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    The F-4X Phantom: A Speed and Reconnaissance Dream That Never Took Flight

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    F-4 Super Phantom (Israel)” by Rob Schleiffert is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The F-4 Phantom, a fighter bomber par excellence developed by McDonnell Douglas, has a storied past marked by exceptional performance and wide-reaching adoption.

    Berlin – Militärhistorisches Museum Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow – McDonnell F-4 Phantom II 01” by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Entering service in 1961, the Phantom was a powerhouse with record-breaking altitude and speed milestones.

    F-4 Phantom IIs” by Gone-Walkabout is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    It demonstrated versatility across various branches of the U.S. military and found a home in the air forces of 11 other countries, including Israel.

    McDonnell F-4 Phantom II” by AV8PIX Christopher Ebdon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    The F-4X, is a proposed high-speed reconnaissance variant of the F-4 Phantom intended for the Israeli Air Force.

    F-4E Phantom – RIAT 2016” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    This ambitious program aimed to endow the F-4 with greater thrust and reduced drag, pushing it to speeds that could rival or even surpass the fastest aircraft of its era.

    Berlin – Militärhistorisches Museum Flugplatz Berlin-Gatow – Bundeswehr Luftwaffe McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II” by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The F-4X genesis is traced back to the reconnaissance challenges faced by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the early 1970s.

    Soviet Supersonic Interceptor Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25. Советский сверхзвуковой перехватчик МиГ-25” by Peer.Gynt is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat overflights, performed at altitudes and speeds unattainable for the IAF’s then-current arsenal, sparked a dire need for a high-speed reconnaissance platform.

    4x F-1CR – Last over flight 2” by Chaika12 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    This pressing requirement led to the exploration of advanced technologies and the eventual conceptualization of the F-4X.

    4X-JPA Paul Kipping” by Paul Kipping is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    The F-4X was not merely an incremental update; it promised a transformative leap in performance.

    F-4 Phantom-021” by VinceFL is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Demineralized water would be used for pre-compressor cooling (PCC) of the General Electric (G.E.) J79 engines, which, without getting into excessive technical detail, were calculated to increase the engines’ thrust by 50%.

    4x F-1CR – Last over flight 3 – Bye Bye Mirage F-1………..” by Chaika12 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    On paper, the F-4X was a marvel that would cruise at Mach 2.4 and sprint at a staggering Mach 3.2.

    Vietnam War 1965 – Sunset Falls F-4 Phantom Jet Plane USS Midway – Cảnh hoàng hôn trên tàu sân bay USS Midway” by manhhai is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    However, as is often the case with cutting-edge aerospace endeavors, challenges soon emerged. General Dynamics, tasked with the project, realized that water injection could lead to engine compressor blades’ expansion, risking catastrophic engine failure.

    Louisiana Air National Guard 159th Fighter Wing deliver McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 ‘Strike Eagle’s’” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Additionally, the changing strategic landscape, including the looming introduction of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, began to overshadow the F-4X’s promise.

    F-4 ‘Phantom’” by hans905 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Lastly, the U.S. State Department feared that the IAF would use the F-4X to shoot down a Soviet reconnaissance plane and create an international incident.

    F-4 Phantom” by jeffk42 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Quoth Petrinic one last time: “Thus signaled the death knell for the F-4X.”

    Relevant articles:
    4 Phantom Fighter Bomber, airforce-technology.com
    F-4X: The Fastest Phantom, HistoryNet, Jan 19, 2017
    F-4X Phantom: The Powerful Fighter Plane That Never Had a Chance to Fly, The National Interest, Dec 19, 2023
    F-4 Phantom engine upgrade, Secret Projects Forum, Jul 13, 2020

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