The F-4 is undoubtedly one of the most important military aircraft in the history of the United States. The Phantom first took flight in 1958 and quickly set 25 world records in categories like speed (mach 2.6) and altitude. Due to the impressive performance of the aircraft, the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps all utilized the F-4.
Soon after introduction into service, the F-4 was quickly swept away from the glory of record-breaking flights and was thrust into combat in Southeast Asia.
During the Vietnam War, the Phantom was successful at bombing enemy positions, dog-fighting with North Vietnamese MIG’s, and providing close-air-to-ground support for the troops.
While the war generated many notable F-4 crews, one of the most celebrated was the partnership between Captain Steve Ritchie and Captain Charles DeBellevue–who succeeded in shooting down five MIG 21’s together. This accomplishment made Ritchie the only US Air Force pilot-ace during the entire Vietnam conflict.
After Vietnam, the F-4’s continued to serve with the US military forces around the world. The next major conflict involving the F-4 was Operation Desert Storm, where Air Force “Wild Weasel” Phantoms participated in carrying out strategic strikes against Iraqi military installations. Finally, in 1996 (nearly forty years after its inception), the F-4 was retired from the Air Force–the last branch to use the aircraft.
This retirement threatened to end the chance for people to see an aircraft in flight that contributed so much to the history of our country. However, the Collings Foundation of Stow, and the Vietnam Memorial Flight prevents that tragedy from occurring.
This year, we are proud to announce that the only F-4 Phantom still flying will be appearing at the Selfridge Air Show and Open House, 19/20 August.