Aircraft Type: RF-4C Phantom II, McDonnell Douglas

Mission: All-weather Photographic Reconnaissance

Number Built: The U.S. Air Force accepted 2,874 Phantoms (all models), 505 of which were the RF-4C model type

Crew: 2

Engines: Two General Electric J-79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner

Dimensions: Wingspan: 38′ 5″, Length: 62′ 10″, Height: 16′ 6″

Armament: None, although some later models equipped with 4 sidewinder air-to-air missilesPerformance

Maximum Speed: 1,384 mph Cruising Speed: 575 mph Range: 1,632 miles (without aerial refueling) Service Ceiling: 55,200 ft.

Significance of Type

The RF-4 was an unarmed photographic reconnaissance version of the USAF’s F-4C which carried a variety of film-based and side-looking radar [SLAR] sensors for the Air Force (RF-4C) and the Marine Corps (RF-4B).

In the early 1960s the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. The Air Force chose a modification of the F-4C fighter. The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964. A total of 505 RF-4Cs were ordered by the Air Force.

The RF-4C can carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It can take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carries no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense.

The first unit to fly the RF-4C operationally was the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In October 1965 that unit deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. Since then RF-4Cs have been involved in reconnaissance missions around the world, including the Desert Shield/Storm operation in Iraq in 1990-1991.

SPECIFICATIONS: Span: 38 ft. 5 in. Length: 62 ft. 10 in. Height: 16 ft. 6 in. Armament: None. Some later equipped with 4 sidewinder missiles Engines: Two General Electric J-79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner Crew: Two Cost: $2,260,000

PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed: 1,384 mph Cruising speed: 575 mph Range: 1,632 miles without aerial refueling Service ceiling: 55,200 ft.

About our RF-4C s/n 65-0903:

15 August 1966 – Manufactured by McDonnell Aircraft, St Louis, MO and accepted by the US Air Force.

August 1966 – To 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing (TAC), Mountain Home AFB, ID

October 1967 – To 18th Tactical Fighter Wing (PACAF), Kadena Air Base, Japan (Deployment to Itazuke AB Japan)

July 1968 – To 460th Tactical Recon Wing (PACAF), Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Vietnam

August 1971 – To 67th Tactical Recon Wing (TAC), Bergstrom Air Force Base, TX

March 1972 – To 155th Tactical Recon Group (Air National Guard), Lincoln, NE

September 1993 – Dropped from active inventory, delivered to Rickenbacker ANG Base, Ohio for static display

February 2007 – Transported to Strategic Air and Space Museum

“Recce Phantom, The Nebraska Air National Guard reclaims an RF-4C, preserving its own history”

Article by Dick Smith

Featured in Aviation History Magazine

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