F-4E 2020 serial 77-0296 of the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri (THK, Turkish Air Force) has been painted with special tail art to mark 60 years of the Phantom II. The jet is operated by 111 Filo ‘Panterler’ (111 Squadron ‘Panthers’) based at Eskişehir.
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 first flew on May 27, 1958 (as the XF4H-1), and entered service in 1961. Just 31 months after its first flight, the F-4 became the US Navy’s fastest, highest-flying and longest-range fighter.
The aircraft was named Phantom II on July 3, 1959, during a ceremony held at the McDonnell plant in St Louis, Missouri, to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary.
Turkey decided to equip the THK with the F-4E in 1972. Ankara ordered 40 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond I, together with AGM-65A Maverick and AIM-9P Sidewinder missiles. The initial airfield selected for the new fighters was the 1. Ana Jet Üssü (1st Main Jet Base). The first two F-4Es (73-1016 and 73-1017) arrived at Eskişehir on August 30, 1974, ferried by US pilots. The first eight aircraft equipped 113 Filo ‘Tayfun’ (‘Typhoon’), established the same year at Eskişehir. After receiving 40 jets, Turkey was faced by a US weapons embargo due to conflict in Cyprus.
The embargo was lifted in 1978 and Turkey then ordered an additional 40 Phantoms under Project Peace Diamond II – 32 F-4Es and eight RF-4Es. These transfers included the 5,000th Phantom manufactured – serial 77-0290.
Turkey then continued to receive ex-US Air Force Phantoms, comprising 15 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond III in 1981 and 15 F-4Es under Project Peace Diamond IV in 1984. A further 40 jets were recieved under Project Peace Diamond V in 1987. Although Turkey had begun looking for a replacement type, this policy changed in 1991, when a further 40 F-4Es were acquired from USAF stocks under Peace Diamond VI, as a return for Turkish support during the first Gulf War.
The THK received 46 former Luftwaffe RF-4Es under Projekt Kaan in 1992. The reconnaissance jets were assigned to 113 Filo ‘Işık’ (‘Light’) and 173 Filo ‘Şafak’ (‘Dawn’)
Over the years, the THK made good use of its Phantoms and decided to extend their service life and increase capability. Accordingly, an agreement was signed with Israel Aircraft Industries ( IAI ) on August 24, 1995. This deal covered structural and avionics upgrade of 54 F-4Es. The modifications included the installation of new hydraulic systems, EL/M-2032 radar, Mil Std 1553B multiplex databus, Elbit ACE-3 computer, a new electronic warfare system and new cockpit. The crew now made use of multifunction displays (MFDs), wide-angle head-up display (HUD) and HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) controls. The modernised Phantoms were redesignated F-4E 2020 Terminator and were assigned to 111 Filo and to 171 Filo ‘Korsanlar’ (‘Pirates’).
Today, at least 30 F-4E 2020s remain with 111 Filo and with the Test Filo (Test Squadron). The latter was established on April 17, 2013 in order to meet the flight-test needs of the THK under the Technology and Weapon Systems Development directorate. It was renamed as 401 Test Filo on March 13, 2015. Following the July 2016 coup attempt, 401 Test Filo was reassigned to the 1. Ana Jet Üssü. Cem Doğut