First flown in May 1958, the Phantom
II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense and
entered service in 1961. The USAF evaluated it (as the F-110A
"Spectre") for close air support, interdiction,
and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF
version. The USAF's Phantom II, designated F-4C, made its first
flight on May 27, 1963. Production deliveries began in November
1963. In its air-to-ground role the F-4 can carry twice the
normal bomb load of a WW II B-17.
In 1965 the first USAF Phantom IIs were sent to Southeast
Asia. The Phantom was so widely used in Vietnam that it came to
represent its aerial combat efforts. USAF F-4s also fly
sance and "Wild Weasel"
anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. Phantom II
production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built--more
than 2,800 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine
Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations.