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the phantomDid you think, as I did, that the TFX/F-111 was Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's only joint-service aircraft project? No, there were two others: the F-4 Phantom II and the A-7 Corsair II, US Navy fighters more or less forced upon, but eventually enthusiastically adopted by, the US Air Force.

I volunteer as a walking tour docent at Tucson's Pima Air & Space Museum, where I tell visitors about the USAF F-4E we have on display inside the main hangar. Visitors who take our outdoor tram tour get to see two earlier Vietnam-era models, a Navy F-4J and an Air Force F-4C. I came into the USAF when the F-4 was king, and though I never had to opportunity to fly it I've always been interested in the Phantom II, especially the differences between early and late models of the aircraft.

The original McDonnell Aircraft concept for the fighter that eventually became the F-4 was a radical one. The F3H-G Super Demon, as it was then called, was to be a modular attack fighter: depending on mission requirements it would be fitted with a single- or two-seat cockpit, as well as a variety of interchangeable nose sections housing radar, cameras, cannon, or rockets. You can see many of the design features that eventually found their way into the F-4 Phantom II in the 1954 mockup, below.

McDonnell F3H-G mockup, 1954 (photo: National Museum of Naval Aviation)

The Navy decided to develop the proposed aircraft as an all-weather fleet defense interceptor, settled on a two-seat configuration, and gave McDonnell Aircraft the go-ahead in 1955. During development, engineers added the three visible features most people associate with the F-4 today: the upward-angled outer wing sections, the downward-angled horizontal stabilizers, and the complex inlet ramps. Wind tunnel testing had shown the need for wing dihedral, but since the central fuselage and wing box had already been designed, it was easier to tip up the outer wing sections to achieve dihedral than to scrap the tooling for the central section of the aircraft (the outer wing sections also got their distinctive "dogtooth" at this time). Wind tunnel tests showed that the original flat horizontal stabilizers would be ineffective at high angles of attack due to turbulent airflow coming off the wings, so they were canted downward. To control airflow to the engines at varying altitudes, airspeeds, and angles of attack, movable inlet ramps were added to the engine intakes.

At some point in the development process the aircraft was formally designated the F4H-1. The Navy toyed with the names Satan (can you imagine anyone even suggesting a name like that today?) and Mithras, but eventually settled on Phantom II, after the original McDonnell FH-1 Phantom. The first prototype flew on 27 May 1958; the Navy began testing the aircraft in 1959.

US Navy F4H-1F, 1961 (photo: US Navy)

As shown in the above photo, the earliest F-4s had small radomes, a somewhat different engine inlet design, and a rear cockpit with limited visibility (the seat was on the same level as the one in the forward cockpit, buried down between the engine inlets, with a flat canopy overhead). There were of course many less visible differences as well. Although the Navy initially saw the new aircraft as a fleet defense interceptor, as delivered the F-4 incorporated a robust air-to-ground capability. The Navy began flying the F4H-1 operationally in December 1960, and by 1962 was flying the more recognizable (to today's eyes) F-4B with its larger radome, redesigned inlets, and raised rear cockpit, which were also characteristic of the USAF's first version of the Phantom, the F-4C shown below.

USAF F-4C and AIM-7 Sparrow missile, Pima Air & Space Museum (photo: Paul Woodford)

In 1962 Robert McNamara directed the USAF to adopt the F-4. Initially the USAF thought of the new jet as a continuation of the Century series and for a short time called it the F-110 Spectre. Since McNamara (what, him again?) had ordered the services to unify their aircraft designations, the USAF's F-110 Spectre became the F-4C Phantom II. Unlike the Navy, the USAF from the first planned to employ the new aircraft as a fighter/bomber, flying air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The USAF began flying the F-4 operationally in 1964.

Our Vietnam-era USAF F-4C, like the Navy F-4B version, has the radome/inlet/cockpit & canopy configuration we're familiar with today. Like the naval versions, it could carry an air-to-air load of four medium range AIM-7 radar-guided missiles and four short range AIM-9 heat-seeking missiles, plus external fuel tanks. In the air-to-ground configuration it could carry up to 18,000 pounds of a wide variety of ordnance, or a mixed load with AIM-9s for self-defense. Neither the Air Force nor Navy (including Marine Corps) versions had internal guns or cannon.

The most significant difference between the services' Phantom IIs is not visible from the outside. Navy F-4s did not have flight controls in the rear cockpit, which was occupied by a RIO (radar intercept officer) whose primary flight duty was to operate the fire control system and radar missiles. The Air Force versions have always had duplicate flight controls in the rear cockpit, and for the first few years the USAF assigned rated pilots to both seats (though, as with the Navy, the rear-seater's primary function was to operate the FCS and radar missiles).

F-4 gun pod Clive Camm
SUU-23/A gun pod, AIM-9 Sidewinders, AIM-7 Sparrows (photo: Clive Camm, Flickr)

During the 1950s the US military built and deployed a number of fighter and interceptor aircraft that did not incorporate guns or cannon: the thinking of the time was that with the advent of radar- and infrared-guided air-to-air missiles the turning dogfight was a thing of the past. In actuality, however, early missiles (especially the longer-range radar-guided missiles) were extremely unreliable, and by the time aircrews visually identified their foe they were almost always too close to fire radar missiles and consequently had to maneuver behind the enemy in order to fire heat-seekers. In other words, to down an enemy aircraft in actual combat, F-4 aircrews had to engage in turning dogfights after all, where the lack of a gun put them at a real disadvantage.

One solution was to carry a podded gun, at least on USAF and, later, USMC F-4s. Initially, 20mm M61 Vulcan Gatling cannons were carried on the centerline station in an SUU-16 pod. USAF F-4s did not have lead computing gunsights in the cockpit, however, and this weapon was inaccurate. Later, with M61s mounted in SUU-23 pods like the one in the photo above, lead computing gunsights were added and the gun became more lethal. In the later years of the Vietnam conflict, with the introduction of the USAF's F-4E model, the Phantom II finally had an internally-mounted M61, firing through a housing mounted below the radome. The USAF was the only operator of the F-4E: USMC F-4s continued to use podded guns, sometimes mounting two SUU-16s for strafing ground targets; I can find no evidence the Navy ever used gun pods on its F-4s.

USAF F-4E (photo: USAF)

You can see the modified radome and M61 cannon barrel housing on the beautifully-restored USAF F-4E in the above photo. Later USAF F-4Es benefitted from some F-15 Eagle design features, mostly in the fire control system and cockpit avionics, but one visible F-15 feature adapted to the F-4E was the external aft-pivoting centerline fuel tank, designed to separate cleanly and safely when jettisoned.

The Navy had replaced all of its F-4Ns with F-14 Tomcats by 1984, and replaced the last of its F-4S models with F/A-18s in 1986. The USMC retired the last of its Phantom IIs in 1992, when they completed the transition to the F/A-18 Hornet.

When I started flying the F-15 Eagle in 1978, it was replacing the last of the active Air Force F-4Es at operating units in the USA, Europe, and Japan. F-4Es continued to fly in the Air National Guard until 1990. A SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses) version of the Phantom II, the F-4G Wild Weasel, flew combat missions for the USAF in Desert Storm in the early 1990s, and did not retire until 1996.

No, I haven't forgotten the tactical reconnaissance versions of the F-4, the RF-4B operated by the USMC and the RF-4C & E models operated by the USAF. Here's a nice-looking RF-4C, showing some details of its camera nose.

McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II
RF-4C (photo: unknown)

Over the years several allied nation air forces operated export versions of the F-4: Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran (oops), Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. To my knowledge, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey are still flying their F-4s.

The Boneyard, more properly known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, is located adjacent to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, right across the street from the Pima Air & Space Museum. It contains acres and acres of F-4s. Occasionally one will be taken out of long-term storage, refurbished, test flown, and ferried to an allied nation to replace an F-4 lost to attrition. This explains the single F-4s we still sometimes see flying over Tucson, always a magnificent sight.

phantoms in boneyard
Phantoms in the Boneyard (photo: USAF)

Other long-term storage F-4Es are being converted into remotely-piloted target drones. QF-4Es fly out of two operating locations, Tyndall AFB in Florida and Holloman AFB in New Mexico. When they fly as targets, of course, they are unmanned, as in the photo below. Six QF-4Es have been repainted in camouflage schemes from the F-4’s operational service, four at Tyndall and two at Holloman, to support airshows and USAF-organized heritage flights. These QF-4Es, of course, are flown manned. It cheers me up to know there are still a few F-4 aircrews earning a living flying this famous fighter.

QF-4 target drone
USAF QF-4E drone (photo: unknown)

Update (9/24/13): The last QF-4 drone conversion was completed earlier this year. The Boneyard is currently converting older F-16 into QF-16 drones; the first one flew at Tyndall AFB in Florida last week.


Originally posted to pwoodford on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Baja Arizona Kossacks, Kossack Air Force, Aviation & Pilots, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Whenever an F-4 flies over, (9+ / 0-)

    I'm struck by how loud they are. I guess I've been spoiled by the relatively quiet A-10s.

    The free market is not the solution, the free market is the problem.

    by Azazello on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:10:24 AM PDT

  •  I heard the Fantom once described as (9+ / 0-)

    proof that if you have enough power you can make a brick fly. Always thought that a little ungenerous but suspect it had a kernel of truth.

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:29:36 AM PDT

  •  I wonder how many know why (4+ / 0-)

    wings have dihedral built into them .

    I've asked a few people and they come up with some very interesting ideas .

    Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11

    by indycam on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:39:37 AM PDT

    •  It's due to stability requirements and (5+ / 0-)

      control response. High wings usually have anhedral, because with the CM below they are too stable, so the Anhedral makes them less stable and easier to roll; Think of the F-8 Crusader and Harrier.

      Dihedral usually adds stability in a low wing to dampen the roll rate with the CM above it. Think Piper Warrior.

      I'm over simplifying it somewhat but that's what it is there for, the dynamics and stability.

      As for the Phantom, the reason the tails have a large amount of anhedral is the vertical tail didn't provide enough stability at high speed. So, rather than increase the size of the vertical tail, which would add weight, drag, and cost, they just put a large amount of anhedral in the stabilators to make up for it.

      Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

      by Alumbrados on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 01:25:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "High wings usually have anhedral, " (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Robert Helmuth, RiveroftheWest

        Not so much .
        Cessna 172 , 150 , 182 ...

        Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11

        by indycam on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 01:53:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  What I'd seen about the anhedral tail was.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, KenBee, lazybum

        At a high angle of attack (nose high) the early horizontal elevators were too much in the air flow coming off the wing, and lost effectiveness. Angling them down put them where they could still 'bite' the air to provide control.

        "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

        by xaxnar on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 03:09:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly. Anhedral puts the slab in clean air (6+ / 0-)

          at high angles of attack where turbulent air off the wing blocks the slab's effectiveness.

          Dihedral is an aid to roll stability. A flat wing puts the center of lift below and widely spaced from the center of gravity. This creates a rolling moment in a turn. In worst case scenarios the aircraft will want to continue in a roll as the aircraft turns. Think of a heavily loaded wheel barrow that you are trying to turn. It comes down to a handling qualities issue where designing for high roll rate runs into negative roll stability and a balance must be found.

          High dihedral angles place the center of lift closer to, or above, the center of gravity to create positive roll stability. An aircraft with strong positive roll stability will tend to roll out of a bank when the ailerons are neutralized. The result is an aircraft with a slow roll rate but great stability. This is good quality in low speed GA aircraft and transports. Fighters rely on high roll rates where designers will accept neutral to negative roll stability to attain it. Computerized flight control can keep up with and tame the poor handling qualities that result.

          Anhedral is essentially the opposite when speaking about wings. A high wing aircraft with anhedral will tend to roll faster and have less roll stability than one with dihedral. The reverse happens with a low wing aircraft. Again think wheel barrow as opposed to a formula one car with a very low center of gravity with respect to its axles.

          It's all much easier with diagrams. ;-)

          Time makes more converts than reason. Thomas Paine, Common Sense

          by VTCC73 on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:15:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I got a ride in an F-4D once (11+ / 0-)

    I was still a ROTC cadet and they stuffed me into the back seat of one at Homestead AFB. It would have been sometime around 1983.

    Surprisingly enough I didn't puke my guts out.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:50:23 AM PDT

  •  At Hill AFB, 1976-7... (11+ / 0-) father managed to wrangle me a backseat ride in the F-4 simulator. I was 8 or 9 at the time and I thought that was the coolest thing.
    Hill was just starting to take delivery of the F-16 at the time and most people were focused on the shiny new object. But as I was growing up, F-4s were everywhere, every base we went to. What a workhorse, and for so many years. When I started to hear that afterburner less and less, my world was changing.
    My father got out of uniform when the tour at Hill AFB ended, and started working for the AF as a civilian.

    Everybody got to elevate from the norm....

    by Icicle68 on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 11:50:41 AM PDT

  •  Well liked plane (4+ / 0-)

    I know two Vietnam era F4 jockeys and they always say it was their favorite plane.

  •  If you would like more info on it's development... (8+ / 0-)

    Check out Tommy Thomason's blog. He goes into great detail on many of the elements, such as the evolution of the stabilators, etc. In fact, it looks like he just put up a post on the early designations.

    Also, I noticed you mentioned how the USAF ended up using the A-7 as well. If you want to get more into detail on how that came about, I have an excellent reference below on the development of the FX program. That's what eventually became the F-15. The USAF had to choose between the F-5 and the A-7, but they knew they wanted their new high end fighter program as well. They thought by going along with the "common use" idea by going with the A-7 would keep them in good stead with the DefSec. They wanted to save their political battles for the FX.

    It also gets into partly how Boyd helped them with the FX (EM) and how it went from a swing wing design to a fixed wing design. Swing wings were all the rage in the 60's, but the USAF feared if their FX was a swing wing they would be forced to take the Navy design again, the F-14, with all of the drawbacks that places on the USAF.

    The F-15 Eagle: Origins and Development 1964-1972

    Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

    by Alumbrados on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 01:15:23 PM PDT

    •  Excellent resources, thanks. (4+ / 0-)

      I'm going to write about the F-15 soon, and the paper on its development will be very useful.

      •  I've started to write a diary on the development.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, RiveroftheWest

        ...of the Blackbird, starting with the history that lead to it's development; Rainbow to Gusto to Oxcart and the development of the A-12 will be the first part. I'll also include information on their main competitor, Convair and some information on their Fish/Kingfish series of designs.

        The second part will be on all of the derivatives of the Blackbird series, those built and those proposed, and the performance the family actually achieved, i.e., how much the + is in Mach 3+. I'll also provide some info on their missions flown and why it was ultimately retired.

        Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

        by Alumbrados on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 10:35:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've held off on an SR-71 diary ... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Alumbrados

          and definitely will now. Looking forward to reading yours. I may do something on the U-2. Some time back I did a short diary on a lesser-known Kelly Johnson Skunk Works project, the YO-3A Quietstar, which in its day was as classified as the Blackbird. I never got around to cross-posting that diary on dKos ... it's on my personal blog, and it was also my first Air-Minded post. Here's the link:

          •  I'll check it out, as I always liked the design... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ..and not too long ago I read an article on it's development and the testing they did out in the desert, specifically related to it's acoustic signature.

            If you're into aircraft design, you may like the Secret Projects site. My degree is in Aeronautical Engineering, but I don't work in the industry. However, I still love aircraft design and that site is one of my favorites. However, we discuss current aerospace programs and variants of aircraft that were never built as well. One of my favorite unbuilt variants is the Mach 3 recon phantom for the Israeli's.

            Regulated capital serves the people, unregulated capital serves itself.

            by Alumbrados on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 03:14:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Swing wings (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Alumbrados, KenBee

      were kind of the hot setup in the late 60's and early 70's (F-111, F-14, MiG-23, B-1).

      It seemed like a great idea at the time,  but it adds a whole lot of weight and complexity to the airplane. The wing pivots alone are quite heavy.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 06:44:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A few more Phantom details (6+ / 0-)

    Vietnam was a real turning point for fighter design. I've been reading over again Boyd: the Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War by Robert Coram, and it does not have a lot of good things to say about the Phantom or the idea that missiles made guns unnecessary. The book refers to the Phantom as a Navy plane that was forced on the Air Force. Two-man crews and twin engines are more to a Navy taste than the Air Force.

    In Korea, the U.S. had an exchange rate of 1 F-86 loss to every 10 Migs; by Vietnam that had changed to 1:1 for a time. Part of it was due to really poor missile performance - they had a limited range of conditions where they could reliably lock on target and be fired - if they worked at all. Part of it was due to the fact that the Migs being flown against F-105s and F-4s were far more agile under most conditions. Boyd's work on the dynamics of flight (Energy-Maneuverability theory) and his formalization of air combat maneuvers (pdf) were eventually put to use by pilots to develop tactics that allowed the Phantom to take on the Migs more effectively.

    The F-15 and the F-16 were heavily influenced by lessons from the Phantom - and Boyd. It was the product of an era when the top brass were fixated on planes that could go higher, farther, faster - but couldn't maneuver worth a damn in combat, which mostly happens at subsonic speeds and close in. That's one reason why both the F-15 and the F-16 were built with cannons as part of the design, and not kludged in later, as on the F-4.

          The Blue Angels flew Phantoms for a time, as did the Air Force Thunderbirds; the Navy eventually downsized to A4-F Skyhawks in part because the Phantoms needed a lot of airspace to maneuver, and the Skyhawks were a bit more cost effective to operate.

    One interesting detail about the Phantom is that the wing leading edges and trailing flap edges have a stream of bleed air from the engine to keep airflow smooth at high angles of attack, which if I recall correctly, improves low speed handling. And although the top speed of the Phantom is given as Mach 2+, I believe that only applies to certain models within specific flight parameters (altitude, weight, configuration).

    If you'd like to know how a civilian can get to fly in a Phantom, take a look here.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 03:05:04 PM PDT

    •  Some F-4s had blown flaps (5+ / 0-)

      The early "hard wing" F-4s I believe had blown flaps. The later models had leading-edge slats and didn't need them.

      Other planes of that time like the F-104 and Buccaneer also ducted bleed air over the flaps.

      Several F-104s were lost due to a bleed air failure on one wing.

      There was an old ditty that went:

      Don't give me an F-104.
      With blown boundary layer control.
      One flap fails to blow and over she'll go,
      Don't give me an F-104.

      If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

      by Major Kong on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 06:52:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bet you didn't know I compiled a songbook, (5+ / 0-)

        did you? My version of Give Me Operations doesn't include the Zipper verse, which I'll forthwith add, thanks to you!

        BTW, there's a YouTube of a Luftwaffe version here, with a different F-104 verse:


        Don't give me a P-38,
        The props they counter-rotate,
        They're scattered and smitten from Burma to Britain,
        Don't give me a P-38.

        Just give me operations,
        Way out on some lonely atoll,
        For I am too young to die,
        I just want to grow old.

        Don't give me a p-39,
        The engine is mounted behind,
        They'll tumble and spin and auger you in,
        Don't give me a P-39.

        Don't give me a Peter Four-Oh,
        A hell of an airplane I know,
        A ground loopin' bastard, you're sure to get plastered,
        Don't give me a Peter Four-Oh.

        Don't give me a P-51,
        It was alright for fighting the Hun,
        But with coolant tank dry, you'll run out of sky,
        Don't give me a P-51.

        Don't give me a P-61,
        For night flyin' is no fun,
        They say it's a lark, but I'm scared of the dark,
        Don't give me a P-61.

        Don't give me an F-84,
        She's just a gound-lovin' whore,
        She'll whine, moan, and wheeze, and she'll clobber the trees,
        Don't give me an F-84.

        Don't give me an old Thunderbolt,
        It gave many a pilot a jolt,
        It looks like a jug and it flies like a tug,
        Don't give me an old Thunderbolt.

        Don't give me a jet Shooting Star,
        It'll go, but not very far.
        It'll rumble and spout, but soon will flame out,
        Don't give me a jet Shooting Star.

        Don't give me an F-86,
        With wings like broken match sticks,
        They'll zoom and they'll hover, but as for top cover,
        Don't give me an F-86.

        Don't give me an F-89,
        Though Time says they'll really climb,
        They're all in the States, all boxed up in crates,
        Don't give me an F-89.

        Don't give me an F-94,
        It's never established a score,
        It may fly in weather, but won't hold together,
        Don't give me an F-94.

        Don't give me an 86-D,
        With rockets, radar, and A/B,
        She's fast, I don't care, she blows up in midair,
        Don't give me an 86-D.

        Don't give me a C-45,
        So slow it stalls out in a dive,
        A ground loop built in it, and bird colonels in it,
        Don't give me a C-45.

        Don't give me a C-54,
        Six inches of rugs on the floor,
        And we'll go fat-cattin' from here to Manhatten,
        Don't give me a C-54.

        Don't give me a B-45,
        The pilots don't get back alive,
        The MiG-15's chase 'em, they soon will erase 'em,
        Don't give me a B-45.

        Don't give me a One-Double-Oh,
        The bastard is ready to blow,
        The A/B is there, but you're sayin' a prayer,
        Don't give me a One-Double-Oh.

        Don't give me an F-102,
        It never goes up when it's blue,
        An all-weather coffin, that flames out so often,
        Don't give me an F-102.

        Don't give me a Phantom 4C,
        Radar, co-pilot, A/B,
        It may be some fun, but it don't have a gun,
        Don't give me a Phantom 4C.

        Three versions of my songbook (NSFW), one of them a complete MS Word doc download, are here:

    •  I had Maintainer friends at George AFB (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and they had a lotta horrors stories about working on the BLC systems, apparently it was a pain in the ass to work on and were also somewhat dangerous...

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 07:08:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am one of Colonel Boyd's children ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, RiveroftheWest

      and the F-15 was my first (and only) fighter. I actually think Boyd had the F-86 in mind, a nimble single-seater from the glory days of air-to-air. I think the F-15 was less a reaction to the F-4 but to an entire mindset that had crept into fighter design and training in the 60s (no training in air combat maneuvering, heavy reliance on complex missiles, too much GCI, not enough autonomy, and above all no guns).

      Air Staff types at the Pentagon may have hated having the F-4 and A-7 forced upon them, but I've never met an Air Force F-4 or A-7 pilot who didn't love his jet. Almost all of the F-111 pilots I know (except the Aussies, who loved theirs), were lukewarm at best.

  •  Had Read Initial Designation AH-1 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, KenBee

    I had read long ago that the initial designation for the F4 series had been the AH-1 and that the Navy had initially looked at as an attack plane.  When one considers that the airframe design is essentially a massively powered brick (with enough thrust even pigs will fly, as the saying goes), one could believe that the design began life as an attack aircraft.

    "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

    by PrahaPartizan on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:34:30 PM PDT

  •  Of course, the UK Ministry of Defence and the ... (4+ / 0-)

    ...politicians had to go and mess things up! When the Phantom F-4J was ordered for the RAF and RN (F-4K, F-4M) it was demanded that the Rolls-Royce Spey be selected as the engine of choice!

    Result? An aircraft that was slower at altitude, had less range and was unique to the British inventory. About the only thing going for a Spey-engined bird was that it was faster on the deck!

    To add insult to injury, the RAF needed more fighters at one stage and had to lease 15 ex-USN F-4J aircraft, with the original engine fit! They were known as F-4J(UK) !

  •  I was an AF Weapons Officer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, KenBee, lazybum

    with some flying experience during Vietnam. The base I was on transitioned from F-100s to F4-Ds. So we loaded SUU-16 M-61 gun pods regularly. I heard thru the grapevine that in 'nam F4 jocks were used to dumping external stores if they were jumped by MIGS and the first few flights up reacted by habit and punched off the SUU-16's, then realized that they were now weaponless....but hey, they could go south fast...

    And I think I heard that when they created the F4-E With the internal 20mm M61 Vulcan Cannon, the first tests revealed that the spent brass (I have a few here on my desk....) drifted back and beat the shit out of the Stabilators....and also that on some early models, rapid fire of the M61 created enough blowback gas from the Gatling gun that pressure rose in the nose and the gun access ports sometimes blew off from internal pressures.....

    Fun and games on an active base....

    Without geometry, life is pointless. And blues harmonica players suck.

    by blindcynic on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:36:17 PM PDT

  •  Point Mugu Navy base park (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    uhas an F14 and an F4 and several missles.

    And a happy spot for a Blackbird to cage the visitors for lunch.

    Flowers at the base of it....

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 01:09:22 AM PDT

  •  The F4 is the loudest thing I've ever heard. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, RiveroftheWest

    Scrambled on alert from Moody AFB, after burner take off's, they were just unbelievably loud.

    •  Just be grateful (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, The Jester

      we've killed off most of these critters:

      The call of the blue whale reaches levels up to 188 decibels. This extraordinarily loud whistle can be heard for hundreds of miles underwater. Theoretical calculations by Roger Payne and Douglas Webb (from the 1970's) predicted that the loudest whale sounds might be transmitted across an entire ocean. The blue whale is much louder than a jet, which reaches only 140 decibels!
      or you'd be totally deaf by now!
      •  Blue Whales: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I have no doubt that they do emit very loud sounds, but those sounds are of quite low frequency, are emitted in water, not air, and are therefore of no danger to human beings.  

        Comparing the sound of a blue whale in water to the sound of a jet engine in air is to compare apples and oranges.  The sounds are emitted in different mediums and have different frequency characteristics.  Being close to an operating jet engine can damage your ears (which is why airport tarmac workers use hearing protectors); being in the water in the vicinity of a vocalizing whale will cause you no harm.

  •  beating out the F-15 as late as 1988 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    “It was a widely held belief that a WIZO, marking the scope with a grease pencil, could still do a better job than an F-15 with all the new stuff they had,” he said.
    (Linky goodness)

    Proof that youth and vigor can't outdo age and treachery, LOL

    We haven't met but you're a great fan of mine

    by Great Cthulhu on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 11:42:46 AM PDT

  •  Thanks to the Rescue Rangers! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I missed this on Sunday.  Great story about an important if ungainly bird.  

    IIRC McNamara was embarrassed by not knowing the difference between the F-110 Specter and the F4H-1 Phantom II (mostly the name).  Thus ordering the unified aircraft designation system.

    The Phantom flies supersonically almost in defiance of the Area Rule (coke bottle shape), there is almost no reduction in the fuselage cross-section to allow for the addition of the wing area.  

    When I lived near Carswell AFB, I was surprised at how much noisier the single engine F-105 was compared to the8 engine B-52..

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 07:58:46 PM PDT

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