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McDonnell F-4 Phantom II cockpit layouts, instrument panels and flight instruments


NEWS: The first AEROCOLLECTOR - PARIS 2020 fair will be held on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 March, 2020. More than 1000 m2 will be dedicated to aviation collectors to hunt aviation collectibles including airplane parts, books, vintage airplane models, posters, memorabilia and promotional items. The venue will be at Espace Charenton in the Ariane Room, 327 rue de Charenton, 75012 Paris. You can visit the web site at On the web site you can registrer to participate as an exhibitor.

The McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II was produced to meet the US Navy requirement for a supersonic fighter. It is a supersonic, long-range, all-weather fighter bomber with two J79-GE-8s engines and a crew of two (pilot and radar operator/navigator seated in tandem). The internal fuel capacity was larger than that of any other Navy fighter jet in the 1960s. The primary armament consisted of four Sparrow 3 missiles that are partially submerged in the underside of the fuselage and four sidewinders on wing racks (source: Flight Magazine, July 1960). The wings could be folded for easy airplane storage on a carrier and a drag chute and an arresting hook reduced landing roll distances on land and aircraft carriers. The production version for the Navy and the Marines was designated F-4B in September 1962 and also included a reconnaissance version, the RF-4B.

Different F-4 versions

Different F-4 versions as shown in a mid-1960s McDonnell promotional flyer for French Government officials and press (source: Daniel Lehmann's Ad Astra Antiquariat).

Evolution of the F-4 Phantom

Evolution of the McDonnell F-4 Phantom (source: McDonnell press release presentation, 1976; Daniel Lehmann's Ad Astra Antiquariat).

After extensive testing of the Navy F-4B in 1961, the USAF decided upon the F-4 Phantom to become its main tactical fighter aircraft. This led to the development of the USAF F-4C Phantom, later followed by modified F-4D and F-4E versions. The latter version included an M61 20 mm Vulcan Gattling gun as secondary armament in addition to the missiles. The verious versions all played a significant role in air support during the Vietnam war, often supporting F-105 Thunderchief bombing raids. The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation merged with Douglas Aircraft Company Incorporated on April 28, 1967, to form the McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

Different F-4 versions on cover page promotional brochure

USAF, Navy and Marines F-4 versions as shown in a mid-1960s McDonnell promotional flyer for Government officials and press (source: Daniel Lehmann's Ad Astra Antiquariat).

The F-4E Phantom was also exported to Turkey, Iran and Israel, to Germany for the West-German Luftwaffe (designated F-4F) and used by the British RAF (F-4M Phantom FGR Mk. 2) and the Royal Navy (F-4K Phantom). Later versions for the Navy and Marines were the F-4J, which, after upgrades and other modifications, became the F-4S. Reconaissance versions were the RF-4B for the Navy and RF-4C, RF-4E for the USAF.

For an extensive overview of all F-4 Phantom models, visit Joe Baugher's web site at

Cockpit configurations, instrument panels and contractor scale models

The links below lead to pages where the cockpit layouts of various F-4 versions are displayed, as well as their flight instruments and instrument panels

F-4 Phantom power plant

The F-4 Phantom has two engines weighing about 1800 kg each. The Navy F-4B Phantom had a General Electric J79-GE-8 power plant with a military thrust of 10,900 pounds each. The engine incorporates a variable stator for the first six stages, a 17 stage compressor, 10 annular combustion chambers, a three-stage turbine, a variable area exhaust nozzle and a variable thrust afterburner. Smoke abatement measures were applied to the Navy F-4S engines.

J79-GE-8 power plant of the F-4B, F-4J and RF-4B Phantom aircraft

Navy models F-4B, F-4J and RF-4B aircraft J79-GE-8 power plant (Source: NAVAIR 01-245FDB-2-3.1 Maintenance Instructions Manual).

USAF F-4C and F-4D models had upgraded J79-GE-15 engines (10.900 pounds thrust each), whereas the F-4E incorporated two J79-GE-17 power plants, with 17,900 pounds maximum thrust.

F-4 Phantom images

The gallery below contains some pictures of F-4 Phantom aircrafts. Click on the thumbnails to get a larger versions of these images. Some of these pictures were used for aircraft recognition purposes by the RAF. The colour pictures of the German and Turkish F-4 Phantoms appear courtesy to Mr. Ad Jan Aldevogt (, who has an extensive archive of civil and military aircraft photos, including pictures taken in Eastern Block countries.

F-4M Phantom
F-4M Phantom in flight
USAF F-4 Phantom
British F-4M
F-4 and F-5 aircrafts
USAF F-4E Phantom and F-5 Tiger
German F-4 No. 3859
German F-4F
German F-4F, No. 3789
German F-4F
Turkish F-4E
Turkish F-4E
Turkish F-4E
Turkish F-4E
Turkish F-4, No. 680427
Turkish F-4E

F-4 Phantom mobile nose section for events

Joe from St. Louis or Bethalto, Illinois, has beautifully restored an F-4E Phantom cockpit section. This section has been mounted on a mobile platform and it is possible to have this F-4E Phantom cockpit on display for birthday parties, corporate events, school activities or otherwise. Joe's web site is and you can contact him at

F-4 Phantom Patches

There are many patches that were stitched by F-4 Phantom pilots on their gear. These included patches indicating certain squadron, for when a certain number of mission were completed or for hours flown, but also, for instance, to remember the 40th year of the F-4 Phantoms existence and for other events. Below are examples of a few of these patches

2-hundred missions patch F-4 Phantom Night Owl missions in Vietnam

Original patch marking two hundred Night Owl (Night Interdiction Missions) of an F-4 Phantom pilot over Vietnam (and Laos, Cambodia). Spook is displayed here in an Ace of Spades - representing the bringer of death. Image courtesy of Pierre.

Visit Program to McDonnell Aircraft Co., Swissair vice-president, 1974

The World Headquarters of the McDonnell Aircraft Company was often visited by important potential customers to be informed about McDonnell's products. The program of these visits, and the names of the persons who would be present at these meetings, were published on small black-and-white brochures. An example of such a brochure - for the visit of Mr. Konrad Lindenmanns, who was vice-president of Swissair in 1974 - to McDonnell Aircraft Company's World Headquarters in St. Louis (USA) is shown below.

McDonnell Aircraft Company visit program to Swissair, 1974

McDonnell Aircraft Company visit program to Swissair, 10 September 1974 (Source: Daniel Lehmann's Antiquariat Ad Astra, Switzerland).

At this particular visit McAir was introduced, the F-15 Eagle Program was presented, an F-15 simulator tour was made, the final assembly line and prologue room were visited and and Electronics Vital III presentation was given after a one-hour lunch.

Sensor - indicator signal transmission techniques

The standby compass in the F-4 Phantom incorporates a magnetic needle, which reacts directly on changes in the magnetic field. As such the sensor / indicator are self-contained in the instrument. For most other sensor - indicator systems, however, the sensor is placed in a different location than the indicator. In these cases, a signal has to be transmitted from the sensor to the indicator. In most cases, this is done using electrical systems. The most common techniques will be discussed below with examples of the instrument systems involved.

Pressure transmission systems

To measure the aircraft velocity, altitude and rate of climb, pressure measurements are made on the outside of the aircraft using a pitot tube and static ports. The ambient air pressure is measured using a static port, which is located such that it measures the barometric air pressure, without any influence of the flow due to movement of the aircraft. In the atmosphere, pressure decreases with elevation and the altimeter and vertical situation indicators are both connected by tubing to the static port, such that the outside barometric pressure is transmitted to pressure sensors in the indicators. The indicator contains aneroid wafers with a fixed air pressure (1013 hPa) that are mechanically connected to the altimeter needle and drums. These wafers expand if the air pressure decreases and compress when air pressure rises causing the needle to indicate changes in elevation.

In contrast to the static port, the opening of the pitot tube is in the air flow along the aircraft. As the aircraft velocity increases, this causes an increase in the pressure in the pitot tube with respect to the barometric pressure measured through the static port. The difference between pitot tube pressure and static port barometric pressure is a measure of the aircraft velocity. The airspeed indicator is connected by tubing to both pitot tube and static port and displays the differential pressure reading as the air speed.

Voltage operated systems

Some sensors supply a voltage that is then received by the indicator, which displays a value based on the voltage level. Examples are the exhaust gas temeprature sensors and the tachometer generator.

The exhaust gas temperature is measured with a number of thermocouples located in the exhaust pipe. Thermocouples are basically junctions between to different metals that are welded together. At the junction a voltage occurs that is directly related to the temperature of the junction. The thermocopules in the F-4 Phantom and most other aircraft are of the K-type (Chromel-Alumel junction). These can withstand temperatures of up to 1350 ℃. The K-type thermocouples provide a 41 μV/℃ voltage as output. The output is then conducted by wiring to the indicator, where it is amplified to display the temperature with the indicator needle. 12 dual thermocouples (connected in parallel) are radially placed in the exhaust gas of the power plant and are connected to the indicator by Cr / Al wiring. The amplifier located in the indicator housing is powered by 115 V 400 Hz (see image below).

F-4D TDDR-50 exhaust gas temperature schematic
Schematic of the exhaust gas temperature indicator and sensor system. Source: McDonnell Product Support Division, 1967. F-4D Trouble Shooting Manual, Vol. 4 Section 4 Power Plant.

To measure the RPM of the jet engine, a tachometer generator is attached to the engine and its rotor rotates through a link with the engine shaft. The tachometer generator is calibrated to provide a 3-phase signal of 21 V at 4100 RPM. The voltage is transmitted by wiring to the indicator, where two phases are connected to indicator inputs, and the third phase is connected to ground.

Resistance based sensors

Movement of a sensor part can be used to move the axis of a potentiometer, with a change in the potentiometer resistance as a result. This principle is used for the angle of attack measurements that the pilot uses for correct landing configuration. The angle of attack sensor shaft protrudes through the skin near the nose of the F-4 Phantom and is connected to a variable resistor (potentiometer). The resistance of the sensor therefore changes with the position of the sensor shaft with respect to that of the housing. The angle of attack indicator is connected to the sensor by wiring and translates the sensor resistance to an angle of attack value. The indicator also controls the angle of attack lights on the sides of the optical sight. The nozzle position indicators operate in a similar way.

The nozzle positition indicator system

Autosyn mechanism (synchros)

The autosyn system uses transmitter and receiver synchros to remotely show the position of the rotor of the transmitter synchro. A synchro consist of a movable rotor coil, powered by an alternating current (usually 26 V 400 Hz) surrounded by three stator coils (see image below). When the rotor coil in the sensor moves, this generates a change in the magneto-electrical field in the stator coils, which is transmitted to the stator coils of the receiver synchro in the indicator. This change then forces the rotor coil in the receiver synchro to follow the movement of the rotor coil in the transmitter.

Autosyn schematic, Fokker F27 manual
Schematic of the autosyn transmission system. Source: Royal Netherlands Aircraft Factories Fokker, 1960. F-27 Training Manual Electrical Engineers.

There are several indicators in the F-4 Phantom cockpit that operate using synchros, these are:

The fuel flow indicating system uses an engine fuel flow transmitter to drive the fule flow indicators on the main pilot's panel.

F-4D TDDR-50 fuel flow indicating system schematic
Diagramme of the fuel flow indicating system using synchros of the F-4D Phantom. Source: McDonnell Product Support Division, 1967. F-4D Trouble Shooting Manual, Vol. 4 Section 4 Power Plant.

The oil pressure indicators are located on the pedestal panel and operate by synchros to indicate the pressure.

F-4D TDDR-50 engine oil pressure indicating system schematic
Diagramme of the engine oil pressure indicating system using synchros of the F-4D Phantom. Source: McDonnell Product Support Division, 1967. F-4D Trouble Shooting Manual, Vol. 4 Section 4 Power Plant.

The remote attitude indicator uses this technique.

Capacitance based transmission

Rather than using changes in resistance, this technique uses a sensor with a variable capacitance. The technique is based on differences of the dielectric constant between materials, such as between air and fuel.

The fuel quantity indicator measures the capacitance of the probes in the different fuselage and wing fuel tanks of the aircraft and displays this on a counter mechanism with a movable bar on the indicator.

F-4D fuel quantity indicating system feed tank check
Simplified diagramme of the F-4D fuel quantity indicating system and feed tank check. Source: McDonnell Product Support Division, 1967. F-4D Trouble Shooting Manual, Vol. 1 Section 1 Fuel System. Note that the capacitance fuel probes of the different fuel tanks in fuselage and wings tanks are placed in parallel

Sources of information: literature, flight and maintenance manuals

Danny Coremans from DACO Publications released an new book titled Uncovering the US Navy Q/F-4B/J/N/S Phantom in 2009. This book contains hundreds of colour pictures of the inside and outside of the different Navy Phantom II aircraft, showing technical details of fuselage, cockpit, engine, weapons systems, avionics, etc., and also contains scale drawings of the various F-4 Phantom aircraft types and their cockpits that are valuable for scale model projects.

D. Coremans (2009), Uncovering the US Navy Q/F-4B/J/N/S Phantom. DACO Publications, Belgium
Cover page of D. Coremans (2009). Uncovering the US Navy Q/F-4B/J/N/S Phantom. DACO Publications, Belgium.

I can recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Navy Phantoms. Sample pages from the book and ordering information are shown DACO's Navy F-4 Phantom book page. Please do check it out...

Below is a list of original and digital aviation books, flight and technical manual sources that served to provide information shown on different web pages.

F-4C T.O. 1F-4C-34-1-1 manual RF-4C T.O. 1F-4(R)C-1 flight manual Navair 01-245FDD-1 F-4J and F-4S flight manual Navair 01-245fdb-2-3.1 J79-GE-8 power plant manual International F-4E technical description, Report MDC-A2300 Litton LN-12 Inertial Navigation System, 1963 F-4D Inertial Navigation and Weapons Release Computer Systems, 1969 F-4E & G Interoperability loading/off-loading procedures, 1984 F-4E Crew chief's handbook P.S. 861, 1974 F-4C Aircraft TDDR-50 Series Trouble Shooting
      Manuals, 1964. Volume IV. F-4C, F-4D and F-4E aircrew weapons delivery checklist, 1973 F-4 TDDR-50.0 Trouble Shooting manual, Section 0 NAVAIR 01-245FDD-18 NATOPS Pocket Checlist F-4J Aircraft RF-4E TDDR-50RE Trouble Shooting manual

The following texts are available on CD (Adobe PDF files or HTML):

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