WOW330 F4 Phantom USMC

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The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1961 with the Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force, and by the mid-1960s had become a major part of their air arms.

The Phantom is a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It can carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The F-4, like other interceptors of its time, was initially designed without an internal cannon. Later models incorporated an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record and an absolute altitude record.

The Marine Corps received its first F-4Bs in June 1962, with the “Black Knights” of VMFA-314 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California becoming the first operational squadron. Marine Phantoms from VMFA-531 “Gray Ghosts” were assigned to Da Nang airbase on South Vietnam’s northeast coast on 10 May 1965 and were initially assigned to provide air defense for the USMC. They soon began close air support missions (CAS) and VMFA-314 ‘Black Knights’, VMFA-232 ‘Red Devils, VMFA-323 ‘Death Rattlers’ and VMFA-542 ‘Bengals’ soon arrived at the primitive airfield.

In contrast to its previous tradition of making do with whatever aircraft the Navy could spare or didn’t want, the U.S. Marine Corps had as much say as the Navy in the four-year development of the McDonnell F-4H Phantom II. “This does present some unique design requirements,” Marine Lt. Col. Thomas H. Miller told aviation historian Peter E. Davies.“The Navy’s primary concern was for the protection of its ships at sea, while the Marine Corps’ was the protection of its highly mobile forces ashore.” Once it finally entered service, the Phantom proved versatile enough to satisfy both services’ needs and more— during the Vietnam War it unloaded a variety of ordnance, served as a useful highspeed photo reconnaissance plane and did well enough in air-to-air combat to be adopted by the U.S. Air Force as well.

Our bird is one flown by the world famous USMC ‘Red Devils’ and is in the markings of its commanding officer, Lt. Col Ralph Sorensen, whilst flying this particular bird over Vietnam. Sorensen joined the USMC as a Pte at the age of 19, within 2 years he had been selected for officer training and then graduated onto pilot school, where he flew a variety of aircraft including Panthers, Cougars, Corsairs, Skyhawks and of course this Phantom. He survived his tours of Vietnam and retired after 20 years service with the USMC.

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