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.
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.