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When the Midway Sent the Last Carrier-Based Phantoms to the Beach

The End of the Phantom Era Wasn’t Quite the End of Midway Magic Though

VF-151 F-4S via US Navy

USS Midway (CV-41) was the last US Navy aircraft carrier to operate the McDonnell Douglas F-4S Phantom II. On March 25th 1986 the Midway sent the Phantoms to the beach for good. She went back to sea in 1987 with McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet strike fighters instead. The two squadrons assigned to Carrier Air Wing FIVE (CVW-5) for that final Phantom cruise were Fighter Squadron ONE FIVE ONE (VF-151) Vigilantes and VF-161 Chargers. This entertaining video of these two squadrons in action was uploaded to YouTube by iproducevideo. Enjoy!

VF-161 F-4S via US Navy

The Vigilantes and Chargers flew their F-4S model Phantoms first to CVW-5’s home away from CONUS- Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi near Yokosuka in Japan. After their stop in Japan, VF-151 and VF-161 flew their jets across the Pacific to NAS North Island before being relocated to NAS Lemoore in California for transition to the F/A-18A. And so the carrier operations era for the Phantom II came to a close. VF-161 was also the last Navy squadron to operate the McDonnell F3 Demon, retiring them in September of 1964 and transitioning to the F-4B Phantom II.

VF-151 F-4S via US Navy

During that Phinal Phantom cruise, in addition to VF-151 and VF-161, CVW-5 included VA-93 Ravens and VA-56 Champions flying the Vought A-7E Corsair II, VA-115 Eagles flying the Grumman A-6E and KA-6D Intruder, VAW-115 Liberty Bells flying the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, VAQ-136 Gauntlets flying the Grumman EA-6B Prowler, and HS-12 Golden Falcons flying the Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King. Today CVW-5 is still operating primarily in the WestPac, now based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni in southern Honshu, Japan and deploying aboard the Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-78). The Midway made ten more deployments with CVW-5 before being decommissioned…and eventually made into one of the best museums on the planet.

VF-161 F-4N via US Navy

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Bill Walton

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.

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