On June 29 Germany became the latest—but by no means the last—country to retire its McDonnell-Douglas F-4F Phantom II fighter-bombers, after 41 years of service. Of the 263 Phantoms used by the Luftwaffe, two-thirds served in the ground support role and one-third in reconnaissance.
The F-4 has been undergoing a phasing-out process in a number of air arms. In 2010 South Korea retired the last of its 222 Phantoms, culminating 15 years of progressive replacement with 40
F-15Ks and 140 F-16s. Nevertheless, some air arms are not yet prepared to give up on the unprepossessing but rugged, reliable welterweight. Iran, which bought 225 F-4s in the 1970s, kept its planes flying throughout its 1982-88 war with Iraq, in spite of international sanctions, by smuggling and home manufacture of less-sophisticated components, and several dozen remain operational today. Roughly 8 percent of the 5,195 F-4s built are still in service, and may well remain so into the Phantom’s 60th year.