The Fury (FJ-3M BuNo 141393) arrived here in Oct. 1991 after a two year ordeal of trying to work with the Navy and free it up from Alexander County to move it here from Taylorsville to the Hickory Regional Airport. It is our namesake as it was developed from the F-86 Sabre family and we needed a name fast to get the ball rolling and establish our new organization. Thus the Sabre Society was born. When finally given permission to move the aircraft, we called Fort Bragg in an attempt to expedite the move as quickly as possible. Much to our surprise a heavy lift unit there jumped at the opportunity to airlift the airplane! The 18th Airborne Corps sent up a CH-47 Chinook and moved the aircraft from Taylorsville to Hickory....a very impressive sight!! It was the first flight of a FJ-3M in 26 years, albeit not under its own power.
It's kind of ironic that the Sabrejet family was originally an outgrowth of the original FJ-1 Fury straight wing jet for the navy. Our Fury was one of the best fighters in the world in the mid-fifties and fared well in mock encounters with modern types like the supersonic F-100 Super Sabre from the same company...North American Aviation. The FJ-3M dispensed with the J-47 engine of the early F-86s and the FJ-2 Fury that preceded it and gained the more powerful J-65 Sapphire that gave it outstanding performance, especially around the carriers from which it flew, where the extra thrust was really needed. That was the main complaint of the similar FJ-2 Fury when involved in carrier trials. The Fury family gained folding wing gear, arrestor hooks and other Navy mods that added considerable weight over their land based F-86 cousins. Therefore the main bulk of -2 Furys served out their lives in USMC or USN ground based units where the more powerful -3s and -4s provided yeoman service aboard the carriers as well as land based units. The ultimate measure of success is that the Fury was a very popular mount with those that flew and maintained it. It also helped usher in a new era as the FJ-3M was one of the first aircraft to ever use the Aim-9 Sidewinder operationally. The M in its designation denoting missile. We are very proud to have this extremely rare aircraft in our possession.
Here is a summary of the military service history:
142393 - FJ-3M - C/N 54322
08 Jun 1956 - BAR FA - Columbus, OH
13 Jun 1956 - VMF-344 - MCAS Cherry Point, NC
01 Dec 1956 - H&MS-32 - MCAS Cherry Point, NC
29 Jan 1957 - VMF-235 - MCAS Cherry Point, NC
08 Feb 1958 - VMF-235 - MCAS Beaufort, SC
04 Feb 1959 - VMF-333 - MCAS Miami, FL
31 May 1959 - VMF-333 - NAS Roosevelt Roads, PR
31 Sep 1959 - VMF-333 - MCAS Beaufort, SC
12 Oct 1959 - O&R BUAER M&S - MCAS Cherry Point, NC
17 Oct 1963 - Stricken - 19P0
863 - Total Hours
Text Markings: USS Theodore Roosevelt; 107; LT Blake Coleman, Big Chili; LT Duke Swain, Donne; PC AN SARVIS Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina; AJ; Lt. Justin Halligan JUGS; Lt. Luke Swain;
Description by Kyle Kirby:
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is the last of the line for the company's fabled series of 'cat' fighters. These aircraft were built exclusively for the US Navy and Marine Corps. It all started when the Navy took delivery of their first XFF-1 on 29 Dec. 1931. Grummans 'Ironworks' as they were known for their ruggedness and durability had produced aircraft pontoons, etc. but this was their first complete aircraft delivered. It would be a very incredible relationship. Their first aircraft were the biplane FF-1, F2F, and F3F series. These aircraft were well received by pilots, and the F3F was a real 'hot rod'. Next came their first monoplane fighter, the F4F Wildcat. This rugged little beast defended the U.S. Pacific Theatre in early WW II until supplanted by the F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat. It did so admirably with some incredible pilots which were smaller in number than Churchill's chosen few in the Battle of Britain. The Wildcat flew throughout the war. The F6F followed and first saw action in 1943. Of the 6500 Japanese aircraft shot down in WW II, the Hellcat accounted for 5000 and achieved a 19 to 1 kill to loss ratio!!! It also produced more aces (305) than any other American aircraft in history. The incredible twin engined F7F Tigercat followed. It outperformed most single engine fighters. Marine Squadron VMF(N)-533 actually arrived with Tigercats on Okinawa the day before the Japanese surrender. It served very well in Korea and really made significant advances in aircraft design. Just too late for WW II service, the F8F Bearcat is considered by many to be the ultimate piston engined fighter. It actually held the climb record to 10,000 feet from brake release until the advent of the Mach 2 F-104 Starfighter!!! This could be done in 92 seconds, giving an indication of its blistering performance. Following this were the first jets. First the F9F Panther which gave sterling performance in Korea and the later swept wing F9F Cougar. Last of the fighters prior to the Tomcat was the fabulous F11F Tiger which served only briefly in frontline service although the Blue Angels flew it for over a decade. Two Super Tigers (F11F-1F) were built with the GE J-79 engine. They are noteworthy as they upped the world speed record to 1386 mph and flew at over Mach 2 at 80,000 feet more than once!!! There was one experimental swing-wing type built by the Ironworks, but we'll get to it later. Grumman built many other non-fighter types that were and still are very effective and important. But obviously, the new Grumman F-14 had a huge reputation to live up to as a fighter.
The F-14 story actually begins with another type of aircraft. It first flew in May 1966 and was known as TFX. Then Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara was fixated on commonality with inter-service aircraft partly due to the mighty F-4 Phantom. The U.S. would produce a 'common' fighter for both the USAF and USN. General Dynamics would produce the USAF version and Grumman the USNs. It would become the F-111A/B and they would be the first production swing-wing aircraft. Grumman reluctantly worked on the program and after the first flight on 18 May 1965 there were serious problems. Admirals Tom Connelly and Tom Moorer argued against the huge bird and eventually won out in Congressional hearings. The F-111 became a great aircraft in USAF service as a bomber but just wasn't capable of giving the Navy the aircraft it wanted. In the background, Grumman engineers were already working on a new fighter that would revolutionize Navy capabilities. After cancellation of the F-111B, the Navy's new interceptor requirement was renamed VFX. Grumman's entry beat out the other manufactures proposals after tremendous research and studies by project director Steve Pelehach and his crew at Grumman. Their proposal was a massive twin engined, two seat, swing wing interceptor with incredible fighter skills as well. Grumman's work on their experimental XF10F-1swing wing Jaguar in the early fifties and the F-111B gave them considerable experience in swing wing technology which the new F-14 would employ.
The Tomcat, named in honor of the two previously mentioned Admirals, was an answer to growing threats abroad and fighter performance early in the Vietnam War. The Soviet Union was producing the new supersonic Backfire bomber, the MiG-23, triplesonic MiG-25, and a plethora of long range anti-ship missiles. The Navy wanted to provide the fleet with a further reaching interceptor and have a fighter that could provide superior air-to-air performance than the current F-4 and F-8 that were battling MiGs in Southeast Asia. A tall order to incorporate into one design. To counter the bomber and missile threat, the F-14 would retain the Hughes AN/AWG-9 radar and Phoenix missile pioneered by the F-111B. This system allowed the aircraft to detect targets at over 100 nautical miles, fire six AIM-54s, and track 24 more targets simultaneously. This would remain the F-14s trump card until very late in its career. This would counter all threats to the fleet including the anti-ship missiles. As well the Tomcat would be able to 'mix it up' with enemy fighters with the AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder, and M-61 Vulcan cannon. This mix and flexibility of weapons was unprecedented. The Tomcat could destroy targets from a few hundred feet to over 100 miles away!! Also the high demand of varying air-to-air missions (not to mention landing on a carrier) required the swing wing incorporation. The Tomcat would have no air to ground weapon capabilities early on. The new fighter also incorporated two aircrew like the F-4 before it. This was a winning combination especially in light of the complexity of the radar/missile workload. The twin vertical tails helped the large airframe in the maneuverability department as did the huge horizontal stabilizers that could operate independent from one another. The widely spaced engines would help survivability if one was hit in combat. That gets us to the early F-14's weakest link. It also retained the TF-30 turbofan engine of the F-111 program and it was always an unsuitable engine for the big fighter. It suffered from compressor stalls when pilots 'yanked and banked' and never provided suitable power to unleash the full potential of the remarkable airframe.
This new superfighter first flew from Grumman's Calverton facility on 21 Dec. 1970 with Bob Millar and Robert Smythe at the controls. The same aircraft crashed on its second flight on 30 Dec. after a hydraulic failure with both pilots ejecting safely at treetop height!! This was an omen of things to come. The transition for the US Navy into Tomcats would not be easy. Twenty F-14s were developed for test duties and flight trials to ready the type for service. After a long development process, VF-124 began to receive the F-14A in October of 1972. VF-124 would be the FRS or 'RAG' that would train the new F-14 pilots for the west coast squadrons to follow. VF-101 followed soon after as the east coast RAG although the first two east coast squadrons (VF-14 and VF-32) trained at Miramar NAS with VF-124. The first two operational squadrons to fly off of a carrier were VF-1 and VF-2 who operated with the Pacific Fleet aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65). During their first cruise they actually flew the first operational missions off the coast of Vietnam supporting 'Operation Frequent Wind', the evacuation of Saigon. F-14A ranks began to grow in the Navy and the F-14 would eventually serve in 31 Navy squadrons in its career including test and reserve units. During its tenure in service, the Tomcat was awe inspiring in its presence and other nations feared its capabilities. On August 19th, 1981 the F-14 got to show how formidable it was after much sabre-rattling by Libyan leader Col. Muamar Khadaffi. VF-41 F-14As had set up a CAP off the Libyan coast under the call-sign FAST EAGLE. One of the crews is noteworthy to us here. Cmdr. Henry (Hank) Kleeman was in FAST EAGLE 107. Hank Kleeman was Joel Eaton's roommate on the USS America in 1968 when he flew our A-7!!! Late in the CAP, two Libyan Su-22s were detected and were not following normal Rules of Engagement. After a head on engagement by the 22s they fired a missile. Kleeman and Larry (Music) Muczynski in FAST EAGLE 112 maneuvered and shot both aircraft down with AIM-9L Sidewinders. Kleeman was later killed at Miramar when his F/A-18 skidded and flipped over while landing.
F-14As of VF-74 and VF-103 also intercepted an Egyptian Airline's 737 that was carrying the Achille Lauro hijackers in Oct. of 1985. Flying from the Saratoga and using help from E-2Cs and RC-135s, the seven F-14s forced the 737 down at Sigonella, Italy where the hijackers were prosecuted. They also provided CAP duties for Operation 'El Dorado Canyon' in April 1986. On 4 January 1989, VF-32 got in on the action. In what turned out to be a controversial action, F-14As again knocked out two more Libyan aircraft after repeated provoking passes at the Tomcats. This time it was MiG-23 Floggers and both were again brought down. Ironically, missile shots were fired at F-4 Phantoms in 1988 and 1989. They were Iranian Phantoms harassing fleet refueling operations but the missiles were fired outside of parameters. Problems continued in the Middle East and Saddam Hussein launched his attack on Kuwait on 2 Aug. 1990. During 'Desert Storm', F-14s flew mostly carrier BARCAP missions and didn't see hardly any action since they had no air-to-ground mission at that time. The TARPS toting F-14s actually did venture deep into enemy airspace and saw considerable action. It is kind of sad but the chief architect of airpower for the war was Air Force General Chuck Horner and obviously the F-15C was going to get the prime MiG assignments where the Navy's F-14 crews were going to be less utilized in a much lesser role. That's just the way it goes and it's not meant negatively here, it's just a fact. I think the F-14 could have done very well here with its incredible complement of air-to-air weapons before the Iraqis realized they were fighting KING KONG and started defecting to Iran and before their aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Again, our great training that came from Vietnam produced the best forces in the world.
There are basically two F-14 stories to tell. The TF-30 era and the F-110 era. As mentioned earlier, the TF-30 engine was always the Tomcat's weakest link in its armor. The Navy finally got the TF-30-414 which was pretty good, but it took until 1979 to get it with the 235th airframe and it still left some thrust to be desired. In Pratt&Whitney's defense it was the first production afterburning turboFAN ever delivered in the US. Grumman tried to rectify the problem early on with the first F-14B Super Tomcat. It utilized the F401 engine and performed well. The engine proved to complex and costly for the Navy and the program was abandoned in 1974. It would take some time to rectify this problem but the F-14 performed well enough for the Navy that it decided to press on with F-14A production. The same aircraft that flew with the F401 engine (BuNo 157986) was tasked with trials on a new engine that could transform the Tomcat into a 'viceless' aircraft. It was thus modified and made its first flight at Calverton on 14 July 1981. The engine was then known as the GE F-101DFE (Derivative Fighter Engine). It was developed from the B-1B bomber program and offered thrust in the 27-29,000 lb range. This was a significant increase over the TF-30s 21,000 lb range. The program was finished in the autumn of 1981 and test pilot Chuck Sewell said the aircraft with the new engine was a 'fighter pilot's dream'!!! The Navy finally had the aircraft it really wanted and big plans were made to field a fleet of F-14s with new digital avionics and a more sophisticated radar. This would become the F-14D. In the meantime an interim aircraft would become operational with the new engine only. The new engine was redesignated F-110-400-GE and the new aircraft would be designated F-14A+ (A Plus). In 1991 the Navy decided to call the aircraft the F-14B. The new B model began to get bombing capabilities and arrived early enough to serve in Desert Storm alongside its A model brethren. There are no records to indicate that a Tomcat ever dropped a bomb during this conflict. After the Soviet Union's collapse, the 'blue water' Navy was becoming a 'brown water' Navy where they became more involved in policing actions closer to shore rather than patrolling vast expanses of the world's oceans. Two F-14s did succeed in bringing down a Mil-8 Hip helicopter in Iraq.
While the F-14As and Bs were serving the fleet, the new F-14D was under trials and eventually flew in its complete form 8 Dec. 1987. This new aircraft was a reborn machine. It featured the new AN/APG-71 radar that was derived from the F-15Es APG-70. Being a digital system it increased the Tomcat's detection and tracking ranges as well as allowing the AIM-54 Phoenix to be fired from slightly longer ranges. It also incorporated all new avionics, night vision goggle (NVG) capability, improved ALR-67 radar warning receiver, and NACES ejection seats. The new radar also was highly capable of operating in severe electronic countermeasures environments. The new Tomcat had it all as it retained the excellent F-110-400 engine of the B model. Late in its career the F-14D participated in all actions after Desert Storm until its retirement in 2006. It became a very good ground pounder and flew with various precision guided munitions (PGM) including joint stand-off munitions (JDAM) and laser guided bombs in conjunction with the LANTIRN pod. It was always a love affair with the F-14 and its crews. It represented naval aviation all of its career and was a movie star as well. It was also looked at as the new ATF for the Navy. A new version was proposed that was called the Tomcat 21. This stood for 21st century, and the new aircraft was modified to 'supercruise' as well as many other advancements including vectored thrust that would make it even more viable for future use. All of this was cancelled and the Tomcat was destined for retirement. This happened on Sept. 22nd 2006 at Oceana NAS. Our Tomcat (BuNo 163902) made that last ceremonial flight and represented all of these magnificent birds in the end. It is unbelievable that we have this historic aircraft in our collection and it draws people from near and far. The Tomcat is one of the most beloved of all military aircraft and has huge following. I should add here that the only export Tomcats went to Iran prior to the Shah's fall. Like the F-4, it's service there is a mystery, but it is known that the Tomcats have done well there. It is believed that there are several Iranian F-14 aces and that they actually modified them to carry the Hawk surface to air missile in the air-to-air mode after Grumman technicians sabotaged the AIM-54 Phoenix capability on the Iranian F-14As!!! They still fly there today in very limited numbers.
The Tomcat was always one of the most ingenious airframes ever designed and once it got the F-110 it was able to live up to its intended capabilities. It is still controversial that it was retired by its faithful. Come out to the Hickory Aviation Museum and see this awe inspiring example of American airpower in its livery with VF-31. I think it was poetic that historic squadron VF-31 (Felix) and known as the 'TOMCATTERS' got to fly the last official Navy flight in our very airplane. Also, I would like to thank the backseater on that flight Lt. Mike Petronis for coming to Hickory to participate in our Grand Opening ceremonies....FELIX RULES!!!
Text Markings: VF-101, AD, 8400, 110, F-4B, 148400
Description by Kyle Kirby:
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom is usually described as the greatest fighter of its era. I am going to take it a step further as perhaps the greatest fighter ever made!!! This of course can be argued but lets look at what this incredible aircraft accomplished and is STILL accomplishing in its incomparable career. Comparatively a young company by other aircraft manufacturer standards, McDonnell aircraft had produced the Navy's first jet fighter to take off of a carrier in the FH-1 Phantom. This was followed by the F2H Banshee of Korean War fame that served for over a decade and was robust and durable. During this time they developed the XF-85 Goblin parasite fighter and XF-88 for the USAF. These led to the futuristic and underpowered F3H Demon interceptor for the US Navy and awesome F-101 family for the USAF. These aircraft would lay the foundation for the mighty F-4 that would follow.
Company rival Vought won the major Navy contract of the 1950s when their fabulous XF8U-1 Crusader was selected as the new naval fighter. James McDonnell's response was to set up a design team under Herman Barkey to start design on a new aircraft while he traveled to Washington to question naval aviators and their wives about what they wanted in a new aircraft. One item continued to come to the front, twin engined safety!! The F-8 as it became known was a single engined machine. The Phantom's original genesis started as an attack aircraft instead of a fighter. It truly owes much of its success to the F3H Demon as it was chosen as the platform to launch from and was actually designated F3H-G/H early on. This was later changed to the AH-1 in regard to its air to ground mission. It was to have two Wright J-65 Sapphire engines and was ironically armed with 4 20mm cannon plus hardpoints for ground pounding munitions. This forever changed on 25 July 1955, when the Navy specified a fleet defense interceptor. The design team had been watching the J-79 engine being developed for the USAFs new supersonic B-58 Hustler. Luckily the Navy adopted the mighty J-79 for the new interceptor instead of the J-65 of the stillborn AH-1. The new aircraft was known as the F4H-1. It went through a tremendous amount of research and change before its final unorthodox configuration was settled upon. McDonnell was set to go, but the Navy gave Vought a crack at the contract with an uprated version of the Crusader. It was known as the XF8U-3 and was one of the greatest aircraft that ever flew and didn't receive a contract. It was FAST, with some pilots saying they thought they could crack Mach 3 except for the speed restriction placed on the single piece windscreen. It had the awesome P&W J-75 and had a great thrust to weight ratio. As a fighter it was hands down much better than the F4H-1, but the F4H-1 had some plusses of its own. Early on, the McDonnell team decided to use twin engines and a two man crew for the new fighter to be. The Vought entry had one of each. The F4H-1 retained hard points for external carriage of weapons and was judged to be a much more versatile airframe and the Navy decided in favor of the McDonnell entry. It is still controversial to this day. One oversight in these two designs was an all missile armament with no guns. It was felt that the dogfight was over by the experts in Washington. They would soon be proven wrong in the skies over Vietnam!!
The first flight was made at the company's plant in St. Louis, Mo. at Lambert Field on 27 May 1958 with Robert Little at the controls. They had hoped to go supersonic like they did with the F-101 on its maiden flight, but a hydraulic problem forced Little to make the flight with the gear down. Things would soon get much better. After fixing the problem, pilots began to explore the envelope of the Phantom and found it to be very exceptional. As the navy began accepting the new fighter and discovered how incredible it performed, they set out on a world record breaking campaign that was and still is unprecedented. When the dust had settled the F-4 had broken 15 world records that included all time to climb marks as well as previous speed records. They didn't just beat them...they shattered them!!! This feat had been accomplished with basically stock airframes with the exception of water injection for a couple of attempts. There was little question in anybody's mind that as far as all out performance was concerned, the new bent and crooked Navy and Marine Corps SUPERJET was the hottest flying machine on the planet Earth......period!!!
When the mighty F-4 started becoming operational in squadron service with the maritime air arms, its capabilities were staggering. It was the first aircraft ever to be able to fly out, detect, and intercept and destroy an enemy aircraft without help from ground or other airborne radar assistance. It suddenly started replacing the F3H Demons on Navy carriers. Some of the early squadrons, like VF-74, started exploring and developing new tactics for the interceptor role. In the meantime, it couldn't be ignored that the new F-4B was capable of carrying a huge amount of ordnance a long way. This was a necessary task for the Marines who were also bringing the new Mach 2 plus fighter on board in large numbers. Soon, the F-4 was being cleared to carry about every weapon in the inventory and was surrounded by an almost 'rock star' aura wherever it went. The fighter jocks in the F-8 side of the community looked on with interested eyes.
With all of the record breaking going on and new capabilities being explored by the new Phantom II as it was to be known, the US Air Force was paying close attention to the new nautical worldbeater. They had just fielded a new group of fighters that flew basically specialized missions and were very capable and advanced. Known as the Century Series because of their 100 series designations, they were the first production aircraft to benefit from the X-planes at Edwards AFB (Muroc) and their incredible advances in aerospace technology. They were exceptional performers and covered all possible missions that a tactical fighter might be asked to perform, from CAS to nuclear strike and air superiority. The F-4 couldn't be ignored by the USAF and they decided to evaluate it against their new fighters. The Phantom was faster, had a better radar and carried more missiles than their best interceptor (F-106), could carry more bombs further than the best fighter-bomber (F-105), and outperformed all of the others in almost every category. By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, the USAF had two F-4C wings at their disposal. This was the first and only time EVER that a US Navy fighter was bought by the Air Force to serve as a frontline aircraft!!! The Air Force had swallowed it's pride, but it only justifies what a tremendous aircraft McDonnell had created.
Not long after the Cuban Crisis (in which our F-4B participated) and to some degree before, things were heating up in Southeast Asia in a tiny nation called Vietnam. This would lead to a decade long confrontation which tested our mighty nation both militarily and domestically. It would last through three administrations and prove the most controversial conflict in US history. It was similar to Korea in that it pitted us against the Soviet Union and China in a small theatre conflict where we fought indirectly against each other in a battle of Cold War wills. This was to be a controversial war for the F-4 and its crews as well. This pretty much included all service men and women. There were strict and absurd Rules of Engagement put into place that basically hand-cuffed all of our aircrews, especially over North Vietnam. To keep it from being a book I will highlight some of the F-4s action here. The F-4 rose from land and sea to protect freedom in this conflict with all three fast-mover services (a first and only again). Although it had many successes, there were some difficulties that came to light. The North Vietnamese enjoyed every advantage an air force could want. They employed hit-and-run tactics with their MiG-17/19/21 fighters and usually concentrated on heavily laden bomb toting Phantoms and F-105s. This resulted in a very lackluster kill-to-loss-ratio early on in the war. Also, pilot training had been woefully inadequate prior to hostilities and our pilots suffered accordingly. Every advantage that the F-4 brought to the table had been negated by the ridiculous Rules of Engagement mandated by politicians. Instead of ramming AIM-7 Sparrows down the MiGs throats from long range, the F-4s and all other types had to visually identify their targets before they could shoot at them!!! This for a fighter that didn't even have a gun! I have a tremendous amount of respect for these brave flyers in Vietnam as they were so handicapped by OUR government in their methods of operation and a lot of lives were lost because of this lunacy!!! Also there was a very poor showing in missile performance early on. We're talking below 20% success here. Many kills were lost when missiles just fell off the aircraft or never tracked their target at all!!
While the air-to-air campaign was going poorly, Phantoms were also hauling bombs up north and down south as well. The USMC basically employed their F-4Bs and later Js in the CAS (Close Air Support) supporting the Marines in the field. Marine phantoms carried everything in the arsenal including napalm, rockets, slick and retarded bombs, as well as pod mounted cannon. Although not the best CAS platform (no fast jet ever is),I have spoken to many ground guys that said the F-4 saved their life more than once!! The USAF was using the F-4 in the ground pounding role all along as was the Navy. A new version, the F-4D, was adopted by the USAF. Their F-4C had basically been a Navy B model with minimal change to fit Air Force requirements. The D brought new capabilities to the table. F-4s of the 8th TFW pioneered the use of Precision Guided Munitions (Laser Guided Bombs) during Vietnam and revolutionized air combat forever. Virtually every technology utilized in Desert Storm came from our hard working crews in Vietnam!!! While all this was taking place, reconnaissance versions of the Phantom (USMC RF-4B, USAF RF-4C) were taking pictures of events for intelligence purposes.
In 1968, a bomb halt was ordered by the Johnson administration and only armed reconnaissance flights were flown up north. There was a hiatus and several significant events took place. The Ault report pinpointed serious flaws in the Navy and missile and training issues were addressed. Top Gun was established at Miramar NAS to develop better tactics for Navy aircrews. The Air Force also got in on the act and upped its training and actually procured a gun-toting F-4E for air combat duties. After a long lull in the fighting, the bomb halt was actually lifted in 1972, and the new Nixon administration began to take the gloves off and show the North Vietnamese and their Communist allies what the US was made of. Rules of Engagement were softened and the USAF got Combat Tree F-4Ds that were capable of positively identifying targets at stand off AIM-7 range. The newly trained Navy aircrews kill-to-loss ratio went up to 12-to-1 and North Vietnamese pilots were warned not to tangle with white Phantoms (the color of Navy F-4s) at all. The USAF achieved much better results as well and the last American aces came from the Vietnam War. There were a total of five, two form the Navy and three from the Air Force. There were several major campaigns after the bomb halt, culminating in the Linebacker campaigns, which resulted in the total devastation of North Vietnamese targets, including the mining of Haiphong Harbor. The Phantom played the major role in Vietnam as far as a fighter type aircraft was concerned. There obviously were other significant types, but the sheer number of F-4s in all three services guaranteed its use on a major scale and due to this many, many, were lost. The Phantom and its gallant crews had given as much as any fraternity of aircrew in this costly war. I should note that the Soviet Union and China were given an idea of our tremendous capabilities during the Linebacker campaigns. Although usually considered a loss, the war actually provided our Cold War enemies an insight into what we could do if they crossed the Iron Curtain in Europe. New technologies were incorporated and new weapons, such as the F-111, A-6 and SMART F-4s that would play significantly into the next couple of decades as well as tactics and training that would make our air arms the best in the world. In retrospect, it took North Vietnam until 1975 to take Saigon!!! Hard to call that a loss in my book. Our Vietnam vets (all of them) should be held in the highest regard for facing stiff opposition here at home as well as from a determined enemy. They actually made America more secure by waking our military services up to the realities of this type of conflict and providing the necessary training which would bring America back to the top on the World stage!!! The F-4 would play a very significant part as we will see.
After Vietnam, the military began procuring new types of aircraft that were superior to the Phantom in most respects. But, the F-4 was STILL the most numerous fighter in our inventory. Along with Top Gun, the USAF set up the 57th Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB in Nevada. As with the Navy, it was basically set up for the F-4 and pilots actually got college credits for the school if they were going for a PhD, etc. This involved very strict live scenarios for both air-to-air and air-to-ground courses. The F-4 was being packed with more and more equipment to add more capabilities to the airframes. USAFE was basically all F-4 until the mid eighties when enough F-15s and F-16s came on line to replace them. Another type of F-4 was fielded for the Wild Weasel mission which knocked out enemy SAM and radar sites. One of the most hazardous missions in the world was yet again entrusted to the venerable and irreplaceable F-4. It was known as the F-4G and was actually the second Weasel F-4 as a few F-4C Wild Weasels had been deployed to Vietnam to help the mighty F-105F/G Wild Weasels that were being worked extremely hard as all Thud units were!! The M-61 carrying F-4Es also got maneuvering leading edge slats to improve their turning ability. This was also true in the Navy and Marines. Old F-4Bs were upgraded to F-4N status and F-4Js were also upgraded and given slats like its E model USAF cousin. As F-14s began pouring from Grumman's facility, the Phantom began disappearing from US carriers, except for the smaller classes that retained the Phantom until the F/A-18 came on line. F-4s actually flew cover for the botched rescue attempt of the Iranian hostages.
As well as domestic service, the Phantom was also chosen by several of the world's elite air arms. This included the UK's RAF and RN where it actually flew off of the HMS Ark Royal!!! Another first and only. As well, the mighty Luftwaffe chose the F-4F as their fighter of the future with RF-4Es to replace older types. They still fly there with significant updates including the F/A-18s radar and AMRAAM missile capability. More significantly the Israeli Air Force also bought the F-4E and RF-4E to help defend them in this troubled region. One of their first acts was to fly a supersonic two-ship over Cairo to show Egypt their new capabilities. The F-4s service there is legendary and Israel made many significant changes to the Phantom that were implemented into the US fleet!! Recently retired, the F-4 is held in the highest regard by all Israelis and several F-4 aces were made there. Japan, who also modified their F-4EJs, built the F-4 under license at their Mitsubishi plant and they were the only foreign built Phantoms, where they still serve. South Korea, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Australia, and Iran also flew this very sophisticated aircraft. The history of Iran's F-4 is shrouded in secrecy, but it is known that the F-4 has also produced several aces there and was used very interestingly in conjunction with their F-14s to field a very formidable force indeed. Turkey has the largest number of Phantoms today and actually produced the very capable Terminator version with many upgrades.
Into its later days with the US, the mighty F-4 continued its excellent service and remained a large component of the Guard and Reserves into the early nineties! The final combat swansong in the US was Desert Storm operations where RF-4Cs, F-4G Wild Weasels, and a few GBU-15 capable F-4Es, lived up to the mighty F-4s legend by performing tremendously. Amid major controversy, the Weasel F-4G finally bowed out of service in 1996 as the last US operational Phantom just behind RF-4C units. It still soldiers on in many of the air arms listed above and some are still very capable even by todays standard. The USAF still uses the F-4 in its QF version to this day. It is just impossible to put this aircraft completely to pasture. The QF-4 is an unmanned drone that is expended during live fire missile test by various user services. Its performance is still great enough to provide a realistic target for new weapons including the F/A-22 Raptor!!! It is still contributing to our national defense.
Our F-4B BuNo 148400 is an early production aircraft whose history is included below. It represents the entire legendary 'phamily' of this incomparable aircraft here at Hickory. There will probably never be an aircraft that equals all of the accomplishments of the F-4. Not only did it form the backbone of American airpower for over two decades, almost all of our current fighter tactics were written from its cockpits. I'm afraid to guess at how many versions were created (there were subversions as well) but it was so adaptable and capable to fulfill almost all requirements. It has shot down over 300 enemy aircraft and was the ONLY aircraft ever to be used by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds simultaneously!! There were almost 5200 examples built and they pioneered so many new technologies. Also, the F-4 might have been its own worst enemy in respect to new models. It was so good and being pumped out at such large levels that major upgrades were never attained. There was actually a swing-wing version planned!!! Also, it took an entire armada of new aircraft to replace it (F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18 , F-111, A-10, etc, etc.) But probably the most incredible statistic of all, is that the USAF, Air National Guard, and USAF Reserve alone attained over 10,000,000 flight hours in the F-4 before it was retired!!!! If you include USN, USMC, and foreign users it is probably in the 17-20,000,000 hr range. All of this stands testament to how incredible an aircraft the F-4 turned out to be. The mighty Teen-series of fighters stand squarely on its shoulders!! It was the world's first true SUPERFIGHTER and set the precedent for all following designs. We are very proud to have this fantastic aircraft in our collection and it stands silent vigil for those who flew, maintained , and built her as well as those on the ground toting rifles whose mission was afterall the very reason for aircraft in the first place!!!
148400 - F4H-1 - C/N 600134
02 Aug 1961 - BWR FR - St. Louis, MO
13 Oct 1961 - (VF-101?) Det 2 - NAS Oceana, VA
04 Dec 1961 - VF-102 - NAS Oceana, VA
28 Feb 1962 - VF-102 - USS Enterprise ( Mediterranean & Caribbean)
30 Nov 1962 - Redesignate as F-4B
23 Jan 1963 - (VF-101?) Det A - NAS Oceana, VA
13 Feb 1963 - VF-101 - NAS Key West, FL
10 Jul 1963 - O&R BUWEPS FR - MCAS Cherry Point, NC
16 Jul 1963 - BWR FR - St. Louis, MO
15 Oct 1964 - VF-101 - NAS Key West, FL
29 Jun 1970 - VF-101 - NAS Oceana, VA
01 Jul 1971 - Stricken - 2S
1896 - Total Hours
Description Provided by Mike Clary
Manufactured by Republic Aviation, Farmingdale, New York and delivered to the United States Air Force on September 9th 1957.
Aircraft retained by Manufacturer:
February 1958 To Wright Air Development Center (Air Research and Development Command), Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.
June 1958 To JF-105B (Temporary Test Use)
October 1959 Dropped from inventory by transfer to Museum.
The "J" was a special modification for the tests that were run on it, though we don't know what kind of testing took place or where.
Description by Mike Clary
Manufactured by Lockheed Aircraft, Burbank, California and delivered to the United States Air force on December 3th 1953.
December 1953 To 3640th Pilot Training Wing (Air Training Command), Laredo AFB, Texas.
September 1958 To 3565th Navigator Training Wing (Air Training Command), James Connolly AFB, Texas.
(Deployment to Scott AFB Illinois).
December 1961 To 3550th Pilot Training Wing (Air Training Command), Moody AFB, Geogia.
September 1964 To 2704th Aircraft Storage and Disposition Group (Air Force Logistics Command), Davis-Monthan AFB Tucson, Arizona.
May 1967 To Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center, Davis-Monthan AFB Tucson, Arizona.
May 1973 Aircraft dropped from U.S. Air Force inventory by transfer to the U.S. Navy.
Rolls Royce Dart
Text Markings: N705FE, FedEx Feeder, The World On Time, Operated by Mountain Air Cargo, Denver NC
Retired from service with Mountain Air Cargo, a FedEx Feeder. Donated by FedEx. Prior passenger service with Air Inter, a French airline that is now part of the Air France group.
HISPANO HA-200 SAETA (ME-200)
Text Markings: N4551W
DE HAVILLAND VAMPIRE
Text Markings: 187, SQD. LDR. Jerry Davis,
Description by Linda J. Hill
The History of our de Havilland Vampire # XD538
The red, white and blue markings are the RAF's equivalent of the "Star and bars" worn by US military aircraft.
XD538 was built by de Havilland at Broughton, near Chester in the summer of 1954 and delivered to the RAF in July. After a short period in store it was allocated to No. 9 Flying Training School, Merryfield, then at the end of the year to the Central Flying School (Advanced) at Little Rissington - this unit trained flying instructors. In 1956 the aircraft underwent a modification programme and next saw service with the Central Navigation & Control School at Shawbury in 1957. The CNCS trained air traffic controllers and had a small fleet of aircraft for trainees to practise their controlling skills on.
After refurbishment by de Havilland XD538 rejoined CNCS in September 1959 and seems to have undergone further work in 1963, by which time CNCS had become the Central Air Traffic Control School. The Vampire was declared surplus to requirements in 1967 and allocated as a ground instructional aircraft at No. 23 Maintenance Unit, Aldergrove, near Belfast being used to train technicians.
The camouflage scheme that the aircraft currently wears is spurious. In service the Vampire would have worn either silver with yellow "trainer bands" as in the attached images, or the later scheme of light grey with orange "dayglo" stripes.
Description and History provided by: Linda J Hill, (through emails with Peter Elliott, Senior Keeper, Department of Research & Information Services
Royal Air Force Museum