McDonnell F-4E(S) Phantom II

Last revised December 28, 1999




Israel had long expressed an interest in acquiring the HIAC-1 high-altitude camera for use in keeping a close eye on its Arab neighbors. However, this camera was originally so large and bulky that it could only be carried aboard the Martin/General Dynamics RB-57F. In later years, slimmed-down variants of this camera became available which could be carried in pods small enough to fit underneath fighter aircraft such as the F-4 Phantom. Such pods had been developed for the USAF RF-4C, but they were still so large and bulky that they imposed an unacceptably severe performance penalty.

In the interest of achieving an acceptably high performance in an aircraft carrying the HIAC-1, Israel had launched a project known as Peace Jack in collaboration with General Dynamics and the USAF. At first, an extremely advanced aircraft known as the F-4X was envisaged, one which was to have special water injection propulsion system which had the potential of achieving a Mach 3+ performance. Israel loaned an IDF/AF F-4E (USAF serial 69-7576) to General Dynamics as a mockup for the project. However, this program eventually fell through because of the high cost and because of fears on the part of US State Department officials about the export of an aircraft with such an advanced performance.

Following the collapse of the F-4X project, a less-ambitious project known as the F-4E(S) was undertaken. Three Israeli Air Force Block-44 F-4Es (among them 69-7576) were converted to a special high-speed reconnaissance configuration by replacing the F-4E radar and gun installation with a new nose containing the HIAC-1 66-inch focal length long range oblique photography camera. Behind the HIAC-1 camera was a vertical KS-87 camera. The three aircraft were also fitted with datalink, Elta IFF and UHF, and formation-keeping strip lights. In the interest of security, a false black radome was painted on the nose.

USAF serials of the three aircraft were 69-7567, 7570, and 7576. The flight test program began on November 20, 1975 and was carried out in high secrecy. The three planes carried US civil registration numbers based on their military serials (N97576, N97570, and N97567). The modified aircraft were returned to the Israeli Air Force in 1976-77. Their subsequent history is largely unknown, although rumors suggest that least one of them has been lost in action.

Sources:


  1. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920: Volume II, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  2. McDonnell F-4 Phantom: Spirit in the Skies. Airtime Publishing, 1992.

  3. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.