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Phantom Pharewell  Wittmund AB,   29 June 2013

On Saturday June 29th 2013 the German Air Force organized the Phantom Pharewell at Wittmund Airbase to celebrate the last operational flight of the F-4F Phantom II. The day prior a spottersday was held which was attended by approx. 3000 aviation enthusiasts. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate, which made me decide to visit the openday on Saturday in stead. The day started very cloudy again with drizzle rain during the morning, lucky the weather cleared during the afternoon.


The static display really was a disaster, as it was almost impossible to take pictures of the aircraft without fences. The short flying display by the four F-4Fs in the afternoon made up for that and surely made it an unforgettable day. During the flying display I stayed outside the fence south of the airbase due to the position of the sun, this was a very good decision. Around four o’clock in the afternoon I entered the airbase again to take some sunny shots of the aircraft on the static and flightlines. After all we all can look back at an historical day at Wittmund. Pharewell Phabulous Phriend!  (Click here for a log)



The German Air Force operated a total of 273 F-4 Phantoms of three different types, 88 RF-4Es, 10 F-4Es and a total of 175 F-4Fs. The first F-4 model to enter German service was the RF-4E, a contract was signed with McDonnell Douglas in 1968. On January 16th 1971 the first RF-4E was delivered to the German Air Force. With eight deliveries per month both the Aufklärungsgeschwader 51 and 52 were fully equipped by the end of 1972. After the reduction of conventional forces in Europe, the Luftwaffe began phasing out the RF-4Es in 1993. A total of 32 RF-4Es were sold to Turkey and another 20 were sold to Greece. The AG 51 received the Tornado IDS as a replacement, while AG 52 was disbanded.


To replace the aging F-104 Starfighters the German Air Force also wanted to equip two fighter and two bomber wings with the F-4E Phantom. Eventually the Luftwaffe purchased the F-4F Phantom, which was based on the F-4E, under the ‘Peace Rhine’ program. The first F-4F (37+01) made its maiden flight on March 18th 1973. The first eight aircraft were sent to George AFB for crew training. In 1976 these trainers were replaced by F-4Es, which stayed in the U.S.A. In May 1974 the Jagdgeschwader 71 from Wittmund was equipped with the F-4F, followed by the JG 74 from Neuburg in September 1975. That same year deliveries started to Jagdbombergeschwader 35 from Pferdsfeld and JBG 36 from Hopsten.


In 1983 the German Air Force started the ICE (Improved Combat Efficiency) program to upgrade the F-4F’s air-to-air capabilities. This upgrade involved the APG-65 radar and AIM-120 AMRAAM as main elements. The plan was to upgrade 75 F-4Fs, but this number was increased to a total of 110 in the late 1980s. Initially the ICE upgraded F-4s were intended only for the interceptor wings, but more were upgraded due to delays in the Eurofighter Typhoon program. The units equipped with the F-4F ICE were the JG 71 and JG 74, the JG 72 which replaced the JBG 36 at Hopsten and the JG 73 which replaced the JBG 35 at Pferdsfeld. After the disbanding of JBG 35 the Phantoms moved to Laage (former East-Germany). The JG 73 at Laage was a mixed unit with one Staffel operating the F-4F and one Staffel operating the MiG-29 Fulcrum. This unique situation ended after the former East-German Fulcrums were sold to Poland.


The JG 73 was also the first F-4-wing to replace its Phantoms with Eurofighters in 2002. The JG 72 from Hopsten was disbanded on January 31st 2002, however the airbase continued flying the Phantom as the Fluglehrzentrum F-4F was formed one day later. The FLZ F-4F was disbanded late 2005 and Hopsten Airbase was closed shortly after. The next Jagdgeschwader to replace its Phantoms was JG 74 from Neuburg which received their first Eurofighters in 2008. The last German Air Force wing to operate the Phantom was JG 71 from Wittmund. After 40 years of operational service the German Air Force retired its last F-4F Phantoms on June 29th 2013. The German Phantoms clocked a total of 279.000 flying hours from entering service on August 31st 1973 till June 29th 2013.




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