Corgi Royal Navy McDonnell F-4 FG.1 Phantom II Fighter-Bomber - No. 892 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Ark Royal (R07), November 1978 (1:48 Scale)
"The winner [of an air battle] may have been determined by the amount of time, energy, thought and training an individual has previously accomplished in an effort to increase his ability as a fighter pilot."
- Lt. Randy "Duke" Cunningham
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a two-seat, twin-engined, all-weather, long-range supersonic fighter-bomber originally developed for the U.S. Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. Proving highly adaptable, it became a major part of the air wings of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force. It was used extensively by all three of these services during the Vietnam War, serving as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, as well as being important in the ground-attack and reconnaissance roles by the close of U.S. involvement in the war.
First entering service in 1960, the Phantom continued to form a major part of U.S. military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s, being gradually replaced by more modern aircraft such as the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon in the U.S. Air Force and the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet in the U.S. Navy. It remained in service in the reconnaissance and Wild Weasel roles in the 1991 Gulf War, finally leaving service in 1996. The Phantom was also operated by the armed forces of 11 other nations. Israeli Phantoms saw extensive combat in several Arab-Israeli conflicts, while Iran used its large fleet of Phantoms in the Iran-Iraq War. Phantoms remain in front line service with seven countries, and in use as an unmanned target in the U.S. Air Force.
Phantom production ran from 1958 to 1981, with a total of 5,195 built. This extensive run makes it the second most-produced Western jet fighter, behind the famous F-86 Sabre at just under 10,000 examples.
The F-4 Phantom was designed as a fleet defense fighter for the U.S. Navy, and first entered service in 1960. By 1963, it had been adopted by the U.S. Air Force for the fighter-bomber role. When production ended in 1981, 5,195 Phantom IIs had been built, making it the most numerous American supersonic military aircraft. Until the advent of the F-15 Eagle, the F-4 also held a record for the longest continuous production for a fighter with a run of 24 years. Innovations in the F-4 included an advanced pulse-doppler radar and extensive use of titanium in its airframe.
Despite the imposing dimensions and a maximum takeoff weight of over 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg), the F-4 had a top speed of Mach 2.23 and an initial climb of over 41,000 ft per minute (210 m/s). Shortly after its introduction, the Phantom set 15 world records, including an absolute speed record of 1,606.342 mph (2,585.086 km/h), and an absolute altitude record of 98,557 ft (30,040 m). Although set in 1959-1962, five of the speed records were not broken until 1975 when the F-15 Eagle came into service.
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, guided, and nuclear bombs. Since the F-8 Crusader was to be used for close combat, the F-4 was designed, like other interceptors of the day, without an internal cannon. In a dogfight, the RIO or WSO (commonly called "backseater" or "pitter") assisted in spotting opposing fighters, visually as well as on radar. It became the primary fighter-bomber of both the Navy and Air Force by the end of the Vietnam War.
Due to its distinctive appearance and widespread service with United States military and its allies, the F-4 is one of the best-known icons of the Cold War. It served in the Vietnam War and Arab-Israeli conflicts, with American F-4 crews achieving 277 aerial victories in Southeast Asia and completing countless ground attack sorties.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a Royal Navy McDonnell F-4 FG.1 Phantom II fighter-bomber that was operated by No.892 NAS, then embarked upon the HMS Ark Royal during November 1978.
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Historical Account: "In British Hands" - Although the history of British aviation can boast many famous airplanes amongst its ranks, there can be few that were as visually striking as the mighty Phantom FG.1s of the Royal Navy, which operated from the diminutive deck of HMS Ark Royal. In the seconds prior to launch and whilst connected to the ship's steam catapult, the aircraft's nose wheel oleo would be extended to its maximum 40 inch position, giving the Phantom a distinct nose up attitude to increase the efficiency of engine thrust. With steam rising eerily from the ships deck, Navy Phantoms looked like a giant metal praying mantis, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. With maximum afterburner selected and the engine power almost melting the ship's deck, the Phantom was finally released from its shackles and roared into the air - such a spectacular experience for anyone lucky enough to see it. Although most of us will have only ever seen the operation of Ark Royal's Phantoms on video or in reference books, these iconic images left such an indelible impression that Britain's Rolls Royce Spey powered Phantoms have since become something of an enigma and still command huge enthusiast interest to this day.