December 2016 will forever be remembered as the month that saw the end of US Air Force F-4 Phantom II operations. The F-4 was a stalwart of the USAF for five decades, before the last example bowed out of service with the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron Detachment 1 at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Lt Col Ronald ‘Elvis’ King flies at low level over the Mojave desert in QF-4E serial 74-1403 as he transits to Hill AFB, Utah, for a farewell visit.
Dan Stijovich

BACK IN APRIL 1996, the USAF ended its operational use of the Phantom II when the Idaho Air National Guard at Boise retired its last F-4G Wild Weasels. Over the following two decades the USAF continued to operate these charismatic jets, albeit as manned/unmanned full-scale aerial targets (FSATs) to help facilitate the testing and evaluation of air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. It was a career that could lead to these old warriors being literally blown out of the sky.

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