In the early 1960s, the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. The USAF 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. The Air Force officially accepted a total of 499 RF-4Cs.
The RF-4C can carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It could take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carried no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense.
The 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron became the first operational unit to fly the RF-4C. In October 1965 that unit deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. In the following years, RF-4Cs flew reconnaissance missions around the world, including Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990-1991. The Air Force retired all of its RF-4Cs by 1995.
The RF-4C on display was delivered to the USAF on Sept. 9, 1965. It served in Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Europe, Cuba and the Middle East. During Desert Shield/Desert Storm, this aircraft flew a total of 172 missions, more than any other F-4 aircraft. When flown to the museum in May 1994, it had more than 7,300 hours of flying time.
TECHNICAL NOTES: Engines: Two General Electric J79-GE-15s of 17,000 lbs. thrust each Maximum speed: 1,384 mph Range: 1,632 miles without aerial refueling Ceiling: 55,200 ft. Span: 38 ft. 5 in. Length: 62 ft. 10 in. Height: 16 ft. 6 in.