McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom"
McDonnell Douglas F-4
All-weather fighter-bomber
Unit Cost
US$ 2.4 million
Main Operator
United States Air Force
Number Built
Click here for all pictures of the F-4 currently available

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Program Milestones
Maiden Flight
May 27, 1958
Production Start
Late 1950s
December 30, 1960
First User
United States Air Force

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Aircraft Dimensions
Wing Span
38 feet 4.5 inch (11.7 m)
63 feet 0 inch (19.2 m)
16 feet 6 inch (5.0 m)
Wing Area
530.0 square feet

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Weights
Empty Weight
30,328 lb (13,757 kg)
41,500 lb (18,825 kg)
Maximum Take-off Weight
61,795 lb (28,030 kg)
Maximum Landing Weight
36,831 lb (16,706 kg)
Fuel Capacity
1,994 US gal (7,549 l)

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom
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McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Powerplants
2 x J79-GE-17A Turbojets
17,845 lbf

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Radius & Performance
1,403 nautical miles
Combat Radius
367 nautical miles
Service Ceiling
60,000 feet (18 km)
Maximum Speed (Altitude)
Mach 2.23 (1,472 mph)
Cruise Speed
585 mph
Maximum Rate of Climb
41,300 ft/min (210 m/s)
Thrust to Weight ratio
Wing Loading
78 lb/square feet
Lift to Drag ratio
Take-off Roll
4,490 feet (1,370 m)
Landing Roll
3,680 feet (1,120 m)

Guns   Missiles
20 mm M61 gatling gun
  AIM-7 Sparrow
    AIM-120 AMRAAM
    AIM-9 Sidewinder

McDonnell Douglas F-4
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a supersonic long-range all-weather fighter-bomber operated by a crew of two. It was originally designed by McDonnell Douglas for the United States Navy. From 1960 til 1996 the aircraft was in service with the US Navy as their primary air superiority fighter and workhorse fighter-bomber for the USAF, Navy and Marine Corps during the Vietnam war. In total the aircraft has been in service with the militaries of 12 countries.

Specially designed for the US navy, the F-4 Phantom entered service in 1960. Three years later in 1963, the aircraft was adopted by the U.S. Air Force for a role as a fighter-bomber. Production of the F-4 was ceased during 1981 after which a total of 5,195 had been built. It was not until the F-15 Eagle showed-up that the longest continuous production was held by the Phantom. Interesting technical details of the F-4 were the extensive use of titanium in the airframe and the installment of an advanced pulse-doppler radar.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom
McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom
Click for a large image
Click for a large image
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When looking at the Maximum Take-off Weight of over 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg), it might look like the aircraft is slow and lumbering. Despite its MTOW, the F-4 was capable of reaching a top speed of Mach 2.23 with an initial climb rate of over 41,000 feet per minute (210 m/s). Short after the introduction of the Phantom, the aircraft set 15 world records, including those for absolute speed (1,606.34 mph), and absolute altitude (98,557 feet). Although these records were set in the period running from 1959 til 1962, five of these speed records were not broken until 1975.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Design
The F-4 was capable of carrying up to 18,650 pounds of weapons attached to nine external hardpoints. These weapons included air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, guided and unguided missiles, and nuclear bombs. However, the aircraft lacked the presence of an internal cannon, as was common for interceptors. The F-4 Phantom proved to be very successful during the Vietnam war and led to the adoption by both the Navy and Air Force as the primary air superiority fighter of both services. The aircraft gave competitive performance against smaller MIGs due to its large wings and powerful engines.

Super Demon
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is one of the best-known icons of the Cold War due to its widespread service with the United States military and its allies, and its distinctive appearance. The origins of the F-4 can be traced back to 1953 when a request was placed by the Navy for an upgrade of the McDonnell F3H Demon carrier-borne fighter. In the same year, McDonnell Aircraft began work on revising its F3H Demon naval fighter by seeking for expanded capabilities and better performance. Several projects were developed by the company including the F3H-E with a Wright J67 engine, the F3H-G with two Wright J65 engines, and the F3H-H with two General Electric J79 engines. The latter promised a top speed of Mach 1.97. On 19 September 1953, McDonnell approached the U.S. Navy with a proposal for the "Super Demon". The aircraft had the unique capability of being fitted with either one- or two-seat noses depending on the kind of mission to be flown. Different nose cones gave the F-4 the ability to accomodate radar, photo cameras, four 20 mm cannons, or 56 FFAR unguided rockets in addition to the nine hardpoints installed underneath the wings and fuselage. This proposal was later redesigned as the Navy felt that the upcoming Grumman XF9F-9 and Vought XF8U-1 would satisfy the need for the supersonic fighter. The new design was reworked into an all-weather fighter-bomber with 11 external hardpoints for weapons.

On October 18, 1954, McDonnell received a letter of intent for two YAH-1 prototypes. Roughly a half year later, Navy officers arrived at the McDonnell offices and presented the company with a new set of requirements. Due to the presence of the A-4 Skyhawk for ground attack and the F-8 Crusader for dogfighting, the project had to fulfill the need for an all-weather fleet defense interceptor. This required the addition of powerful radar capabilities which necessitated a second crewman.
Rockwell B-1B Lancer

XF4H-1 Prototype
The XF4H-1 prototype was powered by two J79-GE-8 engines and was able to carry four semi-recessed AAM-N-6 Sparrow III radar-guided missiles. Just as with the F-101 Voodoo, the engines were located low in the fuselage in order to maximize the internal fuel load capacity and amount of ingested air through fixed geometry intakes. The thin-section wing had a leading edge sweep of 45 degrees and was equipped with a boundary layer control system for better low-speed handling. A distinctive feature of the F-4 are its outer portions of the wings which are angled up by 12 degrees. This was done in order to avoid redesigning of the titanium central section of the aircraft. Furthermore, the wings received the so-called "dogtooth" for improved control at high angles of attack. Its all-moving tailplane was given 23 degrees of anhedral in order to improve control at high angles of attack and clear the engine exhaust. In addition, the F-4's air intakes were equipped with movable ramps to regulate airflow to the engines at supersonic speeds. In order to accommodate carrier operations the landing gear was designed for landings with a sink rate of 23 feet per second (7 m/s). If necessary, the nose strut could be extended by 20 inches (50 cm) to increase the angle of attack at take-off.

F-4 Versions

F-4A, B, N & S Variants for the US Navy and Marines. F-4B was upgraded to F-4N, and the F-4J was upgraded to F-4S
F-110 Spectre, F-4C, D & E Variants for the US Air Force. The F-4E introduced an internal M61 Vulcan cannon. The F-4D and E were widely exported.
F-4G Wild Weasel V The F-4G is a dedicated SEAD variant with updated radar and avionics. The designation F-4G was applied earlier to an entirely different Navy Phantom.
F-4K & M Variants for the British military and re-engined with Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans.
F-4EJ Simplified F-4E exported to and licence-built in Japan.
F-4F Simplified F-4E exported to Germany
F-4X The F-4X was a proposed reconnaissance variant with water injection which was capable of exceeding Mach 3.
QF-4B, E, G & N These variants are retired aircraft converted into remote-controlled target drones used for weapons and defensive systems research.
RF-4B, C & E Tactical reconnaissance variants.