Phantom Phacts History

The McDonnell Douglas Phantom was the United States front line Fighter aircraft for over two decades. A total of 5,057 were produced in the United States and 138 under under licensing agreement in Japan between 1959 and 1979. The Phantom served the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, United States Air Force and eleven allied nations. The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds also flew the Phantom during this period.

The Phantom was an exceptionally versatile aircraft with a maximum launch weight of 54,000lbs. For Aircraft Carrier Operations, the Phantom was rugged, fast and capable of carrying large payloads. The Phantom could penetrate deep into hostile territory and deliver up to 6,000 pounds of conventional bombs and still retain its offensive Fighter capabilities. During the Vietnam conflict, it established and maintained air superiority. U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force Phantoms achieved 277 air-to-air victories. U.S. Navy Fighter Pilots flying from Aircraft Carriers at sea established a kill ratio of 13:1 in the latter part of the conflict. The Phantom was used exclusively for air-to-ground attack and flak suppression missions throughout the theater of operations.


Engines: (2) GE J-79 after burning engines producing 17,000 pounds of thrust each
Empty weight: approximately 30,000 pounds
Maximum gross weight: 54,800 pounds for Aircraft Carrier Operations
Length: 58 feet 3 inches
Wingspan: 38 feet 5 inches (27 feet 7 inches folded)
Height: 16 feet 3 inches
Maximum speed: 1485 mph (845 mph at sea level)
Service ceiling: 62,000 feet
Combat range: 400 nautical miles
Fuel: 1,358 gallons in the fuselage, 630 gallons in the wings and 600 gallons in the centerline tank when installed. External wing tanks were also available.

Despite the imposing dimensions and a maximum takeoff weight of over 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg), the F-4 was capable of reaching a top speed of Mach 2.23 and had an initial climb rate of over 41,000 feet per minute (210 m/s). Shortly after its introduction, the Phantom set 16 world records, including an absolute speed record of 1,616.342 miles per hour (2,585.086 km/h), and an absolute altitude record of 98,557 feet (30,040 m). Although set in 1959-1962, five of the speed records were not broken until 1975.

The F-4 could carry up to 18,650 pounds (8,480 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, and unguided nuclear bombs. Created when air-to-air missiles were expected to eliminate the need for close air combat, the Phantom received an internal cannon only in the definitive F-4E variant.

Due to its widespread service with the United States military and its allies and distinctive appearance, the F-4 is one of the best known icons of the Cold War. It served with distinction in the Vietnam War and Arab-Israeli conflicts, with F-4 crews achieving 393 aerial victories and completing countless ground attack sorties. It was also a capable tactical reconnaissance and Wild Weasel (suppression of enemy air defenses) platform, seeing action as late as the Gulf War.

The F-4 Phantom II was also the only aircraft used by both the USA’s flight demonstration teams. The U.S.A.F Thunderbirds (F-4E) and the U.S.N. Blue Angels (F-4J) both switched to the Phantom for the 1969 season; the Thunderbirds flew it for five seasons, the Blue Angels for six.