McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-43-MC (S/N 69-372) of the 22nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Shaw Air Force Base. This photograph was taken at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in 1971. (U.S. Air Force photo)
In the early 1960s the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. The Air Force chose a modification of the F-4C fighter. The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964. A total of 505 RF-4Cs were ordered by the Air Force.
The RF-4C can carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It can take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carries no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense.
The first unit to fly the RF-4C operationally was the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In October 1965 that unit deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. Since then RF-4Cs have been involved in reconnaissance missions around the world, including the Desert Shield/Storm operation in Iraq in 1990-1991.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force has several F-4 variants on display, including the F-4C, the RF-4C, the YF-4E, the F-4G and an F-4 cockpit mockup.
USN/USMC; 29 loaned to USAF
Export F-4E for Germany
Royal Navy; FG.1
Royal Air Force; FGR.2
USN/USMC; from F-4B
USN/USMC; from F-4J
- F-4A was originally designated F4H-1F (and XF4H-1) by the U.S. Navy
- Dual-control F-4As redesignated TF-4A
- F-4B was originally designated F4H-1 by the U.S. Navy
- RF-4B was originally designated F4H-1P by the U.S. Marine Corps
- Seven F-4Bs were converted to QF-4B drone aircraft
- F-4C was originally designated F-110A by USAF
- The U.S. Navy loaned the USAF 29 F-4Bs for service evaluation (see F-110A)
- 12 F-4Gs (Navy designation) were out of service before the USAF F-4G "Wild Weasel" aircraft were converted from F-4Es
- 138 of 140 F-4EJs were built in Japan
- 32 F-4Ds were built for the Iranian AF
- The USAF F-4G was initially designated EF-4E
USAF F-4 numbers: - F-4C - 583 [doesn't include 29 F-4Bs (F-110A) on loan from U.S. Navy]
- RF-4C - 505
- F-4D - 793
- F-4E - 993 (116 later converted to F-4G)
(as ordered, some -E models diverted/direct delivered to other nations)
- TOTAL: 2,874
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: None. Some later equipped with 4 sidewinder missiles Engines: Two General Electric J-79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner Maximum speed: 1,384 mph Cruising speed: 575 mph Range: 1,632 miles without aerial refueling Service ceiling: 55,200 ft. Span: 38 ft. 5 in. Length: 62 ft. 10 in. Height: 16 ft. 6 in. Crew: Two