Phantom FGR.2

From War Thunder Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
VTOL | Rank 5 USA
AV-8A Harrier Pack
This page is about the jet fighter Phantom FGR.2. For other versions, see F-4 Phantom II (Family).
Phantom FGR.2
GarageImage Phantom FGR.2.jpg
Phantom FGR.2
10.7 10.7 10.7
Research:390 000 Specs-Card-Exp.png
Purchase:1 010 000 Specs-Card-Lion.png
Show in game


The Phantom FGR.2, also known as the F-4M, is a rank VI British jet fighter with a battle rating of 10.7 (AB/RB/SB). It was introduced in Update 1.93 "Shark Attack". It is a British version of the American F-4 Phantom II.

Although at first glance the F-4M appears very similar to its American counterpart the F-4C Phantom II, there are a number of major visual and performance differences between the two aircraft. Phantoms produced for the RAF were redesigned to use British Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines, instead of the General Electric J79 turbojet engines found on American Phantoms. The British engines produced more thrust than the American engines, but were larger; as a result, the fuselage of British Phantoms was modified to be slightly wider than on the American models. In addition, the Phantom FGR.2 has larger air intakes than the F-4C, in order to allow for the increased airflow required by the new engines. The rear of the Fuselage is also significantly different on the Phantom FGR.2; the engines are noticeably angled downwards, and due to the different afterburner arrangement on the Spey engines the exhaust ports and the surrounding area were redesigned. Most distinctively, the Phantom FGR.2 has a squared-off tail and lacks the under-nose probe of the F-4C.

In game these changes mean that the Phantom FGR.2 has much better low altitude acceleration and climb rate, compared to the F-4C, as a result of the more powerful engines. In games you will usually see the Phantom FGR.2s get off the ground and to altitude quicker than the F-4Cs; however due to the increased drag of the redesigned fuselage, and the performance characteristics of the Spey engines, it does not perform quite as well as the F-4C at high altitude, and cannot reach the same maximum speed.

General info

Flight performance

Arrestor gear
Accelerates braking by grabbing the brake cable on the deck of the aircraft carrier
Air brakes
Allows you to dramatically reduce the flight speed by releasing special flaps
Drogue parachute
Reduces braking distance when landing on any runway
Max speed
at 10 667 m2 268 km/h
Turn time26 s
Max altitude16 000 m
Engine2 х Rolls-Royce Spey 203
Cooling systemAir
Take-off weight25 t
FGR.2 fenris 001.jpg

The Phantom FGR.2 is a large and heavy aircraft (more than twice the weight of a MiG-21), but there are times when you would hardly know it. The Phantom's two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans are the most powerful jet engines in the game and give it an incredible thrust to weight ratio, leading to the Phantom FGR.2 being the fastest accelerating, and flat out fastest aircraft in the game at low altitude, while also being a strong contender for the fastest climbing. On take-off even stock FGR.2s will be the first aircraft to get off the ground and make it top the end of the runway (usually be a decent margin); while in terms of flat out speed a fully upgraded FGR.2 will push Mach 1.22 along the deck, a good bit faster than any other aircraft. The Phantom also climbs incredibly well, when loaded with 20m of fuel, missiles and a gun pod it can accelerate past Mach 1 in a 20° climb and even gain speed in a 50° climb (until it reaches about 2,000 m altitude); only few aircraft make it to altitude as fast as / faster than the FGR.2.

While the Phantom FGR.2 is certainly not the most manoeuvrable fighter in the game it can prove to be more agile than you would expect at low altitude. While you shouldn't be getting into full blown turn fights the Phantom handles very nicely when down low and can pull some manoeuvres with surprisingly little speed loss (mainly thanks to the amount of engine power you have).

Where the Phantom FGR.2 suffers is at higher altitudes, the Spey engines perform worse at altitude and the structural changes to accommodate them caused increased drag; this makes it slower than the American F-4C. At high altitude the FGR.2 loses the agility it had at lower altitude, and generally does not handle as nice. While it is still flyable evasive manoeuvrers become harder and the turn radius is much larger.

Characteristics Max Speed
(km/h at 10,667 m)
Max altitude
Turn time
Rate of climb
Take-off run
Stock 2,195 2,158 16000 26.5 26.8 177.3 167.0 850
Upgraded 2,351 2,268 25.5 26.0 245.5 210.0


Combat flaps Take-off flaps Landing flaps Air brakes Arrestor gear Drogue chute
Phantom FGR.2 with multi-role ordnance
Wings (km/h) Gear (km/h) Flaps (km/h) Max Static G
Combat Take-off Landing + -
1458 463 N/A 580 463 ~11 ~4
Optimal velocities (km/h)
Ailerons Rudder Elevators Radiator
< 810 < 750 < 700 N/A

Engine performance

Engine Aircraft mass
Engine name Number Empty mass Wing loading (full fuel)
Rolls-Royce Spey 203 2 14,140 kg 407 kg/m2
Engine characteristics Mass with fuel (no weapons load) Max Takeoff
Weight (each) Type 7m fuel 20m fuel 26m fuel
1,860 kg Afterburning low-bypass turbofan 15,747 kg 18,667 kg 20,015 kg 25,400 kg
Maximum engine thrust @ 0 m (RB / SB) Thrust to weight ratio @ 0 m (WEP)
Condition 100% WEP 7m fuel 20m fuel 26m fuel MTOW
Stationary 5,120 kgf 9,031 kgf 1.15 0.97 0.90 0.71
Optimal 5,120 kgf
(0 km/h)
10,331 kgf
(1,200 km/h)
1.31 1.11 1.03 0.81

Survivability and armour

Aircraft countermeasures to distract IR and radar-guided missiles and also AA radar
Crew2 people
Speed of destruction
Structural1 458 km/h
Gear463 km/h

Much like the older F-4C variant, the British Phantom FGR.2 is without any armour protection whatsoever - the weight savings allow the aircraft to take on more fuel or ordnance while utilising speed as its best defence. This fighter packs numerous fuel tanks, while some are located in the leading edges of the wings, the majority of the fuel tanks are located within the fuselage packed around the engines and behind the cockpit. The control lines for the Phantom FGR.2 run from the cockpit down the length of the upper fuselage to the tailplane, relatively exposed to enemy gunfire.

Fighters attempting to take down a Phantom FGR.2 should try to force it to bleed its energy in a turn with missiles - a slow Phantom is a vulnerable Phantom. Autocannons and missiles will be most effective for disabling or destroying critical components, but smaller rockets such as M/55, SNEB Type 23 or FFAR Mighty Mouse unguided rockets fired in salvos during a head-on engagement may cause enough of a scattered grouping that a Phantom FGR.2 may not be able to avoid them all and fly into at least one.

Modifications and economy

Repair costBasic → Reference
AB3 590 → 5 460 Sl icon.png
RB8 300 → 12 624 Sl icon.png
SB30 000 → 45 630 Sl icon.png
Total cost of modifications495 000 Rp icon.png
872 000 Sl icon.png
Talisman cost2 700 Ge icon.png
Crew training290 000 Sl icon.png
Experts1 010 000 Sl icon.png
Aces2 600 Ge icon.png
Research Aces1 010 000 Rp icon.png
Reward for battleAB / RB / SB
100 / 210 / 460 % Sl icon.png
226 / 226 / 226 % Rp icon.png
Flight performance Survivability Weaponry
Mods jet compressor.png
25 000 Rp icon.png
44 000 Sl icon.png
330 Ge icon.png
Mods booster.png
New boosters
28 000 Rp icon.png
49 000 Sl icon.png
360 Ge icon.png
Mods aerodinamic wing.png
Wings repair
41 000 Rp icon.png
72 000 Sl icon.png
530 Ge icon.png
Mods jet engine.png
40 000 Rp icon.png
71 000 Sl icon.png
520 Ge icon.png
Mods aerodinamic fuse.png
Fuselage repair
25 000 Rp icon.png
44 000 Sl icon.png
330 Ge icon.png
Mods armor frame.png
28 000 Rp icon.png
49 000 Sl icon.png
360 Ge icon.png
Mods g suit.png
41 000 Rp icon.png
72 000 Sl icon.png
530 Ge icon.png
Mods armor cover.png
40 000 Rp icon.png
71 000 Sl icon.png
520 Ge icon.png
Mods heli false thermal targets.png
25 000 Rp icon.png
44 000 Sl icon.png
330 Ge icon.png
Mods pilon bomb.png
1000 LB GP
25 000 Rp icon.png
44 000 Sl icon.png
330 Ge icon.png
Mod arrow 0.png
Mods ammo.png
28 000 Rp icon.png
49 000 Sl icon.png
360 Ge icon.png
Mod arrow 1.png
Mods pilon rocket.png
Matra SNEB
28 000 Rp icon.png
49 000 Sl icon.png
360 Ge icon.png
Mod arrow 0.png
Mods air to air missile.png
41 000 Rp icon.png
72 000 Sl icon.png
530 Ge icon.png
Mod arrow 0.png
Mods weapon.png
40 000 Rp icon.png
71 000 Sl icon.png
520 Ge icon.png
Mods air to air missile.png
40 000 Rp icon.png
71 000 Sl icon.png
520 Ge icon.png

The order in which modifications are unlocked on the Phantom FGR.2 will depend to some extent on how one would like to play the aircraft. The AIM-9D missiles are among the best available to top tier jets, and so most fans of missile combat will likely want to unlock them as soon as possible. If missiles are not desired then it may be wise to instead focus on unlocking the 20 mm belts and new 20 mm cannon modification, to make the spread of the gun less extreme and more usable; and if one plans to use it as a ground attacker, then the ordnance options are the obvious choice (although the FGR.2 does not excel in this role to the same extent as its American counterpart). When equipped with its 8 x 1,000 lb bombs the FGR.2 becomes highly potent bomber; using its low altitude performance to get to enemy bases incredibly quickly, it is possible to unlock the bombs and use this tactic to speed up unlocking other modifications, although the FGR.2 is a capable fighter when stock so this is not a necessity.

Even when stock the Phantom FGR.2 is just about the best-performing aircraft in the game at low altitude; with this in mind flight performance upgrades are not as much of a priority as on other aircraft, so weapons upgrades can be prioritised. When unlocking flight performance upgrades one may wish to focus on engine upgrades to further improve the FGR.2's incredible acceleration and climbing performance.

Possible modules to prioritise (depending on play-style of the pilot)
  • Powerful missiles - AIM-9D module
  • Ammunition variety - Offensive 20 mm module
  • Ground attack - 1,000 LB GP module for larger bombs followed up with Matra SNEB module for unguided rockets


Ballistic Computer
CCIP (Guns) CCIP (Rockets) CCIP (Bombs) CCRP (Bombs)
Icon GreenCheckmark.png Icon GreenCheckmark.png Icon GreenCheckmark.png Icon GreenCheckmark.png

Suspended armament

Number of setups11
List of setups
Setup 11 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 0 rounds)
Setup 21 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
8 x 1000 LB G.P. Mk.I bomb
Setup 31 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
108 x SNEB type 23 rocket
Setup 41 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
Setup 51 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x 1000 LB G.P. Mk.I bomb
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
Setup 64 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
Setup 71 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles
4 x 1000 LB G.P. Mk.I bomb
Setup 81 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles
108 x SNEB type 23 rocket
Setup 91 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
Setup 101 x 20 mm M61 cannon
(ammunition: 1 200 rounds)
4 x AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles
4 x 1000 LB G.P. Mk.I bomb
Setup 114 x AIM-7E Sparrow air-to-air missiles
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder air-to-air missiles

The Phantom FGR.2 can be outfitted with the following ordnance:

  • 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg)
  • 8 x 1,000 lb G.P. Mk.I bombs + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg) (8,000 lb total)
  • 108 x SNEB type 23 rockets + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg)
  • 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg)
  • 4 x 1,000 lb G.P. Mk.I bombs + 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg) (4,000 lb total)
  • 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles
  • 4 x 1,000 lb G.P. Mk.I bombs + 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg) (4,000 lb total)
  • 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 108 x SNEB type 23 rockets + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg)
  • 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg)
  • 4 x 1,000 lb G.P. Mk.I bombs + 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles + 1 x 20 mm M61 cannon, belly-mounted (gunpod) (1,200 rpg) (4,000 lb total)
  • 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow missiles + 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles

Like the F-4C the Phantom FGR.2 lacks any internal guns; instead relying on an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon, mounted centrally under the fuselage. The cannon is angled downwards at about 1°, coupled with the position of the gun under aircraft this makes aiming slightly more difficult than on other aircraft; the gun also has a wide bullet spread. A benefit of the rotary cannon is that it can fire all 1,200 rounds of ammo before it can overheat and jam. Unlike the F-4C the Phantom FGR.2 can only carry a single gunpod.

In terms of other suspended weaponry, the Phantom FGR.2 falls far behind the F-4C, having 6 loadout options compared to the F-4C's 21. It has a more limited choice of bombs, carries fewer rockets and cannot carry Bullpup air to ground missiles.

In terms of air to air missiles the Phantom FGR.2 can carry four AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles, and four AIM-7E Sparrow radar-guided missiles.; as opposed to the F-4C's choice of AIM-9B and AIM-9E Sidewinders. The AIM-9D is very similar to the AIM-9E in some ways outperforms it; the AIM-9D can pull 16 G instead of 10 G and is faster, with a more powerful rocket motor. The AIM-9E, however, can be slaved to the Phantom's radar unlike the AIM-9D and may track better. The AIM-7E Sparrow is radar-guided which means it uses semi-active radar homing to find and track the target. It can pull up to 15 G but it is recommended for longer range engagement, e.g lock a target and fire from up to around 8 km away, because the Sparrow is all-aspect and people in aircraft without RWR (radar warning receiver) will not know it is even coming if they are not situationally aware. This means that you can launch Sparrows at people who will never even see the missile coming. Although good for medium to longer range engagements the Sparrow is not very good at making sudden changes to it's flightpath and it takes a while to start tracking opponents, so you are better off switching to your AIM-9D Sidewinder short-range infrared homing missiles (using the new weapon cycle function).

Usage in battles

The thing which sets the Phantom FGR.2 apart from other jets is the sheer power of its engines (the most powerful in the game); this gives it incredible speed, acceleration and climb rate, especially at low altitude. The engines are however very fuel hungry, leading to a decision needing to be made about the fuel load you take. It may be tempting to take the 7 minute load to maximise flight performance, although this is ill advised as this will only give you a little over three minutes of flight time when using the afterburner, even if you only use the afterburner sparingly the 7 minutes fuel load will still limit your endurance quite significantly, and can often lead to you having to return to base sooner than you would want to. It is usually best to pick 20 minutes of fuel; this should give adequate endurance for the majority of games, and although the aircraft feels noticeably heavier than with 7 minutes of fuel it still performs incredibly well.

There are two main schools of thought on how to fly the Phantom FGR.2 to best make use of its advantages. One is to start the game by climbing to high altitude, and the other is to maintain low altitude throughout the game. Most games will use a mixture of both tactics i.e. starting the game by climbing high to get long range missile kills, then dropping down to low altitude to make use of your best-in-class low altitude performance.

Start by climbing

The Phantom FGR.2 is one of the best climbing aircraft in the game; some players prefer to use this to their advantage and get to altitude at the start of the game in order to be above the vast majority of enemy aircraft. When choosing to play this way a good climbing technique is to take off on full afterburner straight into either a 20° or a 30° climb, depending on if you value speed or altitude more. A spaded Phantom FGR.2 with 20m of fuel the cannon pod and 4 x AIM-9D and 4x AIM-7E (the recommended load-out for most players) will accelerate to > Mach 1 in a 20° climb and reach 5,000 m about 1 minute 10 seconds after leaving the ground; by comparison in 30° climb it will reach 5,000m in about 55 seconds after leaving the ground, albeit travelling at only Mach 0.8. The choice of which climb profile to follow (or make your own) is up to you; 30° will get you to altitude quicker and in less horizontal distance, but at the expense of speed; on larger maps you may wish to take the 20° to get to the battle area quicker, it depend on your play-style; there are also other situations where having more speed once you get to altitude is desirable.

Everything varies depending on your play-style and the situation in battle, but as a rough guide if you want to learn the climbing play style: it is advisable to climb to somewhere between 5,000 m and 10,000 m (usually closer to 5,000 m). At these altitudes the Phantom has a lot worse handling than it does at low level, evasive manoeuvres are harder and turning radius is greatly increased. This altitude however is ideal for getting long range kills with the AIM-9D. Once at altitude you can skirt around the edge of the main combat area and attempt to get behind some players of the enemy team; and chose your target.

Beyond 5.5 km you will only be able to lock on to targets which have their afterburner on, and as the AIM-9D is a rear-aspect missile the missile will need to stay in their rear aspect in order to track them (or under some conditions side on to them). Missiles track best when the target is against a background of clear sky, so ideally find a high flying lone target to lock on to; if you are behind an afterburning target then it is possible to obtain a lock up to 13 - 14 km away under ideal conditions (although 7 - 9 km is much more common in battle). The AIM-9D excels at long range engagements however there are inherent risks when engaging targets at extreme ranges; the missile's flight time can reach / exceed 20 seconds, plenty of time for the target to do something such as turn around so the missile is facing them front on and can no longer track, or turn of their afterburner while the missile is still too far away to track without it. Another option is to get behind low flying jets and drop AIM-9Ds down onto them from altitude, this can be very successful, but targets at lower altitudes find it easier to dodge missiles than in the thin air at higher altitudes, and the missiles can find it harder to track targets which have the ground behind them (as opposed to open sky).

You will generally not want to spend your whole game at altitude, so when appropriate you can dive on enemy players and use your deadly cannon in "boom & zoom" attacks. At any time you can also drop back down to low altitudes and make use of the tactics in the next section.

Staying low
Dodging an R-60 in the Phantom FGR.2 (Phantom player view)
Dodging an R-60 in the Phantom FGR.2 (Missile view)

At high altitudes the Phantom becomes much less manoeuvrable, and to some extent loses its raw performance advantage compared to other top tier jets. Therefore an alternative theory on how to best use the Phantom is to stay al low altitude (< 2,000 - 3,000 m), where the Phantom feels much more responsive to fly and its flight performance largely exceeds that of the aircraft it fights against. Gameplay at low altitude tends to be less missile focused than at high altitude, mainly due to the enemy aircraft generally being close to you and the AIM-9Ds not working that well when fired from less than 2 km away.

You will develop your own tactics, but a good place to start is by building as much speed and climbing to no more than around 2,000 m, then fly to the side of the combat area and loop round to get behind some of the enemy (due to your incredible speed this won't take long at all), you can use your missiles against more distant targets or engage with the gun pod. It is recommended to keep your speed up, so engage a target, break away and then come back around for another pass. Your aircraft handles at its best below about 2,000 m and at speeds of around 700 - 1,000 kph. You can hold your speed well in turns (mainly down to the incredibly powerful engines), but the Phantom is still far from the most manoeuvrable aircraft, so turning engagements are not recommended. MiGs will often try to pull you into vertical manoeuvres, your engines do have enough thrust to let you attempt to follow them if you really need to, but it is seldom recommended as you will not usually be able to get guns or missiles on the MiG and it will leave you vulnerable to attack from other aircraft.

When partaking in the low altitude brawl you need to maintain good situational awareness, you can outrun any other jet in a straight line, but if you get caught up in a dog fight all it takes is one MiG-21 with R-60s slotting onto your tail to ruin your day. The MiG-21s equipped with R-60s are probably your biggest threat, but they can be managed. For starters the R-60 will rarely hit you if it is fired from more than 2 - 2.5 km away; if one is fired at you from within 2 km then you will not always be able to dodge it depending on the situation, but there are techniques you can use to significantly increase your chances. The first technique is to turn one way when the missile is fired, then roll the aircraft 180° and turn hard the other way, this will often throw the missile off if done right, but can cause you to lose some speed. Another technique is to pull the aircraft into a tight barrel roll; missiles can find it very hard to follow targets through a barrel roll manoeuvre; this manoeuvre can be a bit harder to do and cannot be done in some situations, but once mastered can be very effective and potentially lead to less speed loss than the previous method. See the videos to the right for an example of dodging R-60s with a barrel roll.

Pros and cons

FGR.2 fenris 003.png


  • One of the fastest aircraft in the game in both top speed and acceleration, especially at low altitude (just above sea level it can reach ~ Mach 1.17 when stock and ~ Mach 1.22 when spaded)
  • One of the fastest climbing aircraft in the game
  • Carries the AIM-9D air-to-air missiles- excels at long range engagements up to 6km
  • Carries the AIM-7E air-to-air missiles
  • Multi-role capabilities with CCIP and CCRP
  • Can equip flares
  • Very high rate of fire from the rotary canon, plenty of ammunition and does not jam
  • Has tail-hook- ability to land on aircraft carriers
  • Has a drogue chute to aid in braking upon landing


  • Gun pod is slightly angled downwards and has very wide bullet spread when stock, although this can be useful in some situations, it can make the gun hard to aim in others
  • Gun pod cannot be fired while the landing gear is down
  • Missiles are tier 3 upgrade modification which needs to be researched
  • The AIM-9D's are below average compared to other missiles in the game such as the AIM-9J, Magic 1 and R60, in short range engagements
  • Large target compared to other aircraft such as the MiG-21 F-13
  • Due to large weight it requires a high landing sped (~350 kph), can be tricky to land for players new to the fighter (especially on aircraft carriers)
  • Not quite as good at high altitude as the F-4C
  • Taking minimum fuel leaves the aircraft with very limited battle endurance (especially with use of the afterburner), while the 20 min fuel option noticeably impacts handling
  • Missiles cannot be fired while pulling more than 4 G's, and when flying at high speed even gentle manoeuvres will cause exceed that limit



From the late 1950s onwards the British Government began looking to replace a number of its early second-generation jet aircraft. The RAF was looking to replace the English Electric Canberra in the long-range interdictor role, and the Hawker Hunter in the close air support role; meanwhile the Royal Navy was looking to replace their de Havilland Sea Vixens in the fleet air defence role[1]. Two aircraft programs were started to produce suitable replacements; the BAC TSR-2 was to be a highly advanced strike and reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Canberra. Meanwhile the Hunter and the Sea Vixen would be replaced by different versions of the P.1154; a Mach 2 capable VTOL aircraft developed from the P.1127 (the predecessor of famous Harrier Jump Jet). The Navy were not entirely happy with the idea of the navalised P.1154, believing that it did not suit their needs; and in 1964 they dropped out of the programme, deciding to purchase the F-4 Phantom from America instead. In the same year a new government was elected and in 1965 cancelled both the TSR-2 and P.1154 programmes on cost grounds, leaving the RAF without its much needed Canberra and Hunter replacements. The Government announced a plan to purchase the F-111K from America to replace the TSR-2 program (the F-111K would also eventually be cancelled on grounds of cost), while the Hunter would be replaced by F-4 Phantoms from America[2].


Both the Royal Navy and RAF were now set to purchase the F-4 Phantom. The RAF could have operated standard F-4 Phantoms (and to some extent would have preferred to)[2], however the aircraft was going to need modifications in order to be able to operate off of the UK's aircraft carriers, which were smaller than the ones Phantoms usually operated from. In a bid to help the British aviation industry (which had been hurt by a number of cancelled programmes), and make the aircraft suitable for use by the Royal Navy it was agreed that all UK Phantoms would be significantly modified, by British companies, from their US counterparts. The most notable change would be the replacement of the American J79 turbojet engines with larger and more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans; a modified rear fuselage to accommodate the new engines would also be built by BAC, and the aircraft's radar system would be built under license by Ferranti[1].

It was decided that the UK Phantoms would be based off of the F-4J, which was then the primary version in service with the US Navy at the time[1]. As the RAF and Royal Navy had differing requirements it was decided that two variants of the UK Phantom would be designed: the first variant, for the Royal Navy, would be designated F-4K or Phantom FG.1; while the RAF variant would be developed from the navy variant and be designated F-4M or Phantom FGR.2. Work began on modifying the F-4J to meet the Royal Navy's needs; the nose radome had to be made to hinge 180 degreed, to allow the Phantom fit on the smaller deck elevators of British carriers, and a telescopic nose gear was installed to allow the aircraft to sit pitched nose-up on the flight deck (by up to 11°), reducing take-off distance[1]. The new engines were installed at a slight downwards angle to further increase take-off performance and the rear fuselage to be redesigned to both accommodate the new engines and cope with the increased heat they produced; the air intakes also had to be made larger, and additional intake doors added in the fuselage to provide the Speys with the airflow they required[2]. Many other small changes were also made to UK Phantoms. The first F-4K prototype flew on 27 June 1966, with the First F-4M prototype flying on 17 February 1967.


The first F-4Ks were delivered in April 1968 and were designated Phantom FG.1, early the following year they began test flights from HMS Eagle and the USS Saratoga. During the testing the intense heat produced by the downward-angled Spey engines, while the afterburner was engaged, caused the flight deck plating of the USS Saratoga to buckle[2]. On-board HMS Eagle heavy-duty steel plating had to be welded to the flight deck; and be cooled using water from the ship's fire hoses between flights, in order to stop it from melting[3]. When the HMS Ark Royal was upgraded to operate Phantoms it had to have water-cooled blast deflectors and decking installed to prevent the Phantom's engines from damaging the flight deck [2]. HMS Ark Royal had finished its refit in 1970, by which point the refit of HMS Eagle had been cancelled, along with plans to build two additional aircraft carriers. With the Navy now only having one carrier capable of operating Phantoms it was decided to reduce the Navy's Phantom fleet down to 28 aircraft, with the other 20 FG.1s being transferred to the RAF. The remaining Royal Navy Phantoms would serve on the HMS Ark Royal (R09) until her retirement.

The first F-4Ms entered RAF service in May 1969, filling the role of tactical strike aircraft; they were given the designation Phantom FGR.2 (with FGR standing for Fighter/Ground attack/Reconnaissance). The RAF's Phantom FGR.2 was overall very similar to the Navy's FG.1 variant, but had a number of changes; they used a slightly different version of Spey engines (the FG.1 had faster afterburner engagement to aid with aborted landings on aircraft carriers), and naval features like the telescopic nose gear, slotted tail, and cockpit-controlled wing folding were dropped. The FGR.2 also had different avionics, the radar was slightly different and additional functionality such as an inertial navigation / attack system was added, as well as modification needed to allow the FGR.2 to use a gun pod and reconnaissance pod, among other changes[4]. Both the FGR.2 and FG.1 would later be modified with squared off tails, holding a radar warning receiver.

In 1970 Phantom FGR.2s were deployed to West Germany to serve the roles of ground attack, interdiction, and reconnaissance; while English Electric Lightnings covered bomber interception. Over the years it was determined that the increased range and weapons payload of the Phantom made it a better fit for defending the UK's airspace, than the Lightning; so from 1974 onwards Phantoms began to be withdrawn from Germany to serve in air defence roles; they were replaced in the Close Air Support role by the SEPECAT Jaguar. The Phantoms took over more and more of the air defence role from the Lightning; however the Lightning would remain in service until 1988 (retiring only a few years before the Phantoms). The Phantom FG.1s were withdrawn from Royal Navy service in 1978, with the decommissioning of HMS Ark Royal, and were transferred to the RAF to serve in air defence roles. The Phantoms were replaced in Navy service by the Harrier Jump Jet, which was able to operate from the Navy's new Invincible-class aircraft carriers.

Following the Falklands War in 1982 the UK deployed a Squadron of FGR.2s to defend the Falkland Islands from any future attack; however this left a gap in the Air defence of the UK Mainland. It was decided to purchase 15 more F-4Js from America to fill this gap. The F4-Js were upgraded to F-4S standard and entered service with the RAF on 19 October 1984 under the designation Phantom F.3 or F-4J(UK)[2]. The Phantom remained the UK's primary Air defence aircraft until it was gradually replaced by the Panavia Tornado; the last FG.1s retired on 30 January 1990, the last F.3s retired on 31 January 1991, and the FGR.2 left RAF service on 1 November 1992. The FGR.2 was due to retire earlier however just before retirement it was called back into service to defend RAF Akrotiri, on Cyprus, during the First Gulf War[2].

A total of 48 Phantom FG.1s, 118 Phantom FGR.2s and 15 Phantom F.3s were built[1].

Further development plans

Prior to the Phantom's retirement from RAF service there had been a plan to retrofit them with an upgraded version of the Spey engine. A program was started to design the new engines; they would have various improvements, the most notable of which being new turbine blades, reportedly manufactured from a single metal crystal[5]. These blades would increase the operating life of the engines under normal conditions, but also give the option of operating the engines at higher temperatures, and thus higher thrust (although this would come at the expense of reduced engine life). These engines were known as Spey 205s and had a maximum thrust of 25,000 lb (11,340 kgf)[5], compared to 20,515 lb (9,305 kgf) for the regular Spey engines; although it is unclear if they would be used at this thrust rating while in service. With the Phantom retired the Spey 205 programme was cancelled, and no engines were produced under the Spey 205 name; however 12 Spey 202 engines had been upgraded to Spey 205 standard for testing (and are now generally referred to as Spey 205s, or Spey 202 hybrids)[6]. It is known that after the programme was cancelled two of the Spey 205 prototypes, along with two standard Spey 202s were obtained by the ThrustSSC programme (the world's fastest car)[5], although reports vary on whether the car was fitted with Spey 202s or 205s when it completed its record-breaking run.

Comparison with American Phantoms

The Rolls-Royce Spey engines gave British Phantoms notably different performance to their American counterparts. At low altitude British Phantoms accelerated faster than standard F-4Js and had a higher top speed; it was estimated that they had a 30% shorter take-off distance and a 20% faster climb to altitude[1]. The Spey turbofan engines were also more fuel efficient than the J-79 turbojets, giving British Phantoms a 10 - 15 % increase in range compared to American aircraft[4]. The main drawback of the British design was that the reshaped fuselage produced more drag than the original design, meaning that at high altitude British Phantoms were slower and performed worse than their American counterparts (British Phantoms topped out at about Mach 1.9 at altitude, while American Phantoms could reach Mach 2.1)[2].



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

External links



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Wikipedia: McDonnell Douglas Phantom in UK service
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Burke 2016
  3. Searles n.d.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Gledhill 2017
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 SSC Programme Ltd 1997
  6. Bourne 1997


  • Bourne, Nigel. (1997). Development of the Rolls-Royce Military Spey Mk202 Engine. Retrieved from ThrustSSC
  • Burke, Damien. (2016). McDonnell-Douglas/BAC F-4K/M Phantom II. Retrieved from Thunder and Lightnings
  • Gledhill, David. (2017). Phantom in the Cold War: RAF Wildenrath 1977 - 1992. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation.
  • Searles, Dick. (n.d.). HMS Eagle Deck Trials 1969. Retrieved from Phantom F4K - Fleet Air Arm Royal Navy
  • SSC Programme Ltd. (1997). The Story of the Rolls-Royce Spey. Retrieved from ThrustSSC
  • Wikipedia. (n.d.). McDonnell Douglas Phantom in UK service. Retrieved from Wikipedia

McDonnell Aircraft Corporation
Jet Fighters  F2H-2 · F3H-2
  F-4C Phantom II · F-4E Phantom II
Export / License  F-4EJ Phantom II · F-4F Early · Phantom FG.1 · Phantom FGR.2
  The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation merged with Douglas Aircraft Company in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas.
See Also  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Britain jet aircraft
Blackburn  Buccanneer S.2
English Electric  Canberra B Mk 2 · Canberra B (I) Mk 6 · Lightning F.6
Gloster  Meteor F Mk 3 · Sea Meteor F Mk 3 · Meteor F Mk 4 G.41F · Meteor F Mk 4 G.41G · Meteor F Mk 8 G.41K · Meteor F Mk.8 Reaper
  Javelin F.(A.W.) Mk.9
de Havilland  Vampire FB 5 · Venom FB.4 · Sea Venom FAW 20
Hawker  Sea Hawk FGA.6 · Hunter F.1 · Hunter F.6 · Hunter FGA.9 · Harrier GR.1 · Harrier GR.3
SEPECAT  Jaguar GR.1
Supermarine  Attacker FB 1 · Attacker FB.2 · Scimitar F Mk.1 · Swift F.1 · Swift F.7
Foreign  Phantom FG.1 (USA) · Phantom FGR.2 (USA)