The F-4 Phantom II was the fourth in a series of jet aircraft fighters to come out of the St. Louis factory of the James S. McDonnell Aircraft Corporation. First was the US Navy's first all jet fighter, the FH-1 Phantom, which was first flown January 26, 1945. Second in the line was the F2H Banshee, basically an upgraded Phantom, first flown January 11, 1947. Third was the F3H Demon. The Demon was the only single engined fighter produced by the company and the first McDonnell product with swept wings. First flight took place on August 7, 1951.

McDonnell FH-1 Phantom McDonnell F2H Banshee McDonnell F3H Demon Vought F8U Crusader Convair F-106 Delta Dart

       In 1953 the Navy wanted a new fighter, McDonnell submitted a beefed up version of the F3H that was known as the Super Demon. This was a twin engined long range attack aircraft that would have had the designation AH-1. The Vought F8U Crusader won this contract.

       In 1955 this design proposal was changed to a two-place, twin engine missile firing, all-weather air superiority fighter that was designated F4H. A contract was signed for two development aircraft that competed with Vought's F8U-3 Crusader III. On December 17, 1958 the McDonnell F4H Phantom II was declared the winner of the competition and went on to become one of the most produced fighters of the modern era with over 5,000 examples built.

       In 1961 the U.S. Air Force conducted Operation Highspeed, a comparative evaluation between the Phantom II and the Air Force's then best fighter the Convair F-106 Delta Dart. The Air Force borrowed two Navy F4H-1s (BuNo 149405 & 149406) painted F-110A prominently on the nose and marked them with standard U.S. Air Force markings, leaving the base grey and white camouflage scheme as it was. The two borrowed aircraft exhibited better overall speed, range and altitude performance, could carry heavier loads over longer distances and had better radar range. To say the Air Force was impressed is putting it mildly. In March of 1962 McDonnell received a letter on intent from the Air Force for 1 F-110A Spectre (62-12199), this was first of 2,874 Phantom IIs to go to the Air Force. To speed up the introduction of the Phantom into the Air Force 29 airplanes were borrowed from the Navy, these were returned once the Air Force's own derivative of the Phantom started coming off the production lines. The Air Force's requirements were different than the Navy's. USAF Specific Operational Requirement 200, issued August 29 1962, called for an aircraft based on the F4H-1 but with added ground attack capability. The folding wings, catapult attachment points, and arrestor hooks of the naval version were to be retained, but the Air Force's version , the F-110A Spectre, had dual flight controls, new wider tires with lower pressures, anti-skid wheel brakes, the boom type refueling system with the refueling receptacle along the spine of the aircraft and the backseat crew member had new consoles and a lowered panel for better forward visibility. The wider tires (11.5 inches vs. 7.7) led to the wing skins being bulged.

       On September 18, 1962 the Defense Department changed its designation system for military aircraft in order to comply with Secretary McNamara's desire for more commonality between the services. Thus the F-110A Spectre became the F-4C Phantom II

       The first of 583 production F-4Cs (62-12199) took off on its maiden flight on May 27, 1963. The Flyaway Cost per Production Aircraft of the F-4C was $1.9 million-airframe, $1,388,725; engines (installed), $317,647; electronics $52,287; armament, $139,706.

McDonnell F-4C Phantom II 63-7412 At Keflavik McDonnell F-4C Phantom II 63-7412 At Keflavik Captain Richard P. Wiik TU-95 Bear escorted by 57th FIS F-4C Phantom

       The subject of this modeling project is McDonnell F-4C-15-MC Phantom II, Air Force Serial #63-7412, the fifth Phantom in the first production batch for the US Air Force. My intent was to model it at the time of its introduction to service in Iceland with the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, The Black Knights of Keflavik. The 57 FIS, part of the Air Defense Command, was tasked with keeping an eye on the stream of Soviet TU-95 Bear patrol bombers that would go by Iceland on their way to observe the US Atlantic Fleet. The 57th had been flying Convair F-102 Delta Daggers and during the spring and summer of 1973 began trading these in for "newer", albeit 10 year old, McDonnell F-4Cs. The F-4Cs had been completely refurbished to a "like new" condition, were repainted and had its weapons systems upgraded and optimized for the air intercept role. I chose this aircraft to model because a good friend of mine, Captain Richard Wiik, provided me with photographs of it sitting on the ramp at Keflavik. He flew as a back seater or WSO (Weapons System Operator) in this aircraft.

       My quest to build a model of 63-7412 began with a search for a model kit of an F-4C. Most manufacturers had ceased production of the 1/48 scale kits of this early Phantom years before the start of this project. As far as I could tell at the time there were two choices available through dealers on the internet and that old stand by Ebay. Monogram had made several versions of the Phantom. One of their first releases, dating back to the seventies, was kit # 5800 "F-4 Phantom II". Also listed but seemingly unavailable was Hasegawa's offering. I was able to successfully bid for the Monogram kit on Ebay.

       The kit was a pretty easy build. Some work was required where the intakes blended into the main fuselage section. I also added some detail in the form of pull handles to both crew ejection seats and the rear view mirrors that were on the WSO’s canopy. Minor sanding was required here and there but overall assembly was straight forward. I had to look through the spares box to come up with a centerline fuel tank that looked to be the right size and shape. I purchased the Hasegawa Aircraft Weapons:C, Kit # X48-3, and used the AIM-9J Sidewinders from this kit for the 4 positions on the wing pylons. These were the closest to what Capt. Wiik remembered being on the 63-7412 at the time the pictures were taken. Before the canopy glued on it was given a bath in Future Floor Wax and then placed on a paper towel to wick off the excess.

       The three tone upper paint scheme was painted using Testors Model Master paints Dark Green FS 34079, Medium Green 34102 and Dark Tan 30219. Camouflage Gray FS 36622 was used for the undersides. I strove to match the camouflage pattern Rich remembered from his time in the back seat. Model Master Steel was used on the bare metal areas of the tail, Scale Black on the radome and Gun Metal was used to paint the exhaust comes.

       I painted the radome first, gave it sufficient time to dry, and then sprayed on Future Floor wax. Next the decal was applied and a final coat of Future to give this area a gloss sheen as is shown in the pictures. Next the tail area was painted and both areas, as well as the canopy, were masked off before applying the camouflage pattern. A final coat of Future and the model was ready for decaling.

             Decals sheets obtained were:

                         1. Aero Master Decals No. 48-72 Phantoms Over Vietnam Part 2.

                         2. Eagle Strike Decals No. 48208 Vietnam Era F-4 Phantom Stencils.

                         3. Expert's Choice Decals No. 48-3 57th FIS, Keflavik, Iceland Wm Tell 1982.

                         4. Expert's Choice Decals No. 48-194 F-4C/E Phantoms 57th FIS, 334th TFS, 556th TFS.

                         5. Microscale Decals No. 48-0161 F-4C 63-7589 3rd TFW/36th TFS; F-4E-40-MC (63-493), 3rd TFW;                              F-4E 68-420 1st TFW/ 45th TFS McDill AFB.

                         6. Super Scale International Decals No. 48-108 RF-4B/C Phantom 363rd TRW 153rd TRS Miss. ANG                              26th TRW 17th TRS RF-4B VMCV-3 (USMC).

                         7. Super Scale International Decals No. 48-148 F-4D/G Phantoms 35th TFW/562nd TFS Wing CO,                              31st TFW.

                         8. Tiger Wings Decals No. 148-114 F-4 Phantom Stencils.

       From all of these sheets I was able to replicate the most of markings that show in the photo of 63-7412. I was not able to find a decal sheet that allowed me to replicate 100% of the white technical/ maintenance stencils that seem to cover the aircraft. Sheets were available for all of these markings but in black not white. I was able to piece together the AF 63 412 on both sides of the tail as well as the Air Defense Command badge on the right side of the tail. The Black Knights badge on the left side of the tail and the checkerboard on the rudder presented problems . Several sheets offered the Black Night's helmet, there is even a subdued grey decal of the logo that is available for when the F-15 Eagle served at Keflavik. The checkerboard evolved from being on the rudder only, to covering the entire tail to covering the sections on the lower and upper portions of the tail when the entire aircraft was painted in FS 16473 Air Defense Command Gray. There were decal sheets that offered the last two checkerboard options, but none for the time period I wanted to model.

       I went to my local hobby shop with my problem, they suggested printing my own decals. I purchased a package of Experts-Choice White Decal Film (Item # 120). The instruction sheet states that it is for any printer and after printing to use Microscale Liquid Decal Film as an overspray to protect and seal the decal. After following this procedure I met with failure when the decal was put in water during the process to apply it to the model. The ink ran and the decal was unusable.

       Next I tried Microscale Thin Film even though the instruction sheet states it is for laser printers, I only have a Canon Bubble Jet printer at my disposal. The instruction sheet offers the trick of spraying the thin film decal sheet with a thin coat of Testors Dullcoat before putting the decal sheet in the printer. I figured it was worth a try even though the instructions do say the trick is meant for solid color decals. This method did not work for my application.

       I finally came to the solution to my decal problem when I went to Micro Mark. They offer decal paper specifically designed for inkjet printers that works just fine in my bubble jet. The paper comes in both clear and white backed varieties. I needed the white backed paper for both 57th FIS logo and the checkerboard because printers cannot print white. I located a 57th Fighter Squadron logo on the web and opened the file in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Once I had the file open I printed it out on paper. The size was too large for the size needed so I scaled it down and printed again. I continued this process until the logo was the right dimensions for the tail of an 1/48 scale Phantom.

       I drew the checkerboard in a Cad program at work so that the proportions would be right. I measured the rudder allowed for thickness and produced a graphic that could be wrapped around the tail. Again I printed on plain paper and scaled it down until it matched the rudder of the model.

       Once both graphics were scaled to the right size I printed them on the white decal paper and then sprayed on a couple of coats of Micro Marks Clear Sealing Fixative Spray. Building up from a very light coat to successively heavier coats. When I cut the decals away from the rest of the sheet of decal paper I had to be conscious of the fact that the film is thicker than regular decals. So that the white film did not show I had to touch up the edges with paint. A final coat of Microscale Micro Flat finished of the project.

       I eventually found a Hasegawa F-4C model at a local hobby shop. I purchased it to compare with the Monogram kit. To my surprise aircraft # 63-7412 is one of the optional schemes that comes with the kit. It is painted in Air Defense Command Gray and is marked up for its last deployment with the 184th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 191st Fighter Interceptor Group of the Michigan Air National Guard.


       McDonnell F-4 Phantom – Spirit in the Skies by Airtime Publishing, Editors Jon Lake and David Donald

       U.S. Fighters by Lloyd S. Jones Aero Publishers Inc.

       Combat Aircraft Of The World edited and compiled by John W.R. Taylor published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

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