McDonnell Aircraft Corp F4 Phantom II multi-purpose jet fighter bomber. An all-weather fleet air defense aircraft, retaining the attack capabilities. It was a missile-armed interceptor for defending the US Navy's ships and supply convoys. It could detect airborne threats at beyond visual range and direct Sparrow semi-active radar guided missiles against them. For its day the Phantom was fast betting many world speed and height records
The first F-4 took flight 27 May 1958 and it went operational in October 1961. It had a crew of two, pilot and electronic warfare officer. The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was used during the Vietnam war for strike and ground support as well as air-to-air combat. It could carry four AIM-9 Sidewinders, four Sparrow radar-guided missiles and an optional 20mm gun pod.
The USAF decided to evaluated the Phantom for interdiction, counter-air operations and close air support. On 17 January 1962 the US Air Force decided to buy the F-4 Phantom as it was far more flexible than their Republic F-105 Thunderchiefs. The USAF Phantom was designated F-4Cs and in 1965 they were Southeast Asia and the Vietnam War. On 10 July two F-4C crews shot down their first two MIG 17 jet fighters over North Vietnam with Sidewinder missiles.
Experience in the early years of the Vietnam war showed that the MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21 fighters were more manoeuvrable than the US F-4 and F-105 which had not been designed for close contact dog fights relying upon air to air missiles for their own protection. In response to this the F-4 was redesigned. The upgraded McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II first flew in June 30th 1967, It had increased manoeuvrability, an improved engine, and an internally mounted 20mm multibarrel gun with improved fire-control system.
The British Royal Navy purchased 52 F-4K Phantoms. The British Royal Air Force purchased 118 aircraft under the F-4M designation. Both were renamed FG.1 Phantom [RN] and FGR.2 Phantom [RAF].
The McDonnell F-4 Phantom was retired by the navy in 1986 but it continued to fly on with the Reserve units for many years. It took part in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf as the F-4G "Wild Weasel" variant that specialized in the suppression of enemy air defenses. The Phantom was the first multiservice aircraft, flying concurrently with the U.S. Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps.