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Luftwaffe F-4F Phantom II

Updated on May 19, 2012

West Germany was unique among Phantom operators in having operated a reconnaissance version before tactical models. The RF-4E was bought to replace Luftwaffe RF-104Gs, and used an RF-4C type nose with the airframe of the F-4E. The first Luftwaffe RF-4E flew in September 1970, and the service eventually took delivery of 88 examples. The RF-4Es as delivered were unarmed, but between 1978-88 a secondary strike capability was added. With the end of the Cold War, surviving RF-4Es were passed on Turkey. Desiring a replacement for its fighter-model F-104s until the Panavia Tornado could become availible, the West Germans considered a simplified F-4E export version, with a single-seat and no Sparrow capability. This "lightweight" Phantom was passed over in favor of the F-4F, based on the F-4E and retaining the two seats but lacking a fuel cell, refueling receptacle, and AIM-7 compatibility. A total of 175 aircraft were bought, with deliveries taking place between 1973-1978.

The original F-4F configuration with no BVR missiles or inflight refueling capability considerably lessened the potential of these otherwise formidable aircraft, and in due course refueling receptacles and provision for AIM-7 carriage were added.

The F-4F ICE (Improved Combat Efficiency) program was instituted in 1983 to give the F-4F force a new lease on life pending the arrival of a new all-European fighter - this would be a long wait, as the resulting Eurofighter Typhoon would not enter Luftwaffe service for another two decades. ICE replaced the F-4F's radar with an APG-65GY set, derived from that of the F/A-18 Hornet. This permitted a look-down/shoot-down capability, as well as compatibility with the AIM-120 AMRAAM. A total of 110 aircraft were put through the full ICE process, while 37 other aircraft tasked with the strike role did not receive the new radar.

Available Kits:

The 1/48th scale Hasegawa F-4F kit has been reissued by Revell AG

AirDOC has issued decals in 1/48 scale (M48-01) for Luftwaffe F-4s of JG 71/72/73/74/75, plus the 49th Fighter Wing.


Peter Knight "A German Vacation" Smoke Trails Vol.9 No.4 Photo report of JG72 F-4F operations, includijg aircraft 38+62, 38+39, 38+40, 38+08, 37+39

Andrew Cline "Luftwaffe Phantoms in North America" Smoke Trails Vol. 9 No.4

Klemens Hoevel "The Last RF-4E in Luftwaffe Service" Smoke Trails Vol. 9 No.4 One photo of aircraft 98+01, ex 35+01

Photo: JG72 F-4F 37+25 in Egypt One camo scheme leaving Hopsten AB for Holloman AFB World Air Power Journal Summer 1998 p.4

F-4F from Holloman AFB seen at an airshow in Pittsburgh
F-4F from Holloman AFB seen at an airshow in Pittsburgh
Holloman-based F-4F 72-128 at the Dayton Air Show, August 1998
Holloman-based F-4F 72-128 at the Dayton Air Show, August 1998


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