The F-4 Phantom II is a high-performance fighter, attack or reconnaisance aircraft, depending on its modification. More than five thousand F-4s have been built by McDonnell-Douglas since the middle of the 1950s. Versions of this popular aircraft are in use or have been used by the U.S Air Force, Navy and Marines; by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy of Great Britain and by the Air Forces of Australia, Iran, the Republic of Korea, Israel, Germany, Japan, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Saudia Arabia.

The F-4 is named "Phantom II" in tribute to another McDonnell-built fighter, the FH-1 Phantom of World War II. Like the first Phantom, the Phantom II was conceived as a sea-based fighter. It was developed as a two-engine, two-seat, long-range, all-weather attack fighter for the U.S Navy. The first prototype was ordered in October of 1954 under the designation of AH-1. In May of 1955, the mission of the aircraft was changed to a missile-equipped fighter and the designation was changed to F4H1.

The first model of the Phantom II flew in May of 1958. Designed to achieve Mach 2, the twin turbojet-powered aircraft reached Mach 2.6. Through the years, the manufacturer has been able to build into the basic F-4 airframe specific equipment and technology required by different customers. A look at the modifications to date will illustrate the fact.

F-4A - Redesignation of the F-4H1. Several F-4As were upgraded to meet the standards of the F-4B.

F-4B - The standard all-weather fighter developed for the U.S Navy and Marines. A reconnaissance version of this aircraft, the RF-4B, was produced for the U.S Marine Corps beginning in March 1965.

F-4C - Once called the F-110A, this model was a two-seat fighter developed for the U.S Air Force from the F-4B. The Air Force model has different tires and larger brakes than the Navy model, but it retained the folding wings and the arrestor hook typical of carrier-borne aircraft.

RF-4C - Reconnaissance version of the F-4C. Several hundred were built, and many are now being used by the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units.

F-4D - Showed new technology in improved radar, weapons and navigation instruments. Widely used in Vietnam War.

F-4E - This version was designed to fill many roles for the U.S Air Force, including air support, close support for ground troops and interdiction-interference with enemy movements. Pilots of the F-4D had complained that they had missed many chances to shoot down enemy MIGs at close range because the F-4D was armed only with missiles. The E version begun in 1967 answered this critiscism by coming equipped with internal 20-mm guns for close work against enemy aircraft and additional fuel cells to improve flying time. The Air Force aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, at one time flew the F-4E, as do the Israeli and Australian air forces.

F-4EJ - This version of the F-4E, begun in 1971, is built in Japan under license from the American manufacturer. It is used solely by the Japanese Defense Force.

F-4E(F) - This is a lightweight version of the F-4E. It is a single seat fighter that was designed for the Federal Republic of Germany (former West Germany).

RF-4E - Also built for the Federal Republic of Germany, this reconnaissance version of the F-4E has better engines than the RF-4C and improved technology in its reconnaissance systems.

F-4G - A development of the F-4B built for the U.S Navy, this version is equipped with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) communications equipment. It has been in service since 1966.

F-4J - Built for the U.S Navy and Marine Corps, this version is an interceptor with ground attack capability. The Navy aerial demonstration, the Blue Angels, flew this aircraft.

F-4K - A development of the F-4B designed for the British Royal Navy. It has improvements similar to the J model, but is shorter.

F-4M - Built for the British Royal Air Force, it is to the F-4K what the U.S Air Force's F-4C was to the Navy's F-4B.

F-4N - An updating of the F-4B for the U.S Navy.

This listing shows the versatility possible with a sound basic aircraft design. The ability to fit new technology to the basic airplane, and to change it to suit specific needs of different users, has made it possible for the the aircraft manufacturer to prolong the life of the F-4 for more than 20 years. The final F-4 produced by McDonnell-Douglas was completed in 1979. However, 138 more were manufactured by Mitsubishi in Japan during 1980 and 1981.

SOURCE: "Aerospace: The Challenge" Second Edition 1983

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