The supersonic long-range all-weather F-4 Phantom II was designed for the United States Navy (USN) by McDonnell Douglas. It first entered service in 1960. During the Vietnam War, it was the primary air superiority fighter and a workhorse fighter-bomber for the US Air Force (USAF), Navy and Marine Corps. By 1963, it had been adopted by the USAF for the fighter-bomber role. When production ended in 1981, a total of 5,195 F-4s had been built, making it the most numerous American supersonic military aircraft. In 2000, over 1,000 units were in service with 11 nations worldwide.
Innovations in the F-4 included an advanced pulse-doppler radar and extensive use of titanium in the airframe. It could carry up to 8,480 kg of weapons such as air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, as well as unguided, guided and nuclear bombs.
The F-4E is the leading Phantom model, with 1,389 planes built. It took its maiden flight on June 30, 1967. The F-4E had an additional fuselage fuel tank, leading-edge slats for increased maneuverability, an improved engine, and an internally mounted 20 mm multibarrel gun with an improved fire-control system. The slats, weapons and radar controls were optimized for dogfighting, thus improving the aircrafts air-to-air capabilities. In air combat, the F-4s greatest advantage was its thrust, which permitted a skilled pilot to engage and disengage from the fight at will.
Due to its distinctive appearance and its widespread service with various militaries, the F-4 is one of the best known icons of the Cold War. It performed well in the Vietnam War and Arab-Israeli conflicts, with F-4 crews achieving 393 aerial victories and completing countless ground attack sorties. The Phantom II has the distinction of being the last US fighter to attain ace status in the 20th century. It has also set 16 world records, and was the only aircraft used by both the USAF Thunderbirds and the USN Blue Angels.
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