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And another iconic aircraft disappears out of the European skies.

Like the Harrier, the Tornado ADF, Mirage F-1M and the A-10C before the McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II was withdrawn from use by the Luftwaffe after forty years of service. I know we should call it a Boeing nowadays but it just doesn’t sound right!

That the end was near was obvious of course with only one unit, Jagtgeschwader 71 “Richthofen”, still active in the fleet. Fortunately the Luftwaffe did not let this happen without a small party. With a spotters day and an air show the Phantom got a very nice “Phantom pharwell” at Wittmund. Slightly hampered by the aviation enthusiast gods who showed their disapproval of withdrawing the Phantom from their skies with clouds and some heavy but passing showers. But the Luftwaffe gave a so much better and more appropriate goodbye to this faithful workhorse then what the RAF and the USAF did with the withdrawal of its own tactical airplanes. In the months leading to the air show four F-4F’s were placed in the heritage flight. One with a special paintjob (37+01) and three (37+10, 38+10, 38+33)  in the several tactical colours the Phantom has flown during its career in the Luftwaffe. Also two others were flown around in special colours. One (38+13) from the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle 61 (WTD 61 – Test Wing) and one from (38+28) JG-71 being the last ever depot inspection done on a Luftwaffe Phantom.

The F-4F was a downgraded version of the F-4E specially build for the Luftwaffe and was initially used for air defence and fighter bomber tasks. The latter job was taken over by the PANAVIA Tornado IDS. A total number of 175 were built under the “Peace Rhine” program with a huge involvement of the German industry.

It will be sorely missed by enthusiasts.

Pieter Stroobach

I reside in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

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