Hobby Master HA1901 USAF McDonnell F-4D Phantom II Fighter-Bomber - Richard "Steve" Richie, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing, Operation Linebacker II, 1972 (1:72 Scale)
"My fifth MiG kill was an exact duplicate of a syllabus mission (at Fighter Weapons School), so I had not only flown that as a student, but had taught it probably a dozen times prior to actually doing it in combat."
- Captain Richard "Steve" Richie commenting on his fifth and final aerial victory which occurred on August 28th, 1972
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 stunning 1:72 scale diecast replica of a US Air Force F-4D Phantom II fighter-bomber was piloted by Captain Richard "Steve" Richie, assigned to the 555th TFS, 432nd TFW, based out of Udon, Thailand and participating in Operation Linebacker II during 1972.
Release Date: June 2008
Original Issue Price: $49.99
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 manuevering 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