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F-4 Phantom II for the US Army?

ksimmelink

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I have been compiling information on the Phantom II for years, being an old Crew Chief on F-4C, F-4D and a very brief stint with the F-4E I have a real love for the aircraft. But I was very shocked to find out that in 1961 McDonnell had proposed "dumbed-down" Phantom II's to the Army for Close Air Support. This was odd on several levels.
First, after the split of the Army Air Corps to become the Air Force, the Army was restricted in using aircraft (they were to depend on the Air Force to do the flying) and especially precluded from arming aircraft in any way. Prior to Viet Nam they had to very quietly arm the OV-1 (by having the Marines be a joint partner even though the navy would probably never buy the OV-1 for them) and their helicopters to test them and develop weapon systems which would work in war time. By the time bullets started flying in Viet Nam the Army could arm their aircraft and helicopters as something that already was accomplished and who would tell them that they couldn't defend themselves, and to take the weapons back off. But they were able to get aircraft like the OV-1 by saying it was a reconnaissance and observation aircraft.
So where did McDonnell think that offering a Phantom II (model 98DA two seat and model 98DB single seat) no matter how stripped down they were was even possible.
It would have been a neat thing to see though, making the Phantom II (which already was the first three-service aircraft) the first and probably only four-service aircraft.
 

Stargazer2006

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Here are the only two proposed Army variants of the Phantom I could find, the Model 98DA and 98DB, both dated March 1961. Hope this helps!
 

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alfakilo

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ksimmelink said:
So where did McDonnell think that offering a Phantom II (model 98DA two seat and model 98DB single seat) no matter how stripped down they were was even possible.

I don't know.

Once the Army got past the "me too" feel good stage, folks would realize just how unworkable of an idea this was.
 

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This is probably the same programme in which the US Army actually tested two Dornier built Fiat G-91R/3s.
 

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Awesome pic TT. I never noticed the twin nose wheels on the F-5 for this program before.
 

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Sundog said:
Awesome pic TT. I never noticed the twin nose wheels on the F-5 for this program before.
If I remember correctly, the N-156 dual-wheel nose landing gear was a last minute change and not retractable, unlike the A4D dual-wheel main landing gear.
 

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Sundog said:
Awesome pic TT. I never noticed the twin nose wheels on the F-5 for this program before.

I second that!!
Good point on the dual nose wheel! I never noticed that either Sundog

Regards
Pioneer
 

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Tailspin Turtle said:
If I remember correctly, the N-156 dual-wheel nose landing gear was a last minute change and not retractable, unlike the A4D dual-wheel main landing gear.

So the purpose of it was just to see how it would perform on a grass field/forward air base?
 

Tailspin Turtle

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Yes that was one of the evaluation requirements. A 3000-foot grass practice field near NAAS Saufley Field, Florida was used for it. The airplanes also had to taxi through a section of the field that had been made muddy.
 

ksimmelink

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GTX said:
We're not talking about some of the dedicated Ground Attack Phantoms are we? See here: http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,1881.msg82830/topicseen.html#msg82830

I don't think so. These are really... I mean really stripped down! Even to the point that they would only have visual delivery and lay down of weapons, no wing fold, no radar, no air to air capability (unless you could see the target and hose them with the gun), it was to have dual main wheels, it was to have the boom to refuel, but its gun only had 930 rounds of ammo.
Unless you go to the single place version, then you had even less, there they removed the boom for refueling, everything out of the rear cockpit including the canopy - I like the way they put it - "remove rear canopy glass and replace with sheet metal" like it was a project for a high school shop class.
These aircraft were basically bombcarriers to lay bombs or strafe in good weather while in a shallow dive.
 

ksimmelink

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Tailspin Turtle said:
Jos Heyman said:
This is probably the same programme in which the US Army actually tested two Dornier built Fiat G-91R/3s.

Not just the G-91

Now I wish they had taken MAC up on the F-4 just to see one sitting in the field. F-4s don't like dirt. They tend to sink very quickly. While I was stationed at RAF Woodbridge with the 81st TFW back in the 70s, one of the newbies was towing an F-4 from the wash rack back to it's parking spot. He cut the taxiway corner a bit short and the next thing we knew the base was looking for airbags and lumber to jack the sucker out of the soft dirt and give it something to support the weight so it could get back on the taxiway. I think remedial towing lessons were in order.
 

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Jos Heyman said:
This is probably the same programme in which the US Army actually tested two Dornier built Fiat G-91R/3s.


That it is. The US Army wanted a battalion of Caribou transports and a squadron of fighters organic to each air mobile division besides its real life helicopters and Mohawk detachment. These would have bridged the gap between corps level assets and the maneuvering brigades, which otherwise could only operate about 30nm from a ground base using CH-47 logistics and helicopter gunship escorts. It also wanted no less then five such air mobile divisions and three airborne divisions all on active duty. More fighters and C-123 transports were supposed to go into corps level independent aviation brigades. The Army in the early 1960s really just didn't care about Key West and figured its radical restructuring to be entirely focused on air mobility would see it overturned.

In the end of course Vietnam actually prevented rather then facilitated the mass air mobile conversion of the Army, the USAF managed to grab control of the Caribou, then quickly phased them out claiming the C-123 could do everything (ironic how now the USAF wants to kill the similar C-27J), and the fighter project was dead in the water and the army had no money for it anyway.
 

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Sea Skimmer said:
That it is. TheUS Army wanted a battalion of Caribou transports and a squadron of fighters organic to each air mobile division besides its real life helicopters and Mohawk detachment. These would have bridged the gap between corps level assets and the maneuvering brigades, which otherwise could only operate about 30nm from a ground base using CH-47 logistics and helicopter gunship escorts. It also wanted no less then five such air mobile divisions and three airborne divisions all on active duty. More fighters and C-123 transports were supposed to go into corps level independent aviation brigades. The Army in the early 1960s really just didn't care about Key West and figured its radical restructuring to be entirely focused on air mobility would see it overturned.
Do you have a reference for that? It sounds like a juiced-up version of the Howze Board recommendations, but I've only ever seen the versions equipped with helicopters and Mohawks.
 

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Here is another picture of the A-4 used in the Army evaluations - with dual main gear wheels and it looks almost like the nose wheel might be a bit wider as well. It took quite a beefy fairing to cover those new main gear!

http://a4skyhawk.org/content/148483-us-army-douglas-aircraft-1913

I wonder how they proposed putting tandem main wheels on the F-4? I would imagine it would probably involve putting one wheel on each side of the strut and then creating a fairing for the second wheel as it would hang below the wing level. I would imagine that supersonic performance was not something held very important by the army since they were evaluating other aircraft that were all subsonic other than the F-5. But I don't think they could mess up the top side of the wing to create more room for a main wheel boggie. To do anything else would require major structural changes to the wing, and I would imagine the Army was interested in saving money not spending more.
 

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RLBH said:
Do you have a reference for that? It sounds like a juiced-up version of the Howze Board recommendations, but I've only ever seen the versions equipped with helicopters and Mohawks.



The final Howze plan did not include an explicit call for the jets then and now in the TO&E, but it actually still did call for jet army aircraft in the long term plan, and listed among others the P.1127 as a possible future platform to replace the AO-1 Mohawk. See page 64 below. Aside from the political issue, the Army just couldn't find a jet it actually liked at the time.
http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/utils/getfile/collection/p4013coll11/id/1689/filename/1690.pdf


The Army jet concept was kept alive into 1963 with the Close Air Support Board, in which the two services had an all out war of words over CAS doctrine and the engaged in a number of actual exercises in some of which the Army was given direct control of air force jets. You can read about some of that here on page 257 onward of linke below; talks some about various planes considered for Army use and desired spec including a mach .9 requirement forcing a jet, and specs for a plane merely acceptable for army requirement, but F-4 doesn't show up specifically at any point. Skyhawk, Intruder. F-5 and a few others do. Hmm didn't someone post an 'Army' painted Intruder picture recently? Looks like that one might be real. I didn't notice it on earlier readings.
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/7216503/AF-Close-Support-for-the-Army-1946-1973

Looks like I'm wrong on thinking they wanted C-123s though. I really thought they did for moving larger weapon such as MAULER long distances.
 

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Thanks for the link to the Howze board's final report, I'll give that a proper read later. For some reason the second one doesn't agree with my computer, though.
 

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Kissimeelink- I know wood fairings were built onto the A-4 wing for the dual main wheels. I suppose some sort of fiberglass or wood fairings could be made for under the F-4 wings, maybe by the same shop students who are replacing the rear canopy with sheet metal? ;D

The whole Phantom thing sounds not so much like using new-build Phantoms but stripping and modifying retired Phantoms that have plenty of hours on them, though the timeline is all wrong. Were there any plans to retire some Phantoms by the late 60s?
 

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royabulgaf said:
Kissimeelink- I know wood fairings were built onto the A-4 wing for the dual main wheels. I suppose some sort of fiberglass or wood fairings could be made for under the F-4 wings, maybe by the same shop students who are replacing the rear canopy with sheet metal? ;D

The whole Phantom thing sounds not so much like using new-build Phantoms but stripping and modifying retired Phantoms that have plenty of hours on them, though the timeline is all wrong. Were there any plans to retire some Phantoms by the late 60s?

Well, some of the very early F-4As were retired by this time, but I doubt any others were ready for the bone yard. I really think McDonnell was barking up the wrong tree here. The F-4 and dirt really do not play nice together. I can see why it seems that the Army never really considered it as a possibility.
 

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After additional research the whole idea began in the 1950s when the Army Aviation Test Board and the Aviation Combat Developments Agency jointly determined that the Army could benefit from modern jet aircraft to be used for artillery adjustment, tactical reconnaissance, and ground attack.
In 1958 the Army borrowed three Cessna T-37 aircraft from the Air Force for a one year evaluation of the idea. They found the Cessna T-37 a very good fit being both simple to maintain in the field, and able to operate from unprepared airstrips. This test was called Project LONG ARM. But when the Army sought to order a quantity of the aircraft for Army use, the Air Force got cold feet and became opposed to Army ownership of fixed-wing jet aircraft and the Army retuned the aircraft to the Air Force and (temporarily) abandoned the idea.
In 1961 the Army revisited the idea by testing not one, but three high-performance aircraft - the Douglas A4D Skyhawk, The Fiat G-91, and the Northrop N-156 lightweight fighter prototype.
The Armys testing of the A4D was carried out with two examples which were borrowed from the Navy and were then modified by Douglas. For the evaluation the A4D was fitted with dual-wheel main gear with modified "bulged" doors to cover the gear when retracted. Its strengths for the Army were its simple operation, great ground attack capability in all weather, and high intakes for rough field operation. .
The Fiat G.91 was tested because it was simple to maintain, simple systems, robust airframe, and had the ability to operated from unimproved forward airfields. The Army borrowed two examples from the West German Air Force for the test. The Aircraft was flown over on C-124s along with a Fiat test pilot and several Luftwaffe pilots and mechanics. One of the examples was a G.91R reconnaissance version.
Northrop gladly provided (The Air Force was indifferent to the development of the aircraft) the first N-156 prototype and a complete ground support staff for the tests. It is interesting that pictures taken of the N-156 in Army markings show both a single-wheel and a dual-wheel nose gear.
In the end the army found that all three aircraft met the requirements of the study and would be a good fit for the Army. But two things impacted the program. First one of the F.91s was destroyed in a crash killing the Fiat test pilot. Second the Air Force once again applied tremendous pressure on the Army to abandon the project - which it eventually did.
(Information from book US Army Aircraft Since 1947 by Stephen Harding)
 

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I suggest that to all this we should add the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel.
The US Army ordered two aircraft for evaluation as VZ‑12 with serials 62‑4507/4508 but the aircraft were subsequently cancelled. The US Army was interested in the Kestrel as a potential replacement for the OV‑1 and, would the project have materialised, aircraft would have been built by Northrop as N-287. The project was cancelled due to inter‑service mission definition, which prevented the US Army from having heavy fixed wing aircraft.
 
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ksimmelink

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Jos Heyman said:
[font=]I suggest that to all this we should add the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel. [/font]
[font=]The US Army ordered two aircraft for evaluation as VZ‑12 with serials 62‑4507/4508 but the aircraft were subsequently cancelled. The US Army was interested in the Kestrel as a potential replacement for the OV‑1 and, would the project have materialised, aircraft would have been built by Northrop as N-287. The project was cancelled due to inter‑service mission definition, which prevented the US Army from having heavy fixed wing aircraft. [/font]

Good catch! I completely overlooked that fact. While not part of the evaluation of the other aircraft the Army was part of the Tripartite Kestral Evaluation Squadron officially formed at RAF West Rayham in 1965. The US contributed four pilots for the squadron, interestingly enough one was from the Air Force, one was from the Navy, and two were from the Army. The presence of the Army pilots was a clear indication of the Armys intent on using the aircraft "deployed to forward areas virtually alongside the troops it was intended to support." In 1966 the program ended and the three US plane along with three from Germany, and one from England were shipped back to the US and were extensively evaluated. The Air Force and Navy chose not to place any orders because of their commitment to other, more conventional aircraft. Once again the Army, though very interested were pressured by the Air Force to depend on them for close air support.
(more information from US Army Aircraft Since 1947 by Stephen Harding)
 

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Actually what 'ksimmelink' is referring to is the XV-6 programme. The tri-service squadron was formed in 1963 and the XV-6 aircraft were serialled in FY 1964 (64-18262/18270) and the aircraft did not come to the US until 1966. The VZ-12 aircraft, on the other hand, were ordered in 1962. because of this difference in time frames, I would suggest that in spite of Army pilots taking part in the Tri-service squadron the VZ-12 and XV-6 programmes were probably not directly linked
 

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Jos Heyman said:
Actually what 'ksimmelink' is referring to is the XV-6 programme. The tri-service squadron was formed in 1963 and the XV-6 aircraft were serialled in FY 1964 (64-18262/18270) and the aircraft did not come to the US until 1966. The VZ-12 aircraft, on the other hand, were ordered in 1962. because of this difference in time frames, I would suggest that in spite of Army pilots taking part in the Tri-service squadron the VZ-12 and XV-6 programmes were probably not directly linked

Well, they were, in the sense that the tri-service designations system led to VZ-10, VZ-11 and VZ-12 being redesignated as XV-4, XV-5 and XV-6, respectively.
But of course the Army order that was cancelled under VZ-12 had little to do with the tr-service evaluations that took place under XV-6.
 

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I doubt that VZ-12 was redesignated as XV-6. I do not have the cancellation date of the VZ-12 proposal but the 1964 serials for the XV-6s seems to indicate to me that this is a designation created in FY1964 and not on 18 September 1962 when the Tri-service system was introduced and led to the redesignation of the VZ-10 and VZ-11.
 

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ksimmelink said:
Here is another picture of the A-4 used in the Army evaluations - with dual main gear wheels and it looks almost like the nose wheel might be a bit wider as well. It took quite a beefy fairing to cover those new main gear!

http://a4skyhawk.org/content/148483-us-army-douglas-aircraft-1913

I wonder how they proposed putting tandem main wheels on the F-4? I would imagine it would probably involve putting one wheel on each side of the strut and then creating a fairing for the second wheel as it would hang below the wing level. I would imagine that supersonic performance was not something held very important by the army since they were evaluating other aircraft that were all subsonic other than the F-5. But I don't think they could mess up the top side of the wing to create more room for a main wheel boggie. To do anything else would require major structural changes to the wing, and I would imagine the Army was interested in saving money not spending more.
Of all aircraft of that time and era, I could not imagine the U.S. Army contemplating the F-4 Phantom II. Yes it was the bees-knees of high-tech fighters! But I would think this would be the designs Achilles heel - its advanced weapons system and avionics, its size and its weight would hardly have made it suitable for remote ops in support of army forward units. I've never seen, let alone heard of a Phantom II operating from rough / non-paved runways!! Would make for a very interesting photo though!!No I think the U.S. Army was wise, sensible and realistic to look at such designs as the Freedom Fighter, G91 and Skyhawk designs!! RegardsPioneer
 

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I'm not sure what proposing F-4 Phantom II variants for the Army was supposed to accomplish, but the idea would have been nothing more than a flight of fancy.

The 1948 Key West Agreement forbade the US Army from having armed fixed-wing aircraft exceeding 10000lbs in weight;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West_Agreement

In 1952, the Pace-Finletter MOU whittled the maximum allowable weight down to only 5000lbs, and encompassed *all* Army fixed-wing aircraft;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pace-Finletter_MOU_1952

Under the 1966 Johnson-McConnel Agreement, the US Army was forbidden from operating ANY fixed-wing aircraft;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson-McConnell_agreement_of_1966

Not that this relentless inter-service Lawfare did the Army *or* the Air Force any good in the following years, mind you...
 

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Blacktail said:
I'm not sure what proposing F-4 Phantom II variants for the Army was supposed to accomplish, but the idea would have been nothing more than a flight of fancy.

The 1948 Key West Agreement forbade the US Army from having armed fixed-wing aircraft exceeding 10000lbs in weight;

In 1952, the Pace-Finletter MOU whittled the maximum allowable weight down to only 5000lbs, and encompassed *all* Army fixed-wing aircraft;

Under the 1966 Johnson-McConnel Agreement, the US Army was forbidden from operating ANY fixed-wing aircraft;

Not that this relentless inter-service Lawfare did the Army *or* the Air Force any good in the following years, mind you...

Thanks Blacktail for the great information.
I was aware of the Key West Agreement, but not the others. It seems like the Army was quite active in kicking the boundaries of these agreements. Take for example the OV-1. It was a 12,000 ib fixed wing aircraft. It was armed from the beginning (with guns and rockets on the hardpoints) despite the Army's insistence it was only an observation aircraft. I know that they used the USMC as a smoke screen to help develop it (even though the Navy would probably never buy it for the Marines) to hide the fact that it was they themselves who were intending to use it. The War in Vietnam seems to be a backdrop where the Army figured that if they only could get an aircraft into the field and in use, who would tell them to take it out of service (thus leaving troops vulnerable).
The Army had many aircraft that they used or tested (ignoring helicopters) that didn't fall into the categories of those agreements. (C-45, U-21, V-15, C-7, C-8, U-18, C-47, Fiat G.91, Fokker F.27, Gulfstream I & III, C-20, A-4, JC-121K, P-2, N-156F, T-28, XV-5) I really think that the Army's fascination with VTOL aircraft is a result of trying to build ground-support into an aircraft that works like a helicopter (again to skirt the agreements).
The Air Force wasn't totally innocent either. From some of my reading they had a habit of telling the Army what they needed, and ignored any requests for support that the Air Force wasn't interested in providing. This was the period of time where the Air Force felt that any future war was going to be fought with Strategic Bombers and quite possibly nuclear bombs. The Air Force treated the Army like they were no longer needed to fight wars, so why should they share in shaping a new way of fighting on the ground (mobile Air Cav units). That is one reason the Air Force was rather ill equipped to fight in Vietnam at the beginning, they weren't prepared for a battle like that. The Army on the other hand had some (they had to battle the brass in the Army who were still fighting WW2 as well) who appreciated the type of battle the French were fighting in Vietnam and began to influence a change in doctrine with the idea of highly mobile divisions who could be picked up and swoop into a hotspot ready to fight.
But at the end of the day the Army's attitude to the agreements seems to be "It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission."
 

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ksimmelink said:
But at the end of the day the Army's attitude to the agreements seems to be "It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission."

That reminds me of what I was told be a reliable source.

Army aircraft that flew FAC missions over Vietnam were usually armed only with "Marker" rockets. These marked targets for artillery, airstrikes, naval gunfire, and so on, by creating a huge, billowing cloud of smoke. That smoke was the byproduct of WP (White Phosphorus) combustion, and as you're no doubt aware, WP burns quite violently.

That said, my source tells me that a guy he knows who flew these FAC missions "marked" the hell out of Viet Cong troops on several occasions. ;D
 

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Very interesting reading....that would have tipped the edge rift between usaf and Army aviation from the 50s/60s.

Cheers
 
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