Book Review
Air Vanguard F-4 Phantom II
USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Air Vanguard 7
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
Series & number: Air Vanguard 7
Author: Peter Davies
Illustrators: Henry Morshead & Adam Tooby
Formats: Paperback; ePub and PDF ebooks
Length: 64 pages
ISBN: 9781780966083

USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is the seventh title of the Osprey Air Vanguard series. It presents basic history of this icon of the Cold War as well as some unique information, supported by unique photos, great art and illustrations.

The F-4 is very well known so I'll dispense with a historical overview.

USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is 64 pages long and presented in eight chapters and sections;


      Fuel system
      F-4E Kurnass 2000
      F-4E(S) Tsalam Shablul (Snail)

      United States Air Force
      ANG and AFRES
      Royal Australian Air Force
      Egypt (Al Quwwat al Jawwiya il Misriya)
      Germany (Luftwaffe)
      Greek Air Force (Elliniki Polemiki Aeroporia)
      Iranian Air Force (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force)
      Israeli Defence Forces/Air Force (ADF/AF, Heyl Ha'Avir)
      Japan (Japan Air Self-Defense Force)
      Republic of Korea Air Force (Hankook Kong Goon)
      Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire)
      Turkish Air Force (Turk Hava Kuvvetleri - THK)


    - INDEX
Specter to Phantom II
For as complex a 55-year history of an aircraft as complex as the F-4, that's a lot of information to present in just 64 pages. Keep in mind this does not include US Navy Phantoms! Author Peter Davies does a commendable job condensing the story into a concise package. We learn of the design and development of the big jet, tracing its design back to the McDonnell F3H Demon. Between the original US Navy specifications and adoption by USAF during the McNamara era of 'commonality,' the advanced interceptor morphed into a multi-role fighter-bomber. Mr. Davies peppers the text with quotes from F-4 pilots.

The first 21 pages covers the development and fly-offs against the F-105 and F-106 that created the F-4 that USAF flew for over 30 years, and still serves in air forces 55 years after the type rolled out in St Louis. Not only does Mr. Davies recount development, he describes the systems in good detail: airframe; J-79 engines; fuel system; wing and flight controls. Another 6 pages covers weaponry.

In those pages we are introduced to upgraded F-4 programs, such as a design to allow sustained cruise at mach 2.4, and a top speed faster than the vaunted MiG-25 Foxbat (without burning out the engines)! Another re-engined Phantom II allowed supersonic cruise without afterburner.

The text does not shy away from "Phantom things" which led to the loss of more F-4s departing controlled flight than from enemy action.

Twelve pages detail the versions for USAF and export variants, from the F-4C through the Wild Weasel F-4G, describing different systems and operations. That's the impressive first 41 pages of this 64-page book.

Haunt of the Phantom
Next we learn of the operational history of the F-4. This section may underwhelm some readers until one recognizes that this book is not intended to be the battle record of the aircraft. To give an idea of what would be required for that, consider that Osprey has already published five separate books about F-4 aces and MiG-Killers, two Duel books, and a tome for USMC F-4 units! This story begins with USAF in Southeast Asia (SEA) and Korea. This is a very basic page of units rotated in, including RF-4s, plus some MiG-kill tallies. Personal observations and limited combat experiences supplant yank-and-bank dogfight stories. The author does not compare the dogfighting prowess of the Phantom II vs MiGs except for generalities. Next we learn of F-4 CONUS (US-based) and European units. Oddly, this section recounts Desert Storm service through the final retirement of USAF F-4s in 1996. Finally, F-4 service with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve fill a page.

Ten pages present foreign use of F-4s in service with Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, Korea, Spain, and Turkey. These histories are some of the more interesting in the book. Again, the war records are abridged yet one learns of just how powerful the Phantom II was - is - and why the aircraft is still being updated to remain in service.

Modelers may be disappointed that the text does not describe more camouflage colors; that is not the purpose of this book. Curiously, while some F-4s have basic descriptions like 'tan-and-green,' camouflage for Luftwaffe F-4s is described by the pattern and even RAL numbers. However, the book does impart insight to some painting and stenciling that clarified a couple of questions I have held for decades.

The story lines up on final with a short conclusion. Interestingly, while most of the book may lead the reader to reconsider the legend that F-4s were badly outclassed in the air-to-air arena. The quote by MiG-killer Ralph Wetterhahn is illuminating
    Turning with a MiG-17 was suicide. You could do pretty well turning with a MiG-21... .
His assessment of accelerating verses turn performance in a dogfight is eye-opening. It also shows the influence that going to war in the Phantom had on the F-15 and other 4th-Generation fighters.

Art, photographs, graphics
Inside the title page is a generous glossary of abbreviations and acronyms. The book is full of high quality photographs, most in color. Not only are they of F-4s, included are several good detail shots of systems and weapons that should thrill modelers.

Graphics include a table of the vital airframe and performance specifications of the fighter variants.

Artists Henry Morshead & Adam Tooby created many wonderful illustrations. A cutaway of an F-4E with 36 components keyed fills a two-page foldout. Eight color profiles show:

    1. F-4G-42-MC 69-0244 "Night Stalker," 23rd TFS, 7440th CW, Sheikh Isa AB, Bahrain, February 1991
    2. F-4E-51-MC 71-1099 3-6549, 61st TFS, Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, TFB.6 Bushehr AB, Iran, 2009
    3. F-4EJ 67-8386, 302nd Hikotai, Southwest Composite Wing, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Naha, Okinawa, 1993
    4. F-4E-35-MC 67-0301, 112 FILO, 1st tactical Air Force, Turk Hava Kuvvetleri, Eskisehir AB, Turkey, 1988
    5. RF-4C-25-MC 65-0841, 38th TRS, 26th TRW, Ramstein, West Germany. NATO Exercise Royal Flush XVI, October 1971
    6. F-4C-24-MC 64-0859, C12-31 121 Escuadron, ALA 12, EDA, Torrejon AB, Spain, c.1975
    7. F-4D-31-MC 66-7690, 151st Fighter Squadron, 11th Fighter Wing, Republic of Korea Air Force, Daegu AB, South Korea, 2006
    8. RF-4E-46-MC 69-7499, 348 MIRA, Hellenic Air Force, Larissa, Greece, 2006

Fourteen air-to-air and air-to-mud weapons are illustrated on their own page. A Luftwaffe Phantom II represents the type in a 3-view of Luftwaffe F-4F-53-MC72-1130 72-1130, 37 20 of JG73 Steinhoff, 1997. Perhaps the most popular scenes are two "in-action" paintings:
    a. Vietnam, November 1967: A MiG-17 is flamed by an F-4D using the 20mm SUU-23/A gun-pod.
    b. Egypt, October 1973: Israeli F-4E flashes past his disintegrating kill, a MiG-21MF flamed with the 20mm.

I can only imagine the difficulty of parring down so much information into a readable format like this book. I believe Mr. Davies did so. It's a good introduction to the USAF (and allies) F-4 Phantom II. He presents a great deal history in a manner that is fairly easy to follow. It has something for everyone, noting the systems inside the aircraft, the aircraft R&D history, how it fought, with whom, and what pilots thought of it. The book also has unique photos, plus great art and illustrations.

Some of you might be disappointed with the simplified operational history.

If you want a book full of stick-aft hair-on-fire air-to-air stories, this isn't it. This book will make it easier to understand the Phantom that formed the backbone of USAF for a decade, and inspired the Soviets to build more autonomous planes like the MiG-23 family.

I think the author presents the F-4 in a fair manner and in perspective. It is vogue to criticize the F-4 as a complex flying brick that was out of place in a sky full of MiGs. Yet one must consider the weapon system in context with the perceived mission. However, they represent designs for the missions of the war they were expected to fight: the Soviets were planning to be the aggressors and needed CAP for their advancing armies; USAF expected to have to bomb-up with tons of air-to-ground munitions to attack armored columns over the FEBA as well as deep penetration behind Warsaw Pact lines against supply / marshaling areas. USAF knew they'd have to fight their way in and out. No MiG could do what a Phantom could do. Once USAF/USN re-learned air-to-air even the big F-4 could out-perform Fishbeds in the proper arena. Slot-winged F-4Es had the power and turn performance to out-turn the MiG-23 Flogger in most envelopes.

I believe this book conveys that. I happily recommend it.

Please remember to tell vendors and manufacturers that you saw this model here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: A good introduction to the USAF F-4 Phantom II. Unique photos, great art and illustrations.
Lows: Simplified operational history.
Verdict: This book will make a good primer for people not familiar with the F-4, yet has good detail for those more familiar with it.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781780966083
  Suggested Retail: $18.95, 11.99
  PUBLISHED: May 02, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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