McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II Multirole / Carrierbased Fighter / Strike Fighter Aircraft
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is regarded as one of the most successful fighter designs of all time.
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Arguably one of the finest combat fighters of the 20th Century, the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II series was produced in larger numbers since the end of World War 2 than any other Western fighter of the time. The Phantom II grew into an all-around performer and went on to serve with the USAF, USN and USMC (concurrently - the first American aircraft to do so) - and some 11 other nations around the world. The aircraft served American forces in the Vietnam Conflict and was pressed into service in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Though widely retired from most national air forces, some continue to serve today - some 50 years after production had initially begun.
The Phantom II was initially envisioned as an all-weather attack platform and began as a McDonnell company study project. The design, the F3H-G/H was an advanced navy fighter proposal powered by twin Wright J65 turbojet engines, an armament suite of 4 x 20mm cannons and seating for one. At the time, the United States Navy was looking for a replacement of their core F3H Demon series with a more viable and capable type and took notice of the McDonnell attempt. The project began in 1954 and the USN ordered the F3H as two evaluation YAH-1 (AH-1) prototypes, though these fitted with the new General Electric J79 afterburning turbojet (x2). In 1955 the USN turned the AH-1 requirement into a new two-seat, all-missile fighter design - and along with it, the designation of F4H Phantom II was born. Two XF4H-1 Phantom II prototypes were built with the first one flying on May 27, 1958 and quickly outclassing any other aircraft in the skies at the time. These prototypes featured an early form of - what was to become - the legendary General Electric J79 afterburning turbojet engines. F4H-1 (later redesignated the F-4A) was produced in 45 examples, these with the General Electric J79-GE-2/2A turbojet engines. This batch is oft-regarded as a pre-production version of the main aircraft series for the United States Navy, leading up to the first true operational production examples in the F-4B model series, which was essentially the second half of the initial F4H-1 production batch. Full production began in 1957.