F-4 Phantom, Combat Legend Series

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Bọn Cán Ngố sợ nhất loại này máy bay con ma, nhưng hay bốc phét. các chú nga bay Mig-21 ở Hà Nội mà thấy bóng giáng F-4E Fighter Escort chi cóị ra quần và chuồn là thượng sách. Này các cán ngố học tho6ng suốt cho hiện thực trước khi sủa. . Document created: 1 September 04

Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2004

F-4 Phantom, Combat Legend Series, by Martin W. Bowman.

Airlife Publishing, Crowood Press (http://www.crowoodpress.co.uk/780/index.asp), The Stable Block, Crowood Lane, Ramsbury, Wiltshire SN8 2HR, England, 2003, 96 pages, $14.95 (softcover).

Sometimes you just feel nostalgic—a picture or a story takes you back. Once, coffee and a cigarette were standard for every briefing, and a trip to the big house was mandatory after debriefing. But as my hair waxes gray and my skin becomes more accustomed to blue polyester than green Nomex, it seems surprising that my fondness for all things fighter -hasn’t faded. Fortunately, Martin Bowman’s F-4 Phantom is the type of book that those who share a memory of Vietnam, the Cold War, and 1970s nostalgia might enjoy just as well as those who flew old "Double-Ugly" themselves. It is a special honor for me to review a book on the Rhino during its final year in Air Combat Command (ACC).

Bowman begins his book with a one-page chronology, which I found useful for situational awareness. He divides the F-4’s service into five logi-cally presented chapters: "Prototypes and Development," "Operational History," "The Phantom Men," "Variants," and "International Operators." Readers will appreciate the many photos and illustrations, both black and white and color, and the detailed captions. The book concludes with several appendices, particularly useful to modelers or trivia aficionados; a bibliography of further readings; and a brief index.

I appreciate how the author mixes history with nuts-and-bolts details of the venerable F-4—at one time one of the most numerous and certainly one of the best fighter planes in the world. In the Phantom’s long history, the attack on the Paul Doumer Bridge in Vietnam in 1972 stands out in the minds of many F-4 jocks and military historians. This event was a milestone in the US Air Force’s long quest for precision effects—an airpower legacy tracing its roots to Billy Mitchell, the sinking of the Ostfriesland, and the Air Corps Tactical School. The book notes that F-4s used laser-guided bombs to drop spans of this huge bridge, a key transportation route for enemy supplies from China (pp. 25–26). The structure had defied destruction after many unsuccessful attacks because of the difficulty of destroying a reinforced, pinpoint target with dumb bombs. Bowman clearly describes bomb and unit designations but fails to provide a sense of being there, thus missing an opportunity to place into proper historical context a major step on the road to our current precision capability.

Bowman includes an interesting international aside in the discussion of surface-to-air missiles (SAM) in 1973’s Yom Kippur War, which began with a surprise attack by local Arab powers on Israel during an important religious holiday (pp. 68–69). Israel’s F-4s, its best fighters, faced a layered defense. The larger SA-2 Guideline and SA-3 Goa SAMs protected the high altitudes, forcing the F-4s to defend themselves with altitude-depleting hard turns. Once they lost altitude defending against the SA-2, the fighters entered the next threat layer—that of the deadly lower-altitude SA-6 Gainful missile. If the aircrews survived those missiles, they then had to face antiaircraft artillery, Soviet hand-held SAMs, and small arms. Israeli losses were high, but US aviators took Israel’s lessons to heart and built upon that country’s defensive tactics. This short war foreshadowed the threat the coalition faced in Operation Desert Storm, demonstrating the necessity of destroying an enemy’s air defenses rapidly to gain air superiority and, thus, enjoy both freedom to attack and freedom from attack.

Unfortunately, the author chooses to devote only a few sparse paragraphs to Desert Storm’s F-4s. Not only was this war a Sawatdee—a farewell of sorts—for America’s RF-4 and F-4G, but also the Weasels proved absolutely vital to the success of the coalition in our first war in the Gulf (pp. 27, 35–36). A unique airpower asset, the Wild Weasel had four eyes, outstanding radar-hunting equipment, and experienced aviators honed in the Cold War and Green Flag exercises. In Desert Storm, these crews fought high-altitude duels against one of the most menacing air-defense arrays in the world at the time. Weasels fired over 1,000 high-speed antiradiation missiles (HARM)—the F-4G’s raison d’être. The 35th Tactical Fighter Wing alone fired 905 HARMs, destroyed over 254 enemy radars, and suppressed hundreds of additional missile attacks against coalition aircraft in Desert Storm. In fact, the F-4 was so intimidating that other fighter jets used Phantom call signs (e.g., Budweiser, Michelob, etc.) deceptively, making false HARM-launch radio calls on frequencies monitored by the Iraqis in order to trick SAM operators, who would power-down their radars in an attempt to hide from an imaginary F-4 firing an imaginary HARM missile. That’s deterrence—and virtual presence! Unfortunately, the author fails to provide sufficient depth of coverage on the crucial role of Weasels in this war.

The F-4’s flying days in America are waning although several allies still fly the Phantom, which will probably continue to serve as a drone or test chase for a few more years in the States. For the past several years, US Air Force and German instructors have trained German air force crews to fly the Phantom at the 20th Fighter Squadron, Holloman AFB, New Mexico—also home of the famous F-4 Fighter Weapons School. But in December 2004, the final ACC F-4 will land, and the 20th Fighter Squadron will deactivate, marking the end of an era. Though in its twilight, the F-4 hasn’t yet seen its last sunset; sadly, however, the number of them sitting on sticks or in museums probably matches the number still flying. Fortunately, the Combat Legend series includes some great photos of F-4s in unusual and international paint schemes, which the author has preserved for nostalgic and curious readers alike.

Overall, Martin Bowman has written an enjoyable tabletop book on a classic fighter that aviation enthusiasts will find appealing. Although it doesn’t feature the type of documentation preferred by historians, F-4 Phantom is easy to read and packed with photos. It would serve as a fine addition to a personal aviation library, primarily for its developmental, technical, and international overview, as well as its photos and appendices. Unlike bell-bottom jeans, the F-4 is a piece of 1970s nostalgia that still deserves to have fans.

Col (sel) Merrick E. Krause, USAF Washington, DC



The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.


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-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 12, 2004.

F-4 a versatile Fighter Bomber

-- (Cán_Ngố_Ãn-Dải-Dút@BBP.govt), November 12, 2004.

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