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Ask any pilot who has flown the Phantom which aircraft they would choose to go to war in and invariably the answer comes back: the F-4. No contest.
When McDonnell Douglas designed the F-4 Phantom II in the 1950s it created a fighter that would stand the test of time and allow scope for future upgrades without needing to replace the basic aircraft systems.
Often described as the last fighter to be built that looked like a fighter', for nearly a quarter of a century flying the Phantom had to be top of the list for any self-respecting fighter pilot.
Despite being eclipsed in later life by newer aircraft that could out-turn, out-climb and out-fox the venerable F-4, it nevertheless remained the aircraft of choice for many fliers. Rugged, dependable and having a character all of its own, the Phantom gave feedback to the pilot that few modern aircraft can emulate.
In many ways the Phantom shaped how future combat aircraft would look and fly. All the painful lessons that were learned by F-4 crews in the Vietnam War led eventually to the F-14, F-15 and F-16, each a worthy successor to the venerable Phantom.
Former RAF Phantom 'phlier' Ian Black tells the story of the Phantom, from Vietnam to the Gulf War, and offers a series of intriguing insights into flying and maintaining this legendary Cold War fighter. He also includes rare glimpses of the restoration in the USA of the veteran Sagebumer' F4H-1 Phantom, BuNo 145310.
Ian Black is a former RAF Phantom navigator who flew 800 hours on the FGR2 and the F-4J (UK) at the height of the Cold War. He retrained as a pilot to fly the Lightning and Tornado, and the Mirage 2000 with the French Air Force. He is now an A340 Airbus captain. An accomplished aviation author and photographer (see his acclaimed books Last of the Lightnings and Last of the Phantoms), he lives in Switzerland and the UK.