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

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