What was it like to fly the F-4 in combat over Vietnam? 

Former USAF Phantom pilot Jonathan A Hayes recounts the sortie he helped defend his base from attack in Vietnam…

We had two flights on 15-minute ground alert at Phu Cat, on the Vietnam coast north of Qui Nhon. The 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, part of the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing, was equipped with McDonnell F-4D Phantom IIs.

An F-4 from the 389th TFS alongside a Cambodian MiG-17 at Phu Cat, Vietnam in 1970
An F-4 from the 389th TFS alongside a Cambodian MiG-17 at Phu Cat, Vietnam in 1970 Jonathan A Hayes

Our callsign was Cobra and, that day our base was attacked in 1971, my aircraft was Cobra 1, configured with a 20mm gun pod on the centreline station and six ‘cans’ of napalm on the inboards. The other aircraft carried the in-country standard load: six 500lb (226kg) high-drag bombs on the inboards and five cans of napalm on the centreline. We all had 370-gallon (1,400-litre) fuel tanks on the outboard stations.

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