Friday, November 1, 2013

This and that (nothing specific ...but more questions!)

In reading the book "Engineering the F-4 Phantom II - Parts into Systems" by Glenn E Bugos, I have run into some very interesting information.

1. The first item that raised questions in my mind was the designation F-4P.  I had never heard that variant before from any source and so it sent up red flags, and I need verification from at least one or two more sources before I believe it. To quote exactly what Mr. Bugos said:

"From their experience against SAMs and various NATO weapons in the hands of its Arab enemies, the Israelis devised a mysterious electronic warfare version, dubbed the F-4P.  Since some Israeli enemies were U.S. customers, Israel did not share every modification with the American military."

While I am sure there were quite a few modifications that Israel made to their aircraft that weren't shared with the U.S. military, I question the F-4P designation.  Israel didn't seem to put much stock into numeric designations, but rather used names to identify differing models.  In the case of the F-4 Phantom variants Israel used  Kurnass (F-4E), Tsalam Shabul (F-4E(S)), Kurnass Tsilum (RF-4E), and then Kurnass 2000, etc.

According to John Lake and David Donald in the fine work "McDonnell F-4 Phantom - Spirit in the Skies," the F-4P designation was at one time earmarked for the HIAC/PCC mockup that was later to become the never built F-4X program. (We know now that this ended up in the scaled back project that became the F-4E(S) Tsalam Shabul for Israel under Project Peace Jack).

Meanwhile, the whole idea that there still is an undocumented version of the Kurnass used for electronic warfare has peaked my interest.

2.   In his book Mr. Bugos also talks about the Navy's decision to delete the cannon armament and go with a completely missile armament on the F4H.  Here are what he gives as the reasons for that decision:
  1. Missiles and their associated equipment were much lighter than the cannons and associated equipment that they replaced.
  2. They were much cheaper than an aircraft. (you may be thinking at this point...duh, really?  But the reasoning here is that with cannon armament the aircraft has to get dangerously close to the target, which increases the possibility that the aircraft itself may be lost in a dogfight.)
  3. Self-guided missiles reduced the workload of the aviators (Navy pilots), who only had to mash a button in response to symbols on a radar screen, rather than engaging in a dogfight (see rationale in #2 above),
  4. The use of guided missiles allowed a more flexible reconstruction of the F4Hs interception system.
3. Another tidbit of information I found fascinating was the problems that early testing of the J79 engine in the F4H turned up.  It seems that on static (teathered) engine runs at high throttle settings the titanium and steel shingle panels, just aft of the engines, quickly fell apart and departed the aircraft due to cracks and fatigue from the sonic roar-induced vibrations of the engine.  That required a thickening of the panels and larger fasteners and washers to hold them in place.

4.  A Phantom by any other name.  It seems that just before the YF4H-1 roll-out, there was a vote taken of McDonnell and Navy personnel to choose the name for the new aircraft.  The choices offered were Sprite, Ghost, Goblin, Satan, and Phantom II.  (I guess Mr. McDonnell had a special interest in the spirit world to such a extent that the War Department, in June 1946, had reserved for Mr. McDonnell the names of inhabitants of the spirit world.)  Well the vote came in and the top two vote getters were Satan and Ghost. So how did it become Phantom II?  Well, the only vote that really counted was Mr. McDonnell's, so at the last moment he decided to call it Phantom II in honor of the jet fighter that had moved his company from making parts for other aircraft manufacturers to designing and manufacturing their own aircraft. (F-4 Sprite?????  I think not!)

  1. Engineering the F-4 Phantom II - Parts into Systems, by Glenn E Bugos
  2. McDonnell F-4 Phantom - Spirit in the Skies, edited by John Lake and David Donald

11/01/2013 - Original Post
11/04/2013 - Added information from McDonnell F-4 Phantom Spirit in the Skies, to the F-4P designation.