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Patriots Point’s F-4J Phantom

Waring Hills Dec 15, 2011

Positioned on USS Yorktown's (CV-10) #1catapult is our F-4J Phantom (Buno 153077).

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).

Blue Angel Phantoms, #5 is the Patriots Point bird, Buno. 153077.
Blue Angel Phantoms, #5 is the Patriots Point bird, Buno. 153077.

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.

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10 thoughts on “Patriots Point’s F-4J Phantom

  1. Haus says:

    Too bad it is not still painted in the Blue Angel paint scheme. Sure would like to see it painted this way again. That would be a prestigious honor.

  2. Franklin D Weaver, Jr says:

    If the Phantom is ever repainted, it should carry the colors and markings of the old VF-74 Squdron. This unit is the first to carrier qual the Phantom for operational duty. The BeDevilers revieved the new aircraft about the same time as a west coast unit did, but had them qualified about a week before them.

  3. Art Valentine says:

    The F-4’s biggest weakness, as it was initially designed, was its lack of an internal cannon. For a brief period, doctrine held that turning combat would be impossible at supersonic speeds and little effort was made to teach pilots air combat maneuvering . In reality, engagements quickly became subsonic. Furthermore, the relatively new heat-seeking and radar-guided missiles at the time were frequently reported as unreliable and pilots had to use multiple shots (also known as ripple-firing), just to hit one enemy fighter. To compound the problem, rules of engagement in Vietnam precluded long-range missile attacks in most instances, as visual identification was normally required. Many pilots found themselves on the tail of an enemy aircraft but too close to fire short-range Falcons or Sidewinders. Although in 1967 USAF F-4Cs began carrying SUU-16 or SUU-23 external gunpods containing a 20 mm (.79 in) M61 Vulcan Gatling cannon, USAF cockpits were not equipped with lead-computing gunsights, virtually assuring a miss in a maneuvering fight. Some Marine Corps aircraft carried two pods for strafing. In addition to the loss of performance due to drag , combat showed the externally mounted cannon to be inaccurate unless frequently boresighted, yet far more cost-effective than missiles. The lack of a cannon was finally addressed by adding an internally mounted 20 mm (.79 in) M61 Vulcan on the F-4E.

  4. Bob Malsch says:

    I was at the Brunswick, ME Naval Air Station during the winter of 1962 when the Phantom set the vertical climb speed record. They waited for a really cold morning… somewhere in the minus teens, and shackled the plane to the runway. The shackle had an exploding bolt mechanism, and when full thrust was achieved, the shackle released and the plane went straight up after almost NO takeoff roll. It was an absolutely amazing sight…. one that I’ll never forget

  5. jim frederick says:

    Visit to Patriots Point was a rewarding experience since the Phantom from VMFA 333, or “Trip Trey” as we called it, has been added. I served with Trip Trey in ’72 & ’73 on board the USS America in Viet Nam. Major “Bear Lassiter was then our XO and later CO. I was in the CNI/DECM shop and may have worked on this “bird”

    1. patriotspoint says:

      Thank you, Jim! We’re glad you visited us and hope you’ll come back again.

    2. Don Martens says:

      Hello Jim my name is Don Martens Jr. I was a Ssgt in Airframes in Trip Trey 74 & 75 at Beaufort and deployed with them to Japan and Turkey. Do you Remember Gunny Don Yarborough from Airframes. And do you remember if this 153077 is originally off of the USS AMERICA? You can see where the rudder emblem was pealed off.

  6. B B Johnson says:

    I was talking to an ex Lifer Zoomie today. Of course, like all Zoomies, He knows all and sees all. He is legend in his own mind. I think he participated in the first Gulf War. He is too young for “The Nam”. Any how, I remember well the Phantom. It still is quite an impressive air plane. We were discussing the lack of a gun on the first models. I remember they added pods for the Vulcan guns, but I did not recall the internalization of the gun. I do remember the pointed nose of one just as I was almost consumed in its back blast as it flew very low almost directly over me.
    The ex Lifer Zoomie kept going on and on about the non necessity of cannons on any aircraft as dog fighting is out dated. I think that is what got the cannons added to the F 4’s in the first place. As I recall the pilots could not arm their missiles in time to shoot frequently as they were much to close to the MIG’s. I remember hearing about this in 1971 while I was there. My question is, and I never witnessed a dog fight, when exactly did they internalize the Vulcan Gun on the F 4. Was it the E model? Did the Internal Gun come as a standard feature on all subsequent production models? Did the older model F 4 Phantoms get retrofitted with internal cannons. As I understand it, the pod mounted cannon was a great improvement, but it interfered a little bit with the performance of the aircraft. Thank you.

  7. Larry Walker says:

    Checking my log book, I often flew F-4J BuNo 153077 at the Flight Test Division of NATC at Pax River, MD from Nov 27, 1972 until my last flight in that jet in August 1975 which was well after the Blue Angels stopped flying the Phantom. During that time, the A/C was always painted in the standard grey, although it did often wear a radome with a long nose boom for pace and chase duties at the test center. It was also used as the Project FLAME aircraft which launched the Pedro-Recruit sounding rocket.

    We did receive one former Blue Angel aircraft, F-4J BuNo 153839, at Pax – it still had the glossy blue paint job, but the gold Blue Angel lettering had been removed. It was one slick jet and still had better performance than any of the others at Pax. As I recall, it caused a bit of a stir when the Blues spotted it on the transient line during a refueling stop in Pensacola after they were no longer flying the Phantom.

    1. Steve Young says:

      Mr. Walker, I was an AO3 with NAS Weapons Department at PAX, and loaded the Pedro-Recruit rocket onto that aircraft. The pilot was delivered to the aircraft wearing an “Astronaut” suit, and he put on a little show for the Navy film crew that was documenting the project. I have told people the story for years. It would be great if the museum could hunt down that film, to go with the exhibit. AOC Steve Young U.S.N. Ret.

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