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Watch: Every F-4 Phantom From The First One Til’ The Last Ones Were PHAbulous

Official US Navy Photograph

Over 56 Years of Service The Phantom II Underwent Many Changes. See What They Looked Like.

When the McDonnell Corporation made the promotional film “The Record Breaking McDonnell Phantom II”, the jet was essentially brand new. The company’s F-4 had already set numerous low-level and at-altitude speed and time-to-climb records. Of course the Phantom II went on to serve the United States for 56 years and continues to serve in other countries. We have “bookend” videos- one showing the some early variants and the other the final version of the jet operated by the Navy and Marine Corps. This first film takes a look at the early record-setting flights of early Phantom II variants. Thanks to YouTuber PeriscopeFilm for uploading it.

Official US Navy Photograph

The Phantom Evolved…

The Phantom II underwent numerous changes over its service life. In Air Force service the F-4E version of the fighter was fitted with a M61 Vulcan 20 millimeter cannon. The Navy and Marine Corps never did adopt a variant with an internal gun, but their F-4s (A, B, J, N, S, and reconnaissance RF-4B models) were equipped with strengthened landing gear and structures modified to operate from aircraft carriers. Later versions of the Phantom II were equipped with maneuvering slats, more advanced radar and fire control systems, and uprated engines.

Official US Navy Photograph

Navy and Marine Corps F-4N and F-4S models were upgraded previously manufactured F-4B and F-4J models respectively. They received “smokeless” engines and other modifications that allowed them to remain viable during the late 1970s and 1980s. As Navy squadrons transitioned to the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Naval Reserve units continued to fly Phantom IIs. Fighter Squadron ONE SIX ONE (VF-161) Chargers were the last active-duty squadron equipped with the F-4S Phantom II. They flew them off the carrier USS Midway (CVA-41) for the last time on March 24th 1986. The Phantom finally retired at the end of 2016.  Fittingly, their last flights involved supersonic flight and sonic booms. This video of the Chargers was uploaded by YouTuber iproducevideo.

Official US Navy Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.