Thursday, March 13, 2014

Random Phantomness

Royal Air Force Phantom
As a phormer Phantom phixer I occasionally (far too often?) like to post pictures of good old Double-Ugly here at the blog. Today is one of those days.

Now that opening photo is a British Phantom with a pretty full up air-to-air load out. Four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders and a 20mm gun pod mounted on the center-line station.

In my time on the flightline I never saw a bird with four Sparrows loaded. Typically we'd have an ECM (Electronic Counter Measures) pod mounted in the right forward AIM-7 missile well (the left could be used as well IIRC). So I've seen three AIM-7s loaded, but never four.

For those who simply must know, the AIM-7 is a radar guided missile. My old job on the Phantom was maintaining the radar which guided said missile. You had to keep the nose of the jet pointed at the target to have much chance of a kill with an AIM-7. (And that's if the bugger didn't just fall off the jet with no motor ignition. That happened with some of the early models of the missile.)

The AIM-9, on the other hand, is a heat seeking missile. Get the tone in your headset (which tells you that the missile seeker head has acquired a heat source), pull the trigger and move on to your next task. The 'Winder is one of those fire and forget missiles.

The gun pod is courtesy of the geniuses who decided (pre-Vietnam) that fighters would no longer require a gun, missiles would do the trick. Trouble is, nobody told the Commies. All of their fighters (MiGs and Sukhois, etc.) did have an internal gun. Oops. Nowadays, our birds come with a gun. No need to hang one in an unwieldy location.

So pre-F-4E, if you wanted a gun, you had to hang one on the bird. Did wonderful things for the aircraft's handling characteristics. (Not!)

F-4C (Tail No 64-0793) of the 199th Fighter Interceptor Squadron,
154th Composite Group, Hawaii Air National Guard,
at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii (USA) on 21 March 1980

I swear that tail number above rings some dusty old bells in the Old AF Sarge's brain housing group. We had an entire squadron of F-4Cs at Kadena when I was there from 1976 to 1978, I may have actually worked on that bird!

Now that BB-stacker (er, I mean highly trained munitions troop) in the foreground has a trailer loaded with AIM-9P Sidewinder and AIM-7E Sparrow missiles. War shots all as there ain't a speck of blue to be seen. For those who like to know such tidbits, practice munitions are typically blue, as shown below.

"Practice" AIM-9 Sidewinder

For the non-war shots, think "no warhead, no rocket motor". Consequently, no "BOOM". Which is a good thing during peace time. (Hhmm, methinks Lex had a story about flying with live ordnance versus practice and having had the opportunity as a nugget to down his flight lead. Which he didn't take, hence his subsequent long and storied career in the Navy.)

Oh, one more tidbit, AIM stands for Air Intercept Missile. The Sparrow radar guided missile the Navy refers to as the RIM-7. RIM = Radar Intercept Missile. Both terms are accurate, perhaps the Navy uses the RIM terminology because you can fire Sparrows from ships too. (And the Air Force doesn't really have ships, we have boats. But no ships.) Of course, they also call the Sparrow the "Sea Sparrow", or "Sea Chicken" as I've heard it referred to as well. (Hey, it was in CIC on a real Navy warship where I heard it. So it must be true. Right? Bueller?)

RIM-7 Sea Sparrow being launched from USS Abraham Lincoln, CVN-72

F-4G Wild Weasel

Now among those F-4Cs I worked on at Kadena were a number of what were called "Wild Weasels". These birds were configured to go after enemy Surface to Air Missile (SAM) batteries, specifically by offering themselves as targets and then launching High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) at the SAM site's radar. The HARM would ride the radar beam down and destroy the radar, and with luck the radar's crew. Without the radar the SAMs were just big explosive telephone poles.

Now Wild Weasel crews were all insanely brave (so they tell me). The Phantoms they flew had special equipment for detecting and tracking those SAM radars. I've also been told that the engines on the Weasel Phantoms put out a lot more power than a regular jet. Seems they needed the extra thrust to get those giant brass balls airborne. At least that's what the Wild Weasel community tells me. And why wouldn't I believe them?

Another tidbit, the back seater on a Wild Weasel was called "the bear". And the back seat was called the "bear pit". (I read all that someplace...)

Anyway, that last photo above is the F-4G Wild Weasel which was really the last Phantom in Air Force service*. Those birds saw action in Desert Storm. I recall there being a squadron of them in Germany, at Bitburg I think. The old Phantom guys out there can correct me if I'm wrong. (Which, while rare, does happen from time to time. What I typically screw up is punctuation, I'm terrible at it.)

Oh yeah, in the Weasel photo, that's an ECM pod in the left forward AIM-7 well. (Remember, I mentioned the pod earlier. Didn't know there was gonna be a quiz did ya?)

Anyway, for fun, I'll let the readers ID all the cool ordnance on the F-4G. Correct answers will be showered with praise. (And that's pretty much it. Hey, I'm a non-profit!)

* I don't count the drone F-4s. That's just too hideous a fate to contemplate for such an iconic aircraft.


  1. Left Outboard-AGM-88 HARM
    Left Inboard-AGM-65D Maverick
    Right Inboard-AGM-78 Standard ARM
    Right Outboard-AGM-45 Shrike

    Hey, flying on Ras' wing was good for something!

    1. BTW. "Now Wild Weasel crews were all insanely brave (so they tell me)." I'm not, nor ever played one on TV, but They ARE!

    2. Consider yourself "showered with praise". (I sorta figured you'd be first with an answer.)

    3. Colonel Thorsness, the epitome of a Wild Weasel.

  2. There was a Phantom WW lost in Desert Storm, I believe on a training mission just prior to going into Kuwait. And yes, they were 'ballsy' folks!

    1. From
      18 January 1991 – An F-4G Wild Weasel (Serial Number : 69-7571) crashed in the Saudi Arabian desert after attacking Iraqi air defenses. An investigation found that a single enemy 23mm AAA round had punctured the fuel tank, causing fuel starvation. Both pilots ejected over friendly territory and were rescued.

      69-7571 (c/n 4024) converted to F-4G. With 81st TFS, 52nd TFW - missed tanker while returning from mission 19 Jan 1991 and could not find runway due to fog. Crew ejected near base when fuel was exhausted.

      Two variants on a theme. Bottom line, out of gas, Martin-Baker let down.

    2. Yep, I remember seeing the message on the 1st one, not on the 2nd one...

    3. The guy at the second link may not have known the reason for the fuel exhaustion as shown by the investigation noted by Wikipedia. That site is usually pretty accurate.

      Sucks that we lost the jet. Great that the crew survived!

  3. Actually the Air Force does have ships. There is a small fleet of ships at Tyndall AFB, Florida that are
    used to retrieve drones fired over the gulf. And I definitely agree with you, the thought of drone F-4's
    IS hideous!!! When I was at Tyndall the drones being flown were F-101 Voodoo's and Ryan Firebee's.

    1. Hey Russ! Good to see you here in the comments section.

      Those drone retrieval vessels are what I was talking about when I said the Air Force "has boats". You say tomato... (If you wanna say "ships" I won't argue.)

      Just so the rest of you know, I worked for Russ back in the day on Okinawa. Check out his avatar, that's a classic Phantom Phixer symbol! A very damn fine Staff Sergeant he was, I learned a lot from him!

    2. I figured you were referring to the Air Force "Navy" at Tyndall. I learned the hard way never to refer to them as boats. My neighbor in Panama City was a crew member on one of those "boats" and one day when we had a side of ribs in the smoker and were downing some cold brews, I made the mistake of using the term boat and it almost came to blows. He spent almost an hour explaining why they were NOT boats but were definitely ships!! The next Monday his Captain visited me at the shop and I received another lecture to the great amusement of everyone in the shop!

      Thanks for the comments, we made a great team!

      Did you ever keep any of the WCS comics you used to draw for the shop entertainment? The "Drapire" was classic as well as the "Super Chief".

      By the way, love Chant Du Depart. Great work!!

    3. I still have them somewhere in the house. I remember seeing them just before I retired. I remember those well. I need to find them and share them here. Heh, the Drapire, sucking hydraulic fluid out of six carts. Hahaha.

      Thanks for the kind words Russ. (I still remember your light blue ball cap which they eventually made you get rid of. Or did they...?)

  4. Way cool. Back to the day when big fighters roared with big engines and they were flown by men with big balls. This was a great read once the power came back on.

    1. Ah, your power is back. Awesome! Welcome back to the 21st century. (Heh.)

  5. My understanding was that pilots that wanted to shoot down an enemy aircraft fired AIM-9. If you wanted a story to tell at the bar about the one that got away, you fired a Sparrow. I first heard this as FCO with a bunch of RIM-7s of my own (and the navy).

    1. That story has a ring of truth to it. I believe that pilots would fire an AIM-7 on one condition: they were out of AIM-9s.

      I do like the bar story angle though.

  6. I hope they keep the 4Gs mothballed at DM rather than kill them off as drones because there are still some mission profiles we can't fly today (just like the F-111) without them..


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