The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Sunday, May 12, 2024

South Korea does a Commemorative Flight as they get ready to retire the F4 Phantom

I always had a thing for the F-4 Phantom and I thought with upgraded motors and avionics, the plane might still be a heck of a dogfighter.    The Phantom fits the adage, "if you put enough power behind it, even a brick will fly". 

Air Force-fighter jets

SUWON/GUNSAN, South Korea, May 12 (Joint Press Corps-Yonhap) -- A group of South Korean Cold War-era fighter aircraft staged one of their final flights last week ahead of retirement next month, bidding farewell after more than five decades of service.

The four F-4 Phantom IIs took off from their home base in Suwon, just south of Seoul, for the commemorative flight boarded by reporters on Thursday, retracing the supersonic fighter-bomber's 55-year history in South Korea's airspace.

The first batch of the U.S.-made jets arrived in South Korea in 1969, in a major boost to the Air Force that sought to beef up its aircraft fleet against threats posed by North Korea's Soviet-made jets amid fierce rivalry between the two Koreas.

More than a half-century later, the Phantoms will be fully retired from service on June 7, handing over operations to defend the skies to a new generation of aircraft.

F-4 Phantom II aircraft stage a commemorative flight above Suwon, just south of Seoul, on May 9, 2024, in this photo provided by the Air Force on May 12. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)© Provided by Yonhap News English

During the farewell flight, the jets first headed southward above an airbase in the central city of Cheongju -- home to the aircraft from 1979 to 2018 -- that now operates the latest-generation U.S.-built F-35A stealth fighters.

One of the Phantoms was painted in a jungle camouflage pattern and another in light gray in a nod to their past paint jobs, while the two others were in the current dark gray color.

Moving on to the east coast, the jets revisited airspace where Phantoms had been deployed to intercept a Soviet heavy bomber in 1983. The aircraft were also mobilized to respond to incursions by a Soviet bomber and a nuclear submarine in the area the next year.

They then landed at an airbase in the southeastern city of Daegu for refueling, where the country first received the jets in a move that heralded a major shift in the balance of air power between the two Koreas.

The delivery took place just a year after a failed assassination attempt by North Korean commandos against then President Park Chung-hee in 1968, raising the need to bolster military capabilities to better fend off the North's threats.

F-4 Phantom II aircraft stage a commemorative flight above the east coast on May 9, 2024, in this photo provided by the Air Force on May 12. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)© Provided by Yonhap News English

The introduction of the then-state-of-the-art aircraft marked the beginning of the South's air superiority over the North as Seoul continued to acquire more advanced fighters like the F-16 amid its transformation into an economic powerhouse.

In contrast, the North's economy has staggered, with its military still reliant on Soviet-era jets.

After refueling in Daegu, the Phantoms traveled to the southern city of Sacheon -- home to the country's sole fighter jet manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries -- where they briefly flew alongside two KF-21 prototype jets.

The homegrown supersonic fighter, which is designed to replace the F-4 and scheduled for deployment in 2026, will likely play a key role in South Korea's "three-axis" deterrence system against North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

The system includes the Kill Chain preemptive strike platform, the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation, an operational plan to incapacitate the North's leadership in a major conflict, and the Korea Air and Missile Defense system.

Next, the jets flew along the west coast, where Phantoms took part in a mission to sink a North Korean spy ship in 1971, before returning to Suwon.

The Air Force once operated some 220 Phantoms but has since retired most of them, with only around 10 units remaining in service.

South Korea is among a handful of countries that still operate the F-4, with the United States retiring the aircraft in 1996.

F-4 Phantom II aircraft stage a commemorative flight alongside two KF-21 prototype jets near the southern coast on May 9, 2024, in this photo provided by the Air Force on May 12. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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