F-4C/D PHANTOM II gallery

The USAF ended up being the largest user of Phantom II despite not being an aircraft designed for them. In 1964, the F-4C arrived and in December of that same year they were already fighting in Vietnam. At first, the F-4C were driven by two pilots, but after a while, the back seat was occupied by the so-called “Air Force Navigator”, or later, “weapon systems officer or WSO”. The WSO had controls and some flight instruments to handle the aircraft in case of emergency.
Although F-4C maintained good air-to-air combat capacities, the USAF decided to use them in ground-attack missions. Its armament range included AIM-4 Falcon air-to-air missiles, AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground missiles and the full range of available bombs, including some nuclear ones. The engines were the General Electric J79-GE-15 of identical performance that installed in the naval F-4B variant.
F-4C maintained some equipment from the naval variant as the folding wings or the arrester hook. It was intended not to modify the naval version more than strictly necessary. On Vietnam War 370 USAF’s F-4C, D and E were shot down. They reached more than 100 aerial victories over Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters. As a curiosity, note that F-4C was the first American aircraft to be shot down by both SAM and air-to-air missiles. On the other hand, they were also the first American fighter to shoot down a MiG-17 and MiG-21 enemy aircrafts.
Spain signed an agreement of collaboration with the United States on August 6, 1970, for which during 5 years the Spanish Air Force would receive an amount of F-4C surplus from the USAF. The Spanish military initially wanted the F-4E, but due to budget constraints it had to accept the F-4C variant. All aircrafts were second-hand and some had fought in the Vietnam War, but they were the most powerful aircraft that had been the Spanish Air Force to date.
Spanish F-4C‘s acquisition program comprised 36 fighters and was completed with three KC-97L tanker aircraft and two C-97 transport aircraft to provide spare parts to the previous three. The total amount was of 7,300 million pesetas, (103.4 US million dollars), of that date. All F-4Cs destined for Spain came from the USAFE’s 81 TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing), based in Bentwaters, UK, and the first arrived to Spain on February 23, 1971. The F-4Cs were designated as C.12 within the Air Force and the last aircraft was received in August 1972.
Spain sent a group of 8 pilots who operated with the F-104G and F-86F to the 4453 CCTW (Combat Crew Training Wing) based at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona. These pilots would become the instructors of the rest of pilots for the F-4C Phantom II. In addition, a flight procedure trainer system was received, and although it was not a simulator, it had the pilot and the weapon system officer positions with all flight instruments to facilitate integration of the new crews to the new aircraft.
All F-4C that arrived were conscientiously checked at a rate of two aircrafts per month. All Spanish Phantom II were framed in the 12th Wing, divided between the 121 and 122 Squadrons, which had 18 aircraft each. As an anecdote, note that the aircraft with “odd” registration were assigned to Squadron 121 and those that had “peer” registration were assigned to 122 Squadron. The main role of these aircraft was the all-weather interception and quick response operations.
The Spanish Phantoms were fully operational in 1973 and at the end of 1974, they went through their first retrofit in which the APQ-100 radar and the Litton ASN-48 inertial navigation system were upgraded. In addition, the condensation moisture problems that radar equipment usually suffered were solved. Until 1978, four aircraft were lost in accidents, which were replaced by an equal number of F-4Cs arrived from the USAF’s 58 TFTW based on Luke AFB, Arizona.
Spanish F-4Cs had AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles when they arrived, but in 1978 they received the most modern AIM-9J and then the AIM-9L. They also used the AIM-7E Sparrow and could mount up to three pods with 20mm Vulcan SUU-16A “Vulpods” guns. Since 1978 they received a number of ECM pods, as the AN/ALQ-71 and AN/ALQ-72 jamming systems. Thanks to its ground attack ability and the great payload, it was involved in the development tests of a good number of guided bombs built in Spain.
In 1985. Spanish Phantom II had accumulated a total of 53,000 flight hours in 34,440 exits. Unfortunately, four more aircrafts were lost in accidents and the end of its career seemed imminent. In addition, after being equipped with effective laser guided bombs and chaffs, this retreat was postponed for a few more years. Nevertheless, at this time its maintenance was becoming increasingly expensive and difficult due to the complexity of getting spare parts.
The last years of service, from 1985 to 1989, passed between different tactical exercises and trainings with real fire, and the alarming decrease of its operative capacity in spite of the maintenance unit efforts. Furthermore, the close reception of the first EF-18s of the “FACA” program confirmed its expected and well-deserved rest.
Finally, on February 20, 1989, all Phantoms, except six, were deactivated. These six examples were used for conversion of new pilots and weapons operators, and tow aerial targets, but on March 11, 1991, the remaining F-4Cs were definitively retired. The 40 Phantom IIs used by the Air Force made a total of 69,772 flight hours. The “flying wardrobe”, as it was affectionately named by their pilots, would no longer be seen in the Spanish skies. They left an indelible memory of those low altitude high speed passes that filled the air with the smoke of their powerful engines and the smell of JP-4 fuel.
The F-4D Phantom II was prepared specifically to operate from land bases and perform ground attack missions. This variant maintained the engines and the airframe of the F-4C but the APQ-100 radar was changed by the smaller and lighter APQ-109. In addition, the ASN-48 inertial navigation system was replaced by the ASN-63 model. They also carried the ASG-22 bombsight and the ASQ-91 weapons release computer. The first aircraft entered service in March 1966.
The main task of the F-4D during Vietnam War, consisted of attacking convoys and bases, but also performed numerous interceptions. They managed to shoot down 44 Vietnamese aircraft, especially MiG-21 Fishbed fighters. They were equipped with radar warning receivers to avoid as much as possible the effective Soviet SA-2 Guideline anti-aircraft missiles.
The F-4D was slightly faster at high altitude than F-4C, but the rest of performances were very similar. This variant remained in service until 1991 within the U.S. Air National Guard. Currently, some F-4D Phantom II remains in service with the Iranian Air Force.

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