McDonnell F-4G Phantom

Last revised January 3, 2008

In 1963, twelve Navy F-4Bs were modified as F-4Gs. This was a Navy designation, not to be confused with the USAF F-4G of twelve years later, which was a *Wild Weasel* aircraft.

The Navy F-4G was a version of the F-4B modified for the evaluation of the feasibility of a SAGE-like ground control system for fleet air defense. The Navy hoped to be able to connect its fighters, ships, and AEW aircraft by a two-way datalink network so that fighters could be controlled through a communication link that coupled their autopilots to a ship or aircraft-based controller. The intent was to make it possible to carry out automatically-controlled interceptions without the need for voice commands from ground controllers. The same system would, incidentally, make night/all-weather automatic carrier landings possible.

In support of this program, a single F-4B (BuNo 148254) was fitted with an AN/ASW-13 two-way datalink communication system and approach power compensator which, coupled with the shipboard AN/SPN-10 radar and AN/USC-1 datalink allowed hands-off carrier landings to be accomplished. Tests proceed well enough so that the ASW-13 was replaced with an AN/ASW-21, which in addition to the datalink capability also allowed weapons, oxygen, and fuel status to be relayed to the controller. A radar reflector had to be attached to the nose in order to produce a larger radar target that would permit the AN/SPN-10 ship-borne radar to track the F-4 during automatic landings. Initially, the radar reflector was bolted onto the nose gear ddor, but in production versions the reflector retracted into a cavity underneath the nose immediately ahead of the landing gear. Other changes included the reconfiguration of the number 1 fuel tank, which had to lose 600 pounds of fuel in order to make room for the datalink equipment. The cockpit configuration had to be revised slightly to incorporate the datalink system--new control boxes and indicators were installed in the rear cockpit, and a panel with status lights and an acknowledge button was installed in the front cockpit to inform the controller that information had been received. A distance-to-touchdown indicator was also installed on the instrument panel. The autopilot system was modified to permit inputs from the datalink system to drive the flight controls. An automatic approach power compensator system system was installed to automatically control the engine throttles while the aircraft was in the landing approach phase.

Twelve more F-4Bs were converted to this standard on the production line. Their serial numbers were BuNos 150481, 150484, 150487, 150489, 150492, 150625, 150629, 150633, 150636, 150639, 150642 and 150645. The first of these (150481) flew on March 20, 1963. These planes differed from 148254 in having a retractable rather than fixed radar reflector immediately ahead of the nose-wheel bay. In early 1963, two of these planes (150489) and 150625) were sent to the NATC at Patuxent for testing of the automatic carrier landing system, and in the summer of 1963 the remainder were given to VF-96 at NAS Miramar for testing.

In January-March 1964, the 10 VF-96 planes were transferred to VF-213. On March 31, 1964, the NATC aircraft were redesignated F-4G, and the VF-213 aircraft followed suit on April 6. The F-4Gs of VF-213 were operated aboard the USS *Kitty Hawk* in the Gulf of Tonkin from November 1965 until June of 1966. One (150645) was lost to North Vietnamese AAA, but the others were stripped of their AN/ASW-21 datalink gear and brought back to F-4B standards and were dispersed throughout the Navy and Marine Corps. Seven survived long enough to be converted to F-4N configuration.

The automatic landing and remote-controlled intercept capabilities tested by the F-4G were later incorporated into later production blocks of the F-4B by addition of the AN/ASW-125, which, however, lacked the two-way feature of the AN/ASW-21.


  1. McDonnell F-4 Phantom: Spirit in the Skies. Airtime Publishing, 1992.

  2. Modern Air Combat, Bill Gunston and Mike Spick, Crescent, 1983.

  3. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. E-mail from Stephen Miller, with pointer to article in "The Hook--The Journal of Carrier Aviation".

  6. E-mail from David Tanner on 150645.