Almost the last of the breed: Japan’s Phantoms take their penultimate bow

Japan is one of only a few nations still operating the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter in a combat role.  Last month, it retired the Phantoms of 302 Squadron, prior to re-equipping the unit with the F-35 Lightning II stealth strike fighter.

Here’s an outstanding video tribute by 302 Squadron as it bade farewell to an aircraft it had flown since its establishment in 1974, 45 years ago.  That’s a long, long time to fly the same combat aircraft, but the F-4 has stood up nobly to its task, with periodic refurbishment and upgrades.

There are two squadrons in the JASDF still equipped with F-4’s.  They’ll give up their aircraft next year, ending the fighter’s long and stellar career in that country.  At that time, only Greece, Iran, South Korea and Turkey will still operate the aircraft – and probably not for much longer.



  1. They are out of Hyakuri Air Base, just north of Tokyo. Ojiro is Japanese for 'white tail', which was the way their Phantoms tails were colored. The squadrons in Misawa and Naha are still flying theirs. The F-4 was the ONE fighter all Japanese pilots wanted to fly! 🙂

  2. Yes, outstanding.
    Beautiful jets, flying, video.
    Rushing air sounds, with fine music.

    First F4s were in … 1960!
    Grew up watching them fight in Vietnam, among other places.
    (Tho McCain was shot down in an A4 Skyhawk).

    Thanks, nice video.

  3. Phantoms would work the same sites we worked with our UH-1C gunships.
    Watching them from a reasonable distance, I was surprised to finally see one up close and personal…
    Like the F-14, it is a BIG airplane.
    And I'm sorry I never took the opportunity to go fly in one.

  4. The first I ever knew of the F-4 was in a Buzz Sawyer comic strip in my local paper. I didn't believe it was real–too ugly. Must have been in the late '50s.

  5. Did they ever get updated with Command Seat Ejection? (Not sure if that is the correct terminology) Twin seat fighters like the F-14 have a program that automatically blows both seats out with a minimal time delay between them, rear seat first. Maybe a quarter second between initiation of the two.

    I ask because there is a video of an F4 Phantom off of No Vietnam that had an onboard fire. The backseater ejects, but the pilot never gets out due to the front cockpit instantly becoming a torch with the rear canopy gone. IIRC, the pilot was a general officer. I suspect this video was the impetus for making the ejection seats interrelated.

    I know of one instance where being separate actually saved the pilot (twin seat F-104), but I don't know if there is a manual override to such a system.

  6. I did fly back seat in an F4 with a Flight Surgeon aviator (& test pilot, later a civilian anesthesiologist in Texas) when I was at the China Lake NAS.

    I used to walk past parked F4s once a week when I was stationed there, but don't recollect a pitot tube at the nose; that version had a Phillips head screw at the tip of its nose at eye level and arm's length from me, as I walked by.

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