Survivors

Considering the restrictions imposed on the use of F-4 airframes once out of service, we should perhaps be thankful for the number of them that remain. But that is not the view of many enthusiasts, who have taken serious offence at both the fact that some historically important aircraft have been unsentimentally destroyed and the amount of bureaucratic wrangling that some owners have found themselves involved in. However, further analysis shows that almost 20% of the UK Phantom fleet has found its way into civilian or museum hands and examples of the type can be found on display in various places around the country, as far flung as Somerset and Northumberland (although Scotland, long home to the Northern QRA contingent, is unfortunately lacking a genuine British example). Which is a reasonably satisfactory situation considering the difficulty and expense of caring for classic aircraft. Below is a round up of the existing UK F-4 survivors and their currently known locations. Two airframes have recently been lost- XT907 started the process of ‘parting out’ in 2019 with the cockpit and fin already gone to private buyers (no details of the whereabouts of the former have yet emerged) while other pieces and components appear for sale regularly online. Elsewhere, the sad remains of XV411, formerly at Manston, Kent were finally handed over to the scrapman in December 2020.

XT596

XT596 was the second prototype of the F-4K (designated YF-4K) and made its maiden flight at McDonnell Douglas’ Lambert Field facility on 31st August 1966. Like XT597, it spent its whole life on trails and test work, firstly at Edwards AFB and NAS Patuxent River in the USA, then with Rolls Royce, RAE Bedford and HSA at Holme on Spalding Moor. The aircraft suffered damage to the undercarriage, spar and fin during 1974 when a tyre burst during taxi trials and it was dumped at Thurleigh until repaired, ending up in the hands of BAE in early 1980. In use with BAE at RAF Scampton until being retired in January 1988 and flown to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton where it is now on display as part of the Aircraft Carrier Experience section of the collection.

XT597

XT597 was the first of the pre-production F-4K/FG.1s and also spent the whole of its working life as a test & development aircraft. It performed all the early deck trials for the FG.1 fleet from the USS Coral Sea, USS John F Kennedy and USS America before joining A&AEE at Boscombe Down in 1970. It gained its current colour scheme in 1983 and appeared in special markings later that year, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the F-4 Phantom at the International Air Tattoo at Greenham Common. The last of the Spey powered Phantoms to fly (on 28th January 1994) XT597 was stored at Boscombe until 2012, then moved to Everett Aero in Suffolk until purchased by the BPAG’s Mark Abbott in 2019. You can find out more about this remarkable aircraft here.

XT864

XT864 was delivered to Yeovilton in July 1968 and served with 700P, 767 (where it suffered a flying accident causing cracks to the upper wing surfaces) and 892 NAS before being transferred to the RAF in 1979 and joining 111 Sqn at Leuchars, Scotland. In December 1988, the tail of the aircraft was struck by a fuel bowser. With F-4 retirement pending, it was deemed uneconomical to repair, so was used as a gate guard until put up for disposal in 2015. It was purchased by the Ulster Aviation Society who achieved the tricky feat of transferring it via road and sea to Long Kesh, NI ready for preservation. The newly restored aircraft, back in 892 colours, was unveiled in 2018 to great acclaim and is now on display to the public. More details can be found on the UAS website.

XV582

XV582 (better known as ‘Black Mike’) was issued to 43 Squadron at RAF Leuchars in July 1969, becoming a squadron stalwart while also setting a world speed record and being the first UK F-4 to reach 5000 flight hours. It also served for short spells with 111 Sqn and 228 OCU, spending its last year as a display aircraft in the famous all black colour scheme. Following retirement and gate guard duties and due to transfer of Leuchars to the army, XV582 was rescued by the British Phantom Aviation Group and transferred to RAF Cosford to appear at the RAF100 celebrations in 2018. The aircraft is now on display at the South Wales Aviation Museum. You can read more about this aircraft and the engineering and transportation process the BPAG undertook here.

XV586

XV586 was the first of the three Phantom survivors to leave Leuchars for preservation elsewhere. After first arriving in Royal Navy hands in June 1969, it joined 892 NAS in March 1970, staying until the end of 1978. Transferred to 43 Squadron when the Navy’s FG.1s were handed over to the RAF in 1979, the aircraft was part of the unit until retirement. It was extensively repaired after suffering a nose wheel collapse on landing during March 1986. When 43 Sqn converted to the Tornado, XV586 was placed on display within the base and following the announcement of the army takeover of Leuchars, was moved back to Yeovilton in 2012 and restored to 892 NAS colours. It remains in storage on site and is placed on display at the annual Yeovilton Air Day.

XT891

XT891 holds a special place as it was the first operational FGR.2 to be delivered to the RAF, although strangely it came via Yeovilton where it was inscribed ‘FLY NAVY’. It was first issued to 228 OCU at RAF Coningsby in August 1968 and in a busy career also served with 54, 6 and 29 & 56 Sqns before finishing in the hands of 74 Sqn at Wattisham. An accident prone bird, it suffered a flying accident in 1972, an infamous mishap in 1984 when a nose wheel steering failure forced it off the runway at Waddington and it was also reportedly plagued by false fire warnings during its later years. It was retired to gate guard duties at Coningsby in the early 1990’s and refinished in classic camouflage colours. Currently wearing 41 Sqn markings, a squadron with which it never served.

XT899

XT899 spent the first six years of its career with 228 OCU before serving 6 & 29 Sqns and making a first detachment to Germany between 1976 and 1977 as part of 19 and 92 Sqns. Returned to the UK following a flying accident in June 1977 and rejoined the OCU after repair in autumn 1978. Served with 92, 23 & 56 Sqns before returning to Germany, again with 19 and 92 Sqns, in 1984. Received a special all blue colour scheme in 1991, to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the RAF. Noted as being the last Phantom to fly out of Wildenrath on 16th Jan 1992, when it made a delivery flight to the Kbely Aviation Museum in Prague, Czech Republic, for display. Initially kept outdoors, it was repainted in 2018 and moved to an indoor location where it can be seen today.

XT905

The early years of XT905’s service, as part of 228 OCU, were notable for the year it spent in repair following either a bird strike or contact with a tree (depending on who you believe) during a low level sortie in the 1970s. Following use by 17 & 31 Sqns and back with the OCU, a nose wheel leg failure on landing caused more damage in 1981. After retirement from 74 Sqn, the aircraft acted as an instructional airframe at RAF North Luffenham before being disposed of in 2013 and ending up at Everett Aero, Suffolk. The rear canopy was removed and ended up on XV582 when the latter was damaged during a storm. It was purchased by a private buyer in 2019 and is currently being stored by the British Phantom Aviation Group, awaiting confirmation of the owner’s future plans.

XT914

XT914 was another aircraft that spent most of its career in the hands of 228 OCU but it also served with 14, 17, 56, 92 and 74 Sqns. Lost the cover of the refuelling probe during rehearsals for the Mildenhall airshow in 1992, causing damage to the fuselage and with the end of Phantom operations imminent, the decision was made not to return it to airworthy status. The aircraft was transferred to gate guard duties, firstly at RAF Leeming in October 1992 then at RAF Brampton from 1997. With the closure of Brampton, XT914 was initially meant to move to Wittering but with the sudden end of aircraft activity there, it instead went back to Wattisham, its final base of operations, in 2012 and is now an exhibit at the Wattisham Station Heritage museum.

XV401

XV401 had a busy life, spending time with 228 OCU, 111, 56, 29 & 23 Sqns (with the latter for air defence duties in the Falkland Islands between 1986-88) before ending its career firstly with 56, then 74 Sqn at Wattisham. After retirement the aircraft was moved to Boscombe Down, firstly in the hands of DERA before eventually ending up as part of the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection museum until disposal was forced in 2012 when the facility moved to smaller premises at Old Sarum. After a period with Everett Aero in Suffolk, the aircraft was purchased by the Bentwaters Cold War Museum in November 2013 and now forms a part of their collection. It is currently stripped back to its primer, ready for a brand new paint job in 2020/21.

XV406

Although taken on charge by the RAF in October 1968, XV406 spent the next four years on experimental and trails work (including being the first aircraft to fly with the EMI recce pod) and did not see squadron service until joining 228 OCU in September 1972. It briefly joined 54 Sqn before moving to the newly re-formed 111 Sqn in 1974. It was transferred to 23 Sqn at Wattisham in Jan 1978 and onward to 56 Sqn in 1982 before finishing its service life in Scotland with the OCU again and both 43 and 111 Sqns (when all three were stationed at Leuchars). Transported by road to RAF Carlisle for gate guard duty in November 1991 but moved to Solway Aviation Museum in 1998 for display. The aircraft was refinished in 111 Sqn colours in 2019.

XV408

XV408 served with 6, 54, 23, 29, 92, 19 Sqns and 228 OCU in a career spanning over 22 years. Like XT899, it briefly gained a special all-blue colour scheme in 1991 and the two aircraft made several public appearances together. After retirement it 1992 it was flown to RAF Cranwell, where it assumed gate guard duties for a while before moving to RAF Halton for more of the same. In 2003 the aircraft appeared on static display at the International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford and afterward stayed on site to await scrapping. It was saved by the RAF Museum, who placed it on loan to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum in 2005 where it appeared on display in 29 Sqn colours. It was then permanently gifted to TAM in 2016, who reverted it back to its commemorative 92 Sqn blue colour scheme.

XV415

XV415 was another FGR.2 that started its career by taking part in significant trials work- with both HSA and A&AEE at Boscombe Down- before finally reaching an active squadron (54) in December 1971. Also part of 41, 31, 56, 29, 92 and 23 Sqns (on Falklands duty between May 1986 and March 1988) as well as 228 OCU, it finished up, like so many other FGR.2s, at Wattisham, firstly in the hands of 74 Sqn before ending its career back with 56 Sqn in June 1992. It was then transported by road to RAF Boulmer, Northumberland, where it remains on gate guard duty to this day, still in 56 Sqn red tail markings. It is accompanied by a plaque that highlights statistics for the aircraft and also lists significant dates in its operational history.

XV424

XV424 started its career in service with 6 Sqn during April 1969 but was also part of 54, 29, 111, 56 and 92 Sqns as well as 228 OCU. However, it is more celebrated as the aircraft painted in the special ‘Alcock & Brown’ colour scheme that made a commemorative Atlantic crossing between Goose Bay, Canada and Clifden, Ireland in June 1979 (the 60th Anniversary of the original first crossing). The aircraft stayed in these markings for a number of public appearances through the rest of the year before finally being removed in November 1979. It finished its service career with 56 Sqn at Wattisham and after retirement at the end of 1992 was delivered to the RAF Museum in Hendon, London, where it is now preserved and on display still in 56 Sqn colours.

XV470

An absolute workhorse of the Phantom fleet, XV470 spent time with 2, 14, 31, 56, 92, 19, 43, 111 Sqns and 228 OCU (at both Coningsby and Leuchars) as well as being on loan to 17 and 29 Sqns at various points along the way. It ended its time in service with 56 Sqn at Wattisham and was flown to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus during 1994 to be used as an instructional airframe. That duty being over for some time, the aircraft has fallen victim to neglect and souvenir hunters and is now considerably worse for wear. The radome and one of the seats have reportedly made it into the base museum and plans are afoot to sink the rest of the fuselage offshore to use as an artificial reef. However, as of 2020, what is left of the aircraft is still at Akrotiri.

XV474

XV474 was delivered to 17 Sqn in October 1970, remaining with the unit before moving to Germany in 1976, firstly with 31 & 2 Sqn then with the newly re-formed 19 Sqn at Wildenrath. It returned to the UK in late 1978, flying in an experimental light grey & black radome colour scheme with 23 Sqn at Wattisham. Service with 56 & 29 Sqns followed (including Falklands duties between 1982-85) before finishing its career with 74 Sqn, making a final flight to Duxford on 13th Oct 1992 following purchase by the Old Flying Machine Company. The aircraft made several taxi runs at Duxford but a plan to return the aircraft to flight fell foul of bureaucracy and instead it became part of the IWM collection at Duxford and can now be seen, still in 74 Sqn colours, on display within Hangar 4.

XV497

XV497 started service life with 6 Sqn during December 1970, going on to also form part of 41, 17, 56, 23, 92 and 19 Sqns as well as 228 OCU. Sent to the Falklands in March 1988, it became part of 1435 Flight. After returning to the UK in February 1990, it joined 74 Sqn at Wattisham until making a final flight to RAF Coningsby during October 1992. The aircraft subsequently moved RAF Waddington to assume static display and instructional duties, also becoming a ground exhibit at the annual airshow. Following disposal in 2012, it was purchased by a private buyer and placed on loan to Bentwaters Cold War Museum for a number of years. However, the aircraft then moved into storage at Everett Aero for a time before finally finding a home at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum at Flixton, in 2020.

ZE359

As one of only two surviving complete F-4J(UK) airframes, ZE359 is a rare bird. Which makes it a shame that it has been returned to US Navy colours, in celebration of its previous life, rather than being a pristine example of the F-4J in service with the RAF. A genuine combat veteran, serving in Vietnam with VF-74, it was later placed in storage before being selected for the F-4J(UK) programme. After refits and an upgrade at NARF, North Island, California, it was subsequently delivered to 74 Sqn at Wattisham in August 1984. After the F-4J(UK) fleet was withdrawn from use, the aircraft was donated to IWM Duxford, arriving on 10th June 1991. It was returned to its VF-74 colours and is now on display as part of the American Air Museum.

ZE360

The second of the two complete F-4J(UK) survivors, ‘155574’ first served with the US Navy between 1968-1982 before being stored at North Island, California until selected for the F-4J(UK) procurement in 1984. The aircraft, now officially assigned the serial ZE360, was delivered to 74 Sqn at Wattisham on 5th October 1984 and was operational with the squadron between Dec 1984-Jan 1991. Its final flight was to Manston, Kent on 22nd Feb 1991, where it was to be used an instructional airframe. The aircraft remained outside over the years, visibly deteriorating until being purchased by the BPAG (with a large donation from 74 Sqn Association) in 2019. A preservation plan is already underway, which should see the aircraft moving to a safer location during 2021. More on this project here.

XT863

After making its maiden flight on 9th April, XT863 was taken on charge by the Royal Navy on 5th August 1968 and initially performed trials work with 700P. The first active squadron the aircraft saw service with was 767, before transferring to 892 in August 1972. When the RAF took over FG.1 operations, XT863 was issued to 111 Sqn at RAF Leuchars in early 1980, staying with the unit until joining 43 Sqn in June 1986. Sent to RAF Abingdon in 1989, the aircraft was dumped outside and eventually scrapped sometime in 1991. The cockpit section survived, although not subject to any kind of preservation effort and is currently the property of Cliftongrade Metals, a scrap dealer based in Cowes, Isle of Wight.

XT895

XT895 was delivered to 228OCU in December 1969 and also went on to serve with 6, 111 and 92 Sqns before ending up, like so many other UK F-4s, with 74 Sqn at Wattisham. It is notable for suffering a mishap during 1991 when a Sparrow missile misfired and collided with the aircraft causing a skin puncture to the lower outside face of the RH air intake. The aircraft subsequently made an emergency landing at RAF Valley, Wales and was kept quarantined until an incident investigation could be carried out. With the withdrawal of the Phantom fleet imminent the aircraft was not repaired and was instead transferred to the gunnery ranges at Foulness. The cockpit section survived in storage at Foulness until purchased by a collector and kept privately in the Essex area. It was obtained by the BPAG’s Mike Davey in 2020 and is now in storage elsewhere awaiting its turn in the restoration queue.

XV581

One of the batch of FG.1s that went straight into service with the RAF, XV581 had a relatively settled service life, spending most of its 22 years in the hands of 43 Sqn at RAF Leuchars. It was briefly loaned to 111 Sqn during 1981 and was eventually transferred to them permanently in August 1989, although not for long. As 111 began the transition to the Tornado, XV581 was flown to Wattisham in January 1990 and then transported to RAF Buchan, Scotland for display but was eventually scrapped in November 1999. The cockpit section was rescued and given to a local Air Cadet squadron- 2489 in Aberdeen- before later finding its way into the hands of the Staffordshire Wing, who currently keep it at their premises at Beacon Barracks, Stafford.

XV591

XV591 was delivered to the Royal Navy in August 1969 and was issued to 892 NAS in November and stayed with the squadron until it disbanded in late 1978. It was turned over to the RAF and joined 111 Sqn at RAF Coningsby in August 1979 and then withdrawn from use in December 1987 when a ‘major structural fault’ was discovered. Sections of the wings and tail were sent to RAF Abingdon, the fuselage was scrapped but the cockpit section was saved and, bizarrely, refinished in the Alcock & Brown paint scheme for display at St Athan. Later transferred to RAF Cosford Museum and to coincide with the opening of the National Cold War Exhibition in 2007, was returned to 892 NAS colours along with Queen’s Silver Jubilee special markings.

XT903

After initial delivery in November 1968, XT903 became another FGR.2 that spent most of its life with 228 OCU, although it did spend a year with 2 Sqn between 1973-74 and 23 Sqn between 1980-82. It was grounded between April and October 1982 after suffering damage following a mid-air collision with XT912. It was back with the OCU in late ’82 and then transferred to 92 Sqn at Wildenrath for seven months before undergoing major servicing at St Athan in August 1987. Returned to the OCU (now at Leuchars) in February 1988 and then delivered to Wattisham in mid-1990, becoming part of 56 Sqn. Aircraft was returned to Leuchars after 56 disbanded, some sources stating for decoy purposes. Scrapped in 2001 and cockpit section placed in storage at RAF Cosford Museum.

XV399

XV399 spent its first year after delivery languishing in the care of 23 MU at RAF Aldergrove before finally being assigned to a squadron (228 OCU) in December 1969. A confusing sequence of allocations and loans followed which saw it go back and forth between 17, 31, and 14 Sqns during 1971-75, also suffering damage from a bird strike along the way. Things improved afterwards, with the aircraft forming part of 2 Sqn between December 1975 and February 1977 and 29 Sqn until September 1981. After major servicing at St Athan it spent a short period back with the OCU before being transferred to 56 Sqn in mid-1982, where it stayed until retirement. Following scrapping in 1993, the cockpit section was purchased by a private buyer and moved to Norway, where it has remained since.

XV402

First delivered on 8th November 1968, XV402 didn’t enter squadron service until April 1971 and was only with 2 Sqn for three months before being transferred to 31 Sqn where it stayed until September 1975. Also with 41, 92, 23 Sqns and 228 OCU between 1975 and 1982. Detached to the Falklands with 29 Sqn between November 1982 and May 1986. Underwent major servicing at St Athan and then stored until transferred to BAE, Brough in December 1987 and on to 56 Sqn in October 1988. Sustained damage to undercarriage, flaps and aileron due to a heavy landing at RAF Valley in 1990 and sent back to St Athan. Not repaired due to scheduled retirement of the type and eventually scrapped in 1995. Cockpit section reported to have been sold to a private buyer in Belgium.

XV409

XV409 was first allocated to 54 Sqn at RAF Coningsby on 31st March 1969. It also served with 228 OCU and 41 Sqn before being damaged in a flying accident during July 1974. Following repair, it formed part of both 111 and 56 Sqns before ending up back at the OCU in Feb 1980. Transferred to 29 Sqn in early 1983 and underwent major servicing in 1986 then storage at St Athan until July 1990. Joined the OCU a final time before heading to Wattisham and 74 Sqn in Jan 1991. Transferred to 1435 Flight, Falkland Islands in Sept 1991 and following retirement acted as a gate guardian at RAF Mount Pleasant. Scrapped due to corrosion in 2012, the cockpit section is currently in storage but earmarked for a future museum in Port Stanley.

XV419

XV419 was initially allocated to 54 Sqn at RAF Coningsby on 30th April 1969 before being transferred to 14 Sqn when 54 disbanded in March 1974. Transferred to 111 Sqn (via a short period with 17 Sqn) in February 1976 and onward to 29 Sqn in late 1979. Undertook two tours of duty in the Falkland Islands in 1982-86 and 1988-90 before finishing its career, firstly with 228 OCU and finally with 19 Sqn at Wildenrath, sporting a stylish blue fin. Retired to the Wattisham dump in 1992 and subsequently scrapped. Cockpit section was one of a number that were sold by Hanningfield Metals and became part of the Terrington Aviation Collection in Norfolk, UK but was later purchased by a private buyer and moved to a private location in Wales.

XV426

XV426 started its service career with 228 OCU, being delivered to RAF Coningsby on 18th July 1969. It was used for MATRA/SNEB rocket pod trials & transferred to 31 Sqn in mid-1971, staying with the unit until June 1976 (albeit with a two month period with 17 Sqn during 1975). Transferred around 111, 56, 29 and 23 Sqns & finally rejoining 56 until retirement. Appeared at the Wattisham photocall in 1991 with special ‘sharkmouth’ markings. After instructional use at Coningsby, it was finally scrapped in 2000 and the cockpit section became part of the collection at RAF Coltishall where it underwent restoration and regained the sharkmouth. With the closure of Coltishall in 2006 it was moved to City of Norwich Aviation Museum and is currently on display.

XV460

XV460 spent over two years in storage before finally being issued to 31 Sqn in July 1971. It also served with 56 Sqn and 228 OCU between February 1976 and January 1979 before moving to RAF Wildenrath, Germany where it swapped between 19, 92 and 29 Sqns until being placed in storage in September 1988. Back with 19 Sqn in June 1990 and, in common with many FGR.2s ended its career with 56 and 74 Sqns at Wattisham. Acted as decoy & instructional airframe at Coningsby and was scrapped in 1999, with the cockpit section going to 2214 ATC unit in Sunderland. Moved to Everett Aero in 2013 and was on loan to Bentwaters Cold War Museum until 2016. Currently back at Everett’s where plans for its future are uncertain.

XV489

Delivered to 23 Maintenance Unit at RAF Aldergrove on 5th September 1969 but not issued to 2 Sqn until 9th February 1971, XV489 also formed part of 17, 29, 56, 92, 43 and 23 Sqns (on duty in the Falkland Islands between May 1986 and March 1988) and also served with 228 OCU at various points. The aircraft was retired to St Athan in April 1990 and was stored on site until placed on the dump in September 1991 and eventually scrapped in 1993. Hanningfield Metals sold the cockpit section to a group of enthusiasts based at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, who restored it back to classic camouflage and 92 Sqn markings before selling it on to a private buyer, who exported it to Holland. May have since moved to Germany but that fact remains unconfirmed.

XV490

XV490 had a busy operational history, serving with 54, 41, 6, 29, 23, 56, 92, 56 and 74 Sqns as well as 228 OCU. It was dispatched to the Falklands in early 1988 but went unserviceable en route and returned to the UK, the fact of which didn’t stop it appearing in 1435 Flight colours for a photocall in 1991. After scrapping in 1992, the cockpit section moved first to Bruntingthorpe and then Hack Green before settling at Newark Air Museum in 2011. Restored and repainted to 92 Sqn colours by the British Phantom Aviation Group, it was unveiled at Cockpit Fest 2016, winning the ‘Grand Champion Award’ and has proved to be a popular attraction at many events throughout the UK since. The BPAG continue to maintain XV490 and more information about this project can be found here.

XV499

XV499 spent its first year of service with 228 OCU before joining 6 Sqn in October 1971, staying with the unit until it disbanded in 1974. The aircraft also formed part of 41, 92, 19, 23, 29 and 74 Sqns until being flown to RAF Leeming in October 1992, to be used primarily as an instructional airframe but where it also made regular appearances at the annual airshow. Scheduled to be scrapped in 2001, it actually survived until 2013 and was moved to Hixton, Staffordshire, reportedly for restoration for gate guard duties. Instead, the aircraft was scrapped in January 2014 and the cockpit section sold to a private buyer, who moved it to Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire. It stayed there until January 2018 when it was moved again, to St Athan, Wales where it is currently in storage.

ZE350

In common with all the F-4J(UK) fleet, ZE350 is an ex-US Navy F-4J that was refurbished and modified for sale to the RAF. Under BuNo 153768 it served with Navy squadron VF-101 and was part of NATC (Naval Air Test Centre) at Patuxent River, from 1971. Stored at Davis Monthan from 1982 until undergoing conversion to F-4J(UK) standard and delivered to Wattisham in October 1984. After the F-4J(UK) fleet was withdrawn from use, it was moved to RAF Laarbruch in Germany for instructional use before suffering the ignominy of target use at the Pendrine & Foulness firing ranges. Eventually scrapped, the cockpit section ended up in private hands in the UK before being exported to Australia in 2017. Restored to VF-101 colours in 2018.

ZE352

Before being selected for the F-J(UK) procurement, ZE352 was famous as the ‘Black Bunny’ during its time with the US Navy’s Test & Evaluation squadron, VX-4. Finished in an all over black colour scheme with white markings and a prominent tribute to the Playboy bunny on the fin, the aircraft was a popular attraction at events and airshows all over the USA during the 1970s. Put into storage at the Davis Monthan boneyard in early 1982, then delivered to 74 Sqn in the UK during August 1984 it served as part of the F-4J(UK) fleet until 1991. Moved to RAF Laarbruch to act as an instructional airframe after retirement, it later ended up on the firing ranges at both Pendine and Foulness before being scrapped. Cockpit section was purchased by a private buyer and is now stored in Lancashire.

Compiling this list would have been considerably more difficult without Ken Ellis’s invaluable ‘Wrecks & Relics’ as well as the individual aircraft histories contained in S.C. Edwards’s long out of print ‘ RAF & RN Phantom Directory’. Both publications are highly recommended. Thank also to Tony Clay of the 74 Squadron Association and Stuart Forth (SE England’s premier Phantom obsessive) for filling in some gaps.