The last of thousands of F-4 Phantom jets that have been a workhorse for the U.S. military over five decades are being put to pasture to serve as ground targets for strikes by newer aircraft.
But first some well-earned honors.
The Air Force will hold a “final flight” retirement ceremony Wednesday at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where the last F-4s are still flying for the U.S. military. The ceremony will celebrate the airplane’s rich military history as the jet was a mainstay during the Vietnam War and used for decades for reconnaissance missions and anti-missile electronic jamming.
McDonnell Douglas — now part of the Boeing Co. — built more than 5,000 F-4s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. It first flew in the late 1950s, and production ended in 1985.
The last F-4s still flying for the U.S. military took on a different role, serving as aerial targets and test aircraft during Air Force training over the New Mexico desert. The planes are either flown by pilots or remotely as drones by controllers on the ground. They’ve been used as targets for missiles and also used to test new radars and other missions. But with the retirement this week, the planes will no longer fly and instead be used as ground targets.
Image courtesy of US Air Force