Hat Tip: Ares Blog, with a nod to Solomon at SNAFU! in the comments
Luftwaffe F-4Fs of Jagdgeschwader 71, the Richthofen Squadron, are returning for their second round of keeping the Icelandic ADIZ free of intruders. This has been a rotating NATO mission since the US pulled their F-15Cs out in 2006. Before the F-15s flew out of Keflavik, the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, aka "The Black Knights of Keflavik" flew F-4Es from about 1978 to 1985, with F-4Cs, F-106s (for a few months) F-102s, and F-89s going back to the mid-50's before that.
This photo comes from Wikipedia Commons showing what we did A LOT of between 1980 and 1982 (but it looks similar to some slides I have that were given to the 57FIS by a LIFE magazine photographer who flew with us on condition they NOT be published -just sayin') .
But the JG71 F-4Fs are not the same planes they were when they came off the assembly line. German F-4Fs received the Improved Combat Efficiency (ICE) mods (Greek F-4s received similar treatment for a multi-role upgrade under Peace Icarus 2000),
The ICE package made the F-4F a lot more of a threat than earlier Phantoms. It basically upgrades everything that made the F-4F a fighter, including:
- Hughes/Raytheon APG-65 digital multi mode radar (derived from the one on the F-18C/D)
- Honeywell H-423 laser gyro inertial navigation system
- GEC Avionics CPU-143/A digital air data computer
- Mil Std 1553R digital data bus.
- Digital fire control computer
- New radar control console
- New weapon ejection system
Here's a Wiki commons photo of some F-4Fs with JG74
(BTW: What had to be the prettiest F-4F in JG71 history was their 50th anniversary commemorative bird here.)
The F-4F's top speed is about 10% higher than the Eurofighter's (Mach 2.2 vs 2.0) which would give them only a very slight edge intercepting Tu-160s if the Russians start sending them down the GIUK gap more frequently.
Alas, all the references I can find as to the future of the F-4F is that all are to be replaced sometime this year by Eurofighters.
So this is probably the Phantom's 'last hurrah' in Iceland. Regular readers know that I eschew sentimentality on the subject of defense, but that doesn't mean I don't experience it. One doesn't forget his first aerial view of Snæfellsjökull in winter: especially when it comes from the back seat of an F-4.