Our F-4A Phantom II Bu No. 148273
HISTORY OF THIS AIRCRAFT
The F-4 on display was not originally an F-4A. She started life as a pre-production F4H-1, and was upgraded to F-4A standard. Only 45 F-4As were built before production switched over to the F-4B. Most of the 45 F-4As built served in research and training roles, and very few ever reached squadron service as they were not considered fully operational. Aircraft from Block 3 onward served in the East Coat and West Coast Replacement Air Groups to train crews and to perfect operational techniques.
The F-4 was delivered to the Air Victory Museum by heavy left helicopter from Lakehurst, NJ. Since she had been sitting for an extended period of time, the paint was rather worn and faded. We have re-painted the aircraft in the colors of VF-84, the "Jolly Rogers".
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II started life as a single seat twin engine "all purpose" aircraft armed with 4 20 mm cannons, Sparrow missiles and 11 hard points to carry anything. Four weeks after the Navy approved the design the Navy decided they wanted a "fleet defense interceptor" armed only with missiles. Thus started the life of an airplane that over 5000 of all types were built. Not bad for a design that started in 1953!
The F4H-1 was the initial production version of the Phantom for the United States Navy. Since the J79-GE-8s originally intended for the Phantom were still not available, the first 45 F4H-1s which had been ordered were powered by a pair of 16,150 lb.s.t. Afterburning J79-GE-2 or -2A engines. In order to distinguish these planes from later models powered by -8 engines, on May 1, 1961 they were redesignated F4H-1F, the F indicating the use of a special powerplant.
Among the external changes introduced on the F4H-1 was the introduction of a pair of plain pitot inlets for the air-conditioning system, which replaced the flush-mounted recessed ram intakes of the two prototypes.
These were mounted on the forward nose just behind the radome. They stood away from the fuselage skin, producing more drag than the flush-mounted units of the two prototypes. However, the increased pressure recovery was deemed to be worth the extra drag.
Initial carrier trials were carried out by BuNo 143391, which was first launched and recovered aboard the USS Independence on February 15, 1960. Board of Inspection and Survey trials began at NATC Patuxent River in July of 1960.
Among the most significant of the changes incorporated during the production run of the F4H-1 was a change in the geometry of the air intakes. This new intake geometry was first fitted to F4H-1 BuNo. 145307, the first Block 2 aircraft. The upper air intake lip extension that had been employed by earlier Phantoms was eliminated. The outer lip of the inlet now appeared straight from the side view, but sloped forward from bottom to top. The fixed splitter plates were replaced by a combination of a ten-degree variable ramp mounted aft of a fixed five-degree ramp. The inner splitter plate was made much larger and now stood 3 inches away from the wall of the fuselage. The inner splitter plate had 12,500 tiny bleed air holes on its surface through which boundary layer air was sucked by aft-facing ejectors.
The radar fitted to the early F4H-1F was the I/J-band APQ-72, but initially still with the 24-inch reflector. This radar was sometimes referred to as the AN/APQ-50 (Mod). Later, a 32-inch reflector was fitted and increased range and capacity greatly.
An AAA-4 infrared search and tracking sensor was added in a prominent bulge underneath the radome. It was fitted (or retrofitted) from F4H-1F number 5 (143390) onward. This sensor was only the second IR sensor to enter service outside the USSR. It required radar data for range information.
A retractable in-flight refueling probe was added to the right side of the cockpit. When retracted it was almost invisible, but when extended it protruded out about four feet to the right of the windshield. The mounting of this probe required the elimination of the right console in the rear cockpit and the redistribution of some instruments.
BuNo 145310 (the ninth F4H-1F and the fourth production machine) was fitted with multiple bomb racks which enabled it to carry as many as 22 500-pound bombs underneath the fuselage and inner wing sections. However, the Phantom was at that time viewed primarily as a shipboard interceptor with only a secondary attack capability, and this system was not adopted for production F-4As or Bs. However, it led later to the F-4C tactical fighter for the USAF.
In service, most late F-4As incorporating all of these changes were re-engined with J79-GE-8 engines rated at 10,900 pounds of thrust "dry" and 17,000 pounds thrust with afterburning. This increased thrust more than made up for the increased drag produced by the higher canopy. The Phantom had a thrust/weight ratio that had never before been achieved by any fighter, and a ratio exceeding 1:1 was often achievable in practice, enabling the aircraft to continue to accelerate while traveling straight up.
On September 5, 1960, Marine Lt.Col. Thomas H. Miller used F4H-1 BuNo 145311 to set a new 500-km closed-circuit speed record of 1216.78 mph. On September 25, 1960, Commander John F. "Jeff" Davis averaged 1390.21 mph over a 100-km closed course 45,000 feet over the Mojave Desert.
Only a handful of F-4As remain in existence. 143388 is in the US Marine Corps Museum and 148275 (the last F-4A built) is at the US Naval Academy. 145307 is presumably kept at the Paul Garber facility, awaiting a suitable display location.