Wednesday, 2 April 2014

British Phantoms - F-4 Phantom II in RAF & FAA service (56, 74 Tiger, 111 Squadron, Wattisham photo call) - Save 'Black Mike' - this page last updated January 2018

Having recently acquired Vol 2 of Patrick Martin's "British Phantoms" and bought Tim McLelland's mega 320-page "F-4 Phantom" volume I thought I'd go through my library and see what I already have on British Phantoms for a blog post and at the same time dig out and put up a few pics from my own very modest collection of pre-digital point-and-shoot prints and 35mm slides..

This page was last updated on 21 January 2018 and currently features 102 images, the majority of which are in my own collection. You can click on most of the photos to view them in full screen mode large!

F-4J(UK), ZE355/S, (ex Bu.Aer.153803 c/n 2038 d/d RAF 04.10.1984) of 74 Squadron painted up for the 28th Tiger Meet at Cameri, Italy during July 1988 (Photo via Daniele Mattiuzzo). Pictures of the port side show the rudder had tiger stripes applied, while the nose artwork was definitely applied on both sides. Crewed by Flt Lt. Pete McNamara and Flt. Lt Spikey Whitmore. Decals are available in 72nd scale via BERNA DECALS

Below; Mark Hanna's FGR 2 at Duxford via John Frackleton

 92 Sqd F-4 'XV 408' in striking all-blue paint scheme shortly before the type was withdrawn and below, seen here on a murky (pre-digital) July day during 1991 at usual click on the images to get in closer...

Below; XV 574 seen at Greenham Common in 1983. Compare with the image in Patrick Martin's "British Phantoms" p.61 (Vol 1) - which shows "D" in this two-ship..

XV 496 with grey radome and grey/white drop tanks, 1985

56 Squadron Phantom FGR2 XT 901 sporting an impressive shark's mouth at RAF Finningley in 1983. Note the 'air defence grey' finish. 56 Squadron became established at Wattisham in July 1976. (Photo by Dave Bell, print in my collection - as are all similarly marked images here). Lower sharkmouth image via John White

XV 423, Fairford 1991 and a close-up of the tail (Charlie Brown pic) decorated for the 1991 RIAT Tiger Meet at Fairford

The McLelland tome just published by Classic is easily the best single volume treatment of this iconic aircraft, 320 glossy A-4 pages in hard covers, jam-packed with a marvelous array of full colour images.

"F-4K and F-4M Phantom" by  Steve Hazell,   Warpaint 31 -  Guideline Publications                  
"Phantom" - RAF Aircraft Today 1  by  Bill Gunston
"F-4K and F-4M Phantom II"  by Michael Burns  in the  Osprey  Air Combat series

"RAF Phantom"  by Peter R Foster   ( Ian Allan - Aircraft Illustrated Special)

Air International, March 1986 "British Phantoms"
Airfix Magazine  June-July-October 1980 "RAF Phantoms" (Steve Hazell)

RAF Yearbook 1992 - "Farewell to the Phantom"
"RAF Phantoms - 20 years on ", feature in Classic Aircraft, p.18-33, December 2012

Two images from the McLelland tome just published by Classic which I am able to reproduce courtesy of the publisher...first image depicts FG. 1 XT 875 of 43 Squadron at RAF Luqa, Malta...while the second shows a 19 Squadron machine at Wildenrath. The last RAF Phantoms were withdrawn from Germany in early 1992.

"Phantom Squadrons of the RAF and FAA"  by Richard L Ward  (Roger Chesneau  Linewrights )

"The Last of the Phantoms" by Ian Black - Haynes/PSL- is another top class book looking at the British service of the type written and photographed by ex-Phantom pilot Black. His 2015 self-published "F4UK" is a lovely tome available via

A link to a super thread on britmodeller on the release of the new- tool Airfix 72nd scale FG.1. UK construction programme supplier breakdown

RAF Phantom FGR 2 56 Sqd XT 903 at Wattisham

Below; Royal Navy Phantom FG.1 XT 859, at Yeovilton, March 1969  (in my collection via Darryl Wickham). The FG. 1 was purchased for the Royal Navy as an all-weather. long-range, carrier-borne fighter for Fleet defence to replace the Sea Vixen. The FG. 1 was essentially an F-4 J with Rolls Royce Spey engines replacing the General electric J 79s and a British avionics suite. Another notable feature was the extensible nose wheel leg to reduce the 'wind over deck' requirement for safe launches from the smaller British flight decks/catapults. More text on the British F-4s below..

While preparing this post I came across the wonderful British Phantoms Facebook page - a veritable treasure-trove of super Phantom pictures, ex-Phantom jocks and Phixers and Phantom enthusiasts...the following posted by Gordon Lewis

" Getting ready to deploy to HMS Ark Royal for the last time from Leuchars in 1975.."

Bow catapult launch (Gordon Lewis)

"..The front wheels remained on the deck with the nose extended, as a naval air mechanic I used to have to extend the nose for launch and the control switch was in the left undercarriage bay, the Buccaneers nose wheel left the ground when pulled back on the launch hooks.." Richard Fagg on the British Phantoms FB Group

Above, Queen's Jubilee scheme 1977 at that year's Prestwick Airshow (Terry Hughes photo)
British F-4 undergoing sea trials on HMS Eagle - Joe Wilkinson in the foreground on the tractor. According to Joe this is probably the aircraft currently on display in the FAA museum.  (pic via Joe Wilkinson)

(Above) FG. 1 XT 867 (152/VL) with 767 NAS, probably during the early 70s - note the 'yellow bird' emblem on the tail fin, otherwise known as the 'ten ton budgie'.. The Naval Air Squadron 767 was established to train FG. 1 pilots between 1969 and 1972. Note the extended nose oleo of 152/ VL on approach..(unknown photographer, photo print in my collection)

  "..the undercarriage just sags under its own weight until it touches down, then compresses. Hooks weren't routinely used for airfield landing unless the 'chute candled and they dumped it for a go-around.." (Charlie Brown)

" Everything drops when the weight is off the wheels. For carrier ops the nosewheel extended to give better angle of attack on launch. 1/2 flap for take off and full flap for landing. The leading edge flaps came down for both..On the FGR2 we didn't have the extending nosewheel although it might have been useful on a QRA launch from Stanley! We also landed into the cable. It was a 600 foot pull out not too dissimilar to The Ark. The oleos extended under gravity. so what you see on landing is normal. I think the early FG1s had the extending nose wheel but Badger Bolton will pitch in. A few of the Navy mods were retained such as the slotted stabilator but most were slowly phased out."

Dave Gledhill in response to a question of mine on the British Phantoms FB group..

Firing the 2ins RPs (rocket projectiles) in a demo for the Queen Mother taken by the ships photographer in 1975, via Chris Bolton..

"...The Fleet Air Arm F4 K Phantom FG 1 and the RAF F4 M Phantom FGR 2 were derived from the F-4 J, but featured the Westinghouse AN/AWG-11/12 Pulse doppler radar, Rolls Royce Spey 202/203 turbofan engines producing 20,515 lbs of thrust each (12,250 lbs each in static dry power - non-reheat - 17,500 in flight) and significantly different British avionics including a Ferranti Inertial Navigation and Attack System or INAS in the case of the FGR 2. The UK was the first overseas customer to buy the F4 Phantom from the United States. The AN/AWG-11 fire control system was installed in the F-4 K and the AN/AWG-12 in the FGR 2 in place of the AN/AWG-10 of the F-4 J. The AWG-11 differed from the AWG-10 mainly in having a radar dish that folded sideways with the nose cone (radome) to reduce the aircraft's length to 54 feet so that it could fit on the smaller deck lifts of British aircraft carriers. Fifty F-4 K Phantom FG.MK 1s were built and 116 F-4 M Phantom FGR. Mk 2s (plus two prototypes of each) .."

Flt. Lt Courtnage. See this ex-F-4 pilot's page,

Replacing the original General Electric J79 engines with the slightly fatter and longer Rolls Royce Speys necessitated changes to the inlets due to the larger air requirement and a re-design of the lower rear fuselage. The installation of the Speys gave an increase of 10% in operational range, 15% increase in ferry range and better low-level acceleration, however the increased drag of the engine installation rather upset the aerodynamic qualities of the airframe, resulting in slightly reduced performance at high altitude...

Below; XT 597, the last British Phantom to fly and thus to perform the last Rolls Royce Spey-powered flight on 28 January 1994. XT 597 was one of the first UK Phantoms to begin flying when it was part of the developmental fleet back in the 1960s. It was never assigned to an operational squadron serving at Boscombe Down and featured red tail and wingtips denoting its use as a test aircraft..

Phantom FG. 1 XV 582 'M' Black Mike, 111 Squadron, RAF Leuchars, painted glossy black overall in tribute to the 'Black Arrows' display team for the 1989 display season... On 24 February 1988 'XV 582' had become the first RAF F-4 to pass 5,000 hours flying time during a record breaking 46 minute flight from John O' Groats to Lands End at an average speed of 767 mph. This airframe is still at Leuchars but its future is uncertain given the impending closure of the base. To this end the British Phantom Aviation Group has undertaken to attempt to save this aircraft from being scrapped.

below; F-4 XT 902, Alconbury, 1984

Below; XV 574 Z, the 'flagship' of 'Treble One' (111) Squadron, here photographed at Manston during the late 1980s with the fully black painted spine, although still retaining the fin flash on the tail.

56 Sqd performed the Queen's Silver Jubilee flypast in 1977 - pictures via Charlie Brown on the British Phantoms Facebook page

23 Squadron, Akrotiri via Dick Barton and below, with the Dacre Trophy

"..Dummy missiles so must be a publicity shot or heading to a display. Rare to see a UK based jet with a full load and gun, normally a tank on the centreline so they could tool round over the North Sea!.."

Below; XT 863 seen painted in full colour national insignia in 1983 at RIAT where it won the Phantom 'concours d'elegance' shortly before 111 Squadron withdrew the type in anticipation of the Tornado F.3

Wattisham F-4 Phantom photo-call September 1991 (Charlie Brown photo)

via Daz Pritchard on the FB Aviation book enthusiast page ; " below; not really a book as such, but one of my most prized publications! Printed to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of 56(F) Sqn on the 8th June 1991 and limited to 1000 copies. I actually picked this up at the last public photo call at RAF Wattisham in July 1992..."

Below, Falklands defenders (via Taffy Evans )

Steve Hardwick photo

Below; photo in my collection of Phantom FG 1 XT 860 from 43 Squadron, an aircraft that was lost on 20 April 1988. A Transatlantic Air Race winner, this machine flew into the North Sea during Exercise Elder Forest. Flight Lieutenant Philip Donald Clarke and Flight Lieutenant Kevin John Poysden were both killed.   Google reveals some photos from both RAF camo / barley grey and RNAS Yeovilton days. The above information is from the public domain and therefore not verified. Click to view large...

Not something I like to dwell on too much, but in honour of those who lost their lives flying this magnificent aircraft, a listing of RAF F-4 losses with much additional data can be found here

Below; Phantom FG. 1 XV 571 seen in formation with F.3 ZE 962  43 Sqd, RAF Leuchars.

 "....43 Squadron equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom in September 1969; it flew these until September 1989 and the arrival of the Tornado F.3. Whereas most RAF Phantom squadrons were flying the FGR 2 (the RAF's designation for the F4M), the two Leuchars squadrons (43 and 111 Squadrons) operated FG 1s, the F4 K. Half of these had been flown by the Fleet Air Arm from HMS Ark Royal (R09) when she was a proper carrier (Audacious-class aircraft carrier). RAF Leuchars was the shore base for the Ark Royal's F-4 Phantoms as witnessed by the Ark Royal Hangar still there. The differences between the two marks of Phantom were numerous: the FGR 2 had a HF radio, an INAS (Inertial Navigation and Attack System) and an internal battery. The FG 1 had none of these, but had slotted stabilators (the slab tailplanes) for added manoeuvrability and all the carrier launch equipment. It was known to us as the North Sea Sports GT model..."
 Flight Lieutenant Courtnage

Below; McDonnell F-4K Phantom FG.1 XV587 coded G of 43 Squadron, 1982

The RAF Yearbook 1985 feature article "The Tigers are back" detailed the 'reformation' of No. 74 Squadron which was equipped with fifteen essentially 'un-modified' ex-US Navy J-79-powered F-4 J Phantoms and tasked with UK air defence following the Falklands conflict which saw 23 Squadron posted to the south Atlantic. No. 74 Sqd was the last RAF squadron to operate the F-4 having been the last RAF unit to be equipped with the type.

Below; F4J following flight testing after refurbishment of the examples selected for the RAF at the San Diego Naval Air Rework facility (NARF). Note the 'famous' yellow primer paint that gave the RAF's J variants that "unique" colour - see below. The time scale for modification and refurbishment was nine months for a first flight on 13 July 1984. More on a unique photo journal of this process on the British Phantom Facebook page here

ZE 351 / I :  aircraft is in the original colours (although it has a replacement radome in standard RAF colour). The tell tale sign is the lack of full colour ejection seat warning triangles and other full colour stencilling. St Mawgan 1987: (pic by Peter 'Evalman')

Above; ZE359 / J : here again in its original colours, St Mawgan 1987. A good example of the duck-egg grey-green hue  of the Mexican-supplied US paint, especially apparent under certain lighting conditions...

Phantom F-4 J walkaround on Britmodeller here. Aircraft is ZE 360 in a rather forlorn state at the Manston fire dump.

And a few more rather poorer quality images of the FGR. 2 on display at Duxford

Mark Hanna's F-4 as delivered to the OFMC at Duxford  and a link to some rare footage of  Mark Hanna taxiing this aircraft at Duxford in 1993

..and awaiting the scrap man - the large blue X is for the Russian satellite (..a decomissioned airframe..). a sad end to another glorious chapter in British Aviation history...

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