The McDonnell F-4 Phantom (eventually became McDonnell-Douglas and then bought by Boeing) was a tandem-seat fighter-bomber designed to fill the U.S. Navy’s fleet defense fighter role. The advent of Soviet jet bombers with long range anti-ship missiles dictated that the U. S. Navy acquire a fighter that could quickly climb and accelerate to intercept the Soviet bombers, before they could get their missiles launched against our carriers.
Despite the size and weight of the Phantom (maximum takeoff weight of over 60,000 lb), the jet fighter had a top speed of Mach 2.23 and an initial climb of over 41,000 ft/min. Not only fast, the Phantom could carry up to 18,650 pounds of ordnance, including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, and unguided, guided, and nuclear bombs. This was the selling point for the initial Air Force interest in the aircraft. However, designers believed the era of guns on aircraft was over (with the advent of long/short range missiles) and the F-4 was designed without an internal cannon.
Our F-4J served as Blue Angel number 5 (lead solo position) back in its prime. The Blue’s flew Phantoms from January 1969 to August 1973 and actually performed over Charleston Harbor in May 1970. Today Blue Angel #5 sits on the starboard catapult of the USS Yorktown (CV-10).
The F-4J was the first Navy/Marine Corp fighter to have a look down, shoot down capability and was built for combat, but it also make a crowd pleasing air show bird. Watch the Blues flying the Phantom in the clip below and you’ll also catch a view of our bird, #5, flying in the 1970s.