Armour Collection B11E387 USAF McDonnell F-4D Phantom II Fighter-Bomber - Richard "Steve" Richie, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing, Operation Linebacker II, 1972 (1:48 Scale)
"Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Vietnam was lost in the living rooms of America - not on the battlefields of Vietnam."
- Marshal McLuhan
Known as the "MiG Killer," the F-4 Phantom was an unlikely hero given its unique design. Unlike traditionally smaller and sleeker single-seat fighters, the Phantom broke all the rules. It was huge, had bent wings, and a two-man crew, and was one of the first aircraft to carry missile armament. Blasting off the decks of carriers armed to the teeth, the F-4 Phantom was considered the elite fighter-bomber of the Vietnam War, and produced the Navy's only aces of the conflict. Equipped with far-reaching radar, the Phantom was designed to spot bogies from a great distance, and take them out with radar-guided air-to-air missiles like the Sparrow and Sidewinder.
Pictured here is a stunning 1:48 scale diecast replica of a US Air Force F-4D Phantom II was plioted by Richard "Steve" Richie, assigned to the 555th TFS, 432nd TFW, based out of Udon, Thailand and participating in Operation Linebacker II during 1972.
Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Length: 14.5 inches
Historical Account: "The Ritch get Ritcher" - Richard Stephen "Steve" Ritchie volunteered for a second combat tour in 1972 and was assigned to the 432nd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Udon RTAFB, Thailand. Flying F-4s with the famed 555th ("Triple Nickel") Tactical Fighter Squadron he shot down his first MiG-21 on 10 May 1972, scored a second victory on May 31st, a third and fourth on July 8, and a fifth on August 28. All of the aircraft he shot down were Mig-21s, and all were shot down by the much-maligned AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided air-to-air missile. Ritchie became the United States Air Force's first and only pilot ace of the Vietnam War.
An advantage that the Triple Nickle pilots had over other US aircrews was that eight of their F-4D Phantoms had the top secret APX-80 electronic set installed, known by its code-name Combat Tree. Combat Tree could read the IFF signals of the transponders built into the MiGs so that North Vietnamese GCI radar could discriminate its aircraft from that of the Americans. Displayed on a scope in the WSO's cockpit, Combat Tree gave the Phantoms the ability to identify and locate MiGs when they were still beyond visual range.
Ritchie's flight on May 10th, the first major day of air combat in Operation Linebacker, was one of two flights of the MiGCap for the morning strike force. The four Phantom crews, called Oyster flight, were all flying F-4Ds equipped with Combat Tree IFF interrogators.
At 0942, forewarned 19 minutes earlier by the EC-121 "Disco" over Laos and then by "Red Crown", the US Navy radar picket ship USS Chicago, Oyster flight engaged an equal number of MiG-21s head-on, scattering them. Ritchie, Oyster flight shot down two and nearly got the fourth, but fell victim to a MiG tactic dubbed "Kuban tactics" after those of the Soviet WWII ace Pokryshkin, in which a GCI-controlled flight of Mig-19s trailed so that they could be steered behind the American fighters maneuvering to attack the MiG-21s. The highest scoring USAF MiG killer, leading Oyster flight, was shot down and killed, despite clumsy flying by the MiG-19's. Almost simultaneously Ritchie and Debellevue rolled into a firing position behind the remaining MiG-21 of the original 4 with a radar lock, launched two Sparrows and scored a kill with the second.
On May 31st, Ritchie's second kill involved a tactical ruse in which the MiGCAP flights used the radio call signs of another wing's chaff-deploying flights on a mission northeast oh Hanoi. The fighters crossed into North Vietnam from over the Gulf of Tonkin north of Haiphong, and were warned by Red Crown of MiG-21s 40 miles southwest of their position and headed towards them. Red Crown continued to call warnings, and when the MiGs were within 15 miles and to their rear, Ritchie began a descending turn towards them. He observed them above him to his left front and continued his left turn until he was behind and below the trailing MiG. His WSO, Capt. Lawrence Pettit, acquired a "full-system lock-on" and Ritchie ripple-fired all 4 AIM-7s he was carrying. The first went out of control to the right, the next two detonated early, but the last one struck the MiG in the cockpit and split its fuselage in two (courtesy: Wikipedia).