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Phantom Phiftieth Anniversary | Photos

At a time when jet aircraft were said to lack character in comparison to their piston-engined forbears, the F-4 Phantom II had character in spades. With its polyhedral wings, massive intakes for the great J79 jet engines, huge radar, seemingly vestigial cockpit, and anhedral tail, the Phantom was an unforgettably brutal design. It also boasted incomparable performance, with a radar and missile combo that outperformed virtually all other systems of its era. It broke 15 performance records when it was first entering the inventory in 1959, including the world absolute speed and absolute altitude records for aircraft of its class.

The most numerous American jet fighter aircraft of all time, with more than 5,000 built, the Phantom II served with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Air Force, as well as 11 other nations. While the last U.S. Phantom was retired from service in 1996, it is still flown as a remotely-controlled target for the U.S. Air Force, and flies in the armed forces of seven countries.

While the Phantom II first flew in 1958 and was first delivered to the Navy in December 1960, VF-74 “Bedevilers” at NAS Oceana became the first deployable Phantom squadron the following year, receiving their F4H-1s (later redesignated F-4Bs on order of then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) on July 8, 1961.

This first of several slide shows celebrating the Phantom is devoted to the initial users, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

For more Phantom photos, see F-4 Phantom 50th Anniversary.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-26117">
    Joe Connolly

    On the SUNDOWNER shot. You have the the wrong year. This shot was taken during the squadron’s deployment on the USS CORAL SEA 11/71 to 6/72

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-26119">

    Appreciate your correction. We’ve made the fix.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-58973">

    VF-151 WAS NOT the last Navy squadron to fly the F-4 from a carrier.

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-59136">

    I believe it was the last operational squadron to fly the F-4 from a carrier. An F-4S from VF-151 made the last launch from USS Midway and and along with eight other VF-151 Phantom IIs, recovered at Atsugi, Japan. The nine Phantoms then flew across the Pacific to North Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I think you’re thinking of the VF-202 Phantom that recovered aboard USS America later in October 1986. The thing is, I can’t find a reference to it launching again from the carrier, and I don’t know whether VF-202 officially part of the air group or had a full squadron aboard. I’d be interested in hearing more.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-201871">
    Ronald R Wallace

    could you be referring to VF-102

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-201899">

    You mean with respect to the last Phantom II to trap aboard a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier? No, I meant VF-202. But if I’m wrong I’m happy to be provided the evidence.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-201951">
    Ronald R Wallace

    I’m not trying to challenge you, I was just wondering if their was a type “O”, I ask because I served in VF-102 from 1966 – 1970 Aboard the America, just trying to keep up. Thank You for your patients
    Ron W

    li class="comment byuser comment-author-chuck-oldham bypostauthor odd alt thread-odd thread-alt depth-1" id="comment-201963">

    Ron, I hope I didn’t give the impression that I was taking it as a challenge or being combative. I feel pretty comfortable with it being a VF-202 F-4S that made the last trap, but there were Navy and Marine Corps Phantoms flying around long after that, and it could be that one of them trapped aboard a carrier and I’m just not aware of it. One of the good things about the internet is that sometimes you hear from people who were actually there and can contradict the accepted wisdom about events. When that happens, it’s news in itself and always interesting. Thanks for your comment and hope you’ll keep visiting the site.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-202067">
    Ronald R Wallace

    Thank You for you kind letter and update, I sure enjoy old stories, Keep up the great work
    Ron W.