McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II

McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II (c/n 4330, 37+01, Luftwaffe), flying display at Phantom Pharewell retirement event, Wittmundhafen, June 2013.

Exactly fifty-two years ago, in January of 1971, the book with a story of German Phantom aircraft officially opened.

The first batch of eighty-eight McDonnell Douglas Phantom II jets was ordered by the Luftwaffe in 1968. All of the aircraft were of RF-4F – unarmed reconnaissance variant – and, at that time, it was the biggest purchase of the Phantom aircraft outside the US.

On 16th January 1971, the first aeroplane made for Germany left the United States and, with a stopover in Spain, flew to Bremgarten air base. There, it was officially received on behalf of the German Air Force by its General Inspector, Günther Rall (the third best air ace of the Luftwaffe from the World War II).

The reconnaissance aircraft were of serial numbers 69-7448 to 69-7535 and received the German military registration of 35+01 to 35+88, respectively. The Luftwaffe Phantoms were assigned to Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 ´Immelmann´ and Aufklärungsgeschwader 52, with some examples handed over to Wehrtechnische Dienststelle 61 in Manching, for testing and evaluation purposes.

In the same year 1971, when the first RF-4F arrived to Germany, the Luftwaffe authorities made decision to replace their F-104 Starfighter fleet with fighter variant of Phantom – F-4F. The order for 175 aircraft was officially placed in June 1971.

The new Luftwaffe fighter was expected to enter operational service until 1976, assigned to Jagdgeschwader 71 (based at Wittmund) and Jagdgeschwader 74 (Neuburg a.d. Donau). However, limitations of the ordered F-4F variant were quickly noticed, as it was just lightened and simplified variant of F-4E. The negotiations with the US Government were launched almost immediately, and the agreement on the first German Phantom upgrade was concluded yet in 1975.

German Phantoms in the F-4F fighter variant were of serial numbers from 72-1111 to 72-12853 and received official tactical numbers from 37+01 to 38-75, respectively.

The Phantom remained in German service until the end of Cold War, when – as a result of reduction wave that swept across European armed forces – most of the aircraft were retired or held for sale. Between 1992 and 1994, all of the Luftwaffe RF-4F aircraft and more than 70 of its F-4Fs were sold to Greece and Turkey.

Limited number of the F-4F fighters was still operational in Germany until 2013, due to some delays with deliveries of Eurofighter 2000, the new Luftwaffe fighter aircraft.

Official retirement event of the McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II in German service was organized at Wittmundhafen air base in June of 2013. At this occasion, the aircraft 37+01 received a special farewell livery ´First In – Last Out´.

A few days after ´Phantom Pharewell´ event, most of the remaining German F-4Fs took-off for their last flight to Jever airfield, where they were scrapped.

Fortunately, the aircraft 37+01 was not among them. That Phantom had been preserved at Wittmundhafen base and, although not flying anymore, is still kept there in a very good condition.