After the hugely successful “Lightning Vol 3 The Manual”, Firestreakbooks are pleased to announce the latest title in the Manual series-F-4 UK The Manual. Originally planned as a single volume the author decided that only a two volume book could do the mighty British Phantom justice. Volume One focuses on the history of the UK Phantom in both the Royal Navy service and Royal Air Force whilst Volume Two will focus on how the Phantom worked and a detailed look at the weapons it carried. Often referred to as the “Spey” Phantom the British aircraft were unique in shape and indeed handling – like no other Phantoms they were a breed apart. Serving initially with the Fleet Air Arm they made their mark early on by winning the Transatlantic air race. Despite the short service of the Royal Navy’s Phantoms the colourful markings of 767 squadron and 892 squadron ensured that the carrier Phantoms were amongst the most loved by enthusiasts. With the RAF following suite and ordering the Phantom in greater numbers they also benefitted from a ‘free’ squadron of FG1 Phantoms destined for the Fleet Air Arm. Initially replacing the venerable Canberra and Hunter in the UK ground attack role the RAF Phantoms were soon deployed to RAF Germany where they undertook their primary role of nuclear strike. Recognising the multi role capability of the aircraft two squadrons were dedicated to tactical reconnaissance using a specially built Thorn / EMI recce pod. With a squadron located in RAF Germany and UK the British built Phantoms raised the bar on the lonely world of airborne reconnaissance. Having acquired an aircraft that was supremely capable in its role of fast ground attack the length of service was short due to the imminent arrival of the Anglo-French Jaguar. In what might be seen as a stop gap role the mighty F-4s were not done and wisely the RAF could see the potential of the Phantom as the perfect air defence platform for both UK airspace and in RAF Germany. Now solely equipped as a fighter the British Phantoms were upgraded to its new role with improvements to the missile systems, radar and the fitting of radar warning receivers. As the air defence fleet adopted the fashionable air defence grey scheme there was a final twist in the Anglo-Saxon Spey phantom. The Falklands war of 1982 exposed a weakness in defence policy in two areas. The retirement of HMS Ark Royal and its carrier group of Phantoms, Buccaneers and AEW Gannets was a major error. An urgent need to deploy a squadron of Phantoms to the Falkland Islands left the UK depleted although the fall of the Berlin Wall would soon rectify that. Secondly in order to bolster UK strength the RAF opted to buy a squadron of previously enjoyed F-4Js from the USA. The Book covers in detail the J model and volume 2 will go into greater detail on the considerable rework that was carried out to bring the aircraft up to UK spec.
At full strength the RAF boasted nine squadrons of Phantoms, though in truth there was only ever seven fully operational squadrons at peak as the OCU took a reserve status and the Falklands Phantoms shrank down to a fleet of just four aircraft under the guise of a flight. With a mix of their different marks in service the K, M and J’s were much loved by those who flew and worked on them as well as enthusiasts across the globe. The Phantom can rightfully hold its place as one of the RAFs most successful and effective cold war fighters. The introduction of the Tornado F3 was regarded as a sideways step initially as it carried no more fire power than the F-4 and only in later years did it show its mettle. The F-4 manual gives readers a unique insight on the British Phantom with unrivalled access to the aircraft the author served in the RAF from 1979-1997 during which time he was closely associated with the F-4 Phantom. An initial tour as a backseater on 19(F) squadron at RAF Wildenrath saw the author amass some 800 hours on the F-4M version. In the high adrenalin low level air defence role his images capture the cold war era in all its forms in the air and on the ground. Having rerolled to become a pilot the author flew the English Electric Lightning and Tornado F3 in the air defence role. Often encountering Phantoms and always armed with a Nikon the images inside the book capture the Phantom in all its glory. Sit back strap in and enjoy a ride in Mc Donnell’s finest – Phantoms Phorever.
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