If the term “blue-collar” could describe any aircraft since the dawn of flight, it is certainly apropos of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. Tagged with such affectionate nicknames as “Double Ugly” and the “Rhino,” there are very few aircraft in history that have played so many crucial roles as successfully as the F-4. From air-to-air and air-to-ground missions to recce and SEAD, the F-4 is an icon of American aviation ingenuity and air superiority.
Few aircraft are more recognizable than the Phantom, with over five thousand of them rolling off the assembly line. She took to the skies for the first time in 1958 and is still in service with multiple countries.
We could drone (so to speak) on for pages professing our love for this incredible aircraft, but a few numbers will tell her story better and put a little perspective on how valuable Double Ugly has been over the course of her career. A total of 5,195 airframes were produced over two decades, and they have been put to good use by 12 different countries in the last 50-plus years. Phantoms have scored a total of 306 aerial victories, 151 of those belonging to the United States.
She was and still is a force to be reckoned with.