XPlus XP330098 US Navy McDonnell F-4B Phantom II Fighter-Bomber - VF-111 "Sundowners," USS Coral Sea (CV-43), 1975 (1:72 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 gorgeous 1:72 scale diecast replica of a US Navy McDonnell F-4B Phantom II Fighter-Bomber that was attached to VF-111 "Sundowners," then embarked upon the USS Coral Sea during 1975.
Release Date: June 2011
Historical Account: "Sunrise, Sunset" - The VF-111 Sundowners was a U.S. Navy fighter squadron flying the F-14 Tomcat until disestablished in 1995. The Sundowner tradition lives on in the form of VFC-111 as an aggressor squadron flying F-5Ns, it was made official in November 2006.
In October 1983, VF-111 returned to NAS Miramar following a world cruise on the maiden deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. The Sundowners accumulated over 1400 landings and 300 flight hours during the cruise.
In 1986, VF-111 accumulated over 7000 accident free flight hours and won the COMFITAEWWINGPAC Third Quarter Safety Award. The squadron earned COMCARGRU 3 and COMCARWING 15 endorsements to receive the ADM Joseph C. Clifton Award which designates the recipient as the best fighter squadron in the Navy.
In the spring of 1986, VF-111 began another busy work-up cycle, completing a successful series of training evolution and exercises in preparation for their June 1988 Pacific/Indian Ocean deployment. VF-111's seventeen month work-up was capped by a history making event, FLEETEX 88-2, the first time since World War II that a carrier, USS Carl Vinson and a battleship, USS New Jersey operated as a Battle Fleet.
VF-111's eventful 1988 deployment began in June and ended in December. It included operations in the Northern/Western Pacific, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean, providing support of tanker escorts in the Persian Gulf and included a transit of the Bering Sea, the fourth such transit in four deployments. Interoperability with U.S. and foreign air assets was stressed through exercises with the USAF Alaskan Air Command and Air Forces of Malaysia, Japan and Thailand.
In preparation for another deployment in 1990, VF-111 deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson from September to November 1989 as participants in PACEX 89. This landmark exercise had the Sundowners operating in the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan as a part of the largest naval exercise since World War II.