Without doubt, the F-4 Phantom II was one of the famous aircraft in the Hall of Fame – its combat record in Vietnam and the Middle East are legendary and it was the mainstay of the Western Alliance air forces for over 20 years. Many thought it brutish and uncouth, and it was at times; but it was a fast, powerful Mach 2 aircraft and served in many roles, including interceptor, strike, reconnaissance and defence suppression.

It was revered by its air and ground crews for its survivability, reliability and durability. The RAAF was fortunate to have operated the F-4E aircraft as interim aircraft, in No 1 and 6 Squadrons. in the early 1970s, after the Canberra and while awaiting the late delivery of the F-111C.

F4 Phantom II

All capabilities of the aircraft were practised during their service in the RAAF, although the emphasis was on strike operations. A number of senior officers in the RAAF wanted to replace the Mirages with the Phantom F-4Es in lieu of returning them to the USAF - 2 crew fighters would have been a revelation in the RAAF. How would one describe 'fightergators', when navigators are now Air Combat Officers  (except on the F/A-18F Super Hornets), as are Air Defence Officers?  The obvious was to call them Weapons Systems Officers (WSO), as the Super Hornet navigator is called - a term used by the USAF when RAAF navigators trained on the F-111s in 1968. Karma?

It was a sad day in the RAAF when the Phantoms were returned to the USAF in 1973. However, the Phantom did not meet the essential RAAF requirement for all-weather strike, a role the F111 fulfilled admirably and without peer.

Click to see the Phantom in RAAF service