of eight nations: Egypt, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey. Simultaneously 100 Phantoms that have been converted into QF-4 drones and missile targets that still serve the U.S. Navy and Air Force as weapons training. The Navy and Marine Corps F-4s were replaced by the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet. The USAF replaced the Phantom II with the F-15 Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Aviation Challenge’s aircraft is an Air Force F-4C. It first flew in the early 60s and was later assigned to 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base during the Vietnam War. On January 2, 1967, Major Philip Combies and 1st Lieutenant Lee Dutton were flying this aircraft during Operation BOLO when they shot down a North Vietnamese MiG 21. The Gold Star near the air intake commemorates this event. After the war it was transferred to several Air National Guard units. Then in 1989 it flew its last flight to Redstone Army Airfield where it was decommissioned and loaned to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center by the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In 2019 the local chapter of the Air Force Association provided the USSRC with financial support and operational expertise during the restoration of our F-4C to return the livery to replicate the appearance of this aircraft during Vietnam War operations.