Inside the F-4 Phantom II

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The F-4 was one of the most technologically advanced fighterinterceptors of its generation. Breaking numerous records – highest-altitude flight, fastest flight speed and fastest zoom climb to name but a few – and introducing advanced new construction materials and aviation features, the jet ruled the skies from 1960 up until the end of the Seventies.

The Phantom was powered by a pair of General Electric J79 axial compressor turbojets, which could deliver a whopping 8,094 kilograms-force (17,845 pounds-force) of thrust in afterburner. This, along with its super-strong titanium airframe, granted the aircraft a lift-to-drag ratio of 8.58, a thrust-to-weight ratio of 0.86 and a rate of climb north of 210 metres (689 feet) per second. That extreme amount of power also afforded it a top speed of 2,390 nkilometres (1,485 miles) per hour.

As a fighter-interceptor, the F-4 was equipped with nine external hardpoints. Air-to-air AIM-9 Sidewinders, air-to-ground AGM-65 Mavericks and anti-ship GBU-15s, as well as a Vulcan six-barrelled Gatling cannon, were but a small selection of the heavy-duty weaponry available. In addition, it was also specified to carry a range of nuclear armaments.

Perhaps the biggest innovation delivered by the F-4 Phantom II, however, was the adoption of a pulse-Doppler radar. Still in use today, this is a four-dimensional radar system that’s capable of detecting a target’s 3D position and its radial velocity. It does this by transmitting short bursts of radio waves (rather than a continuous wave), which after being partially bounced back by the airborne object, are received and decoded by a signal processor, which discerns its location and flight path through the principles of the Doppler effect.