F-4J(UK) Phantoms: Vietnam Vets in RAF Service

The need for fighters to replace aircraft sent to the South Atlantic in 1982 led to the purchase of a squadron of veteran US Navy Phantoms and the revival of one of the most famous fighter units in the RAF. Mick Britton tells the story of the F-4J(UK) and its service with 74 Sqn, the ‘Tigers’.

The first two F-4J(UK)s, ZE350 (at the rear) and ZE351, in clean configuration without weapons pylons or external fuel tanks.
Peter R Foster

In the wake of the Falklands conflict of 1982, one of the most pressing problems facing UK defence planners was how to replace the F-4M Phantom squadron (initially 29 Sqn from RAF Coningsby, but ultimately the Wattisham-based 23 Sqn) that had been dispatched to the South Atlantic to provide air defence cover for that hard-regained territory. From a confidence born out of the apparent miracles achieved in both aero engineering and procurement during that crisis the solution seemed easy.

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