Entering work successful the U.S. Air Force successful 1960, the F-4 Phantom served arsenic America’s superior combatant until the 1980s with implicit 5000 airframes produced implicit 23 years and exported to 10 clients crossed 4 continents. Although initially a troubled aircraft, which was intended chiefly for agelong scope bomber interception and struggled to prosecute Soviet-built MiG-17s implicit Vietnam, adaptations to the plan culminating successful the F-4E successful 1965 produced an aerial superiority combatant that was without rival successful the Western world. The aircraft’s operational costs were debased capable that the U.S. Air Force could spend to tract the F-4 arsenic it superior fighter, successful opposition to its successor the F-15 Eagle which was acquired successful overmuch smaller numbers, but were inactive excessively costly for mosts American defence clients with the cheaper and little extremity F-5 Freedom Fighter and F-5E Tiger II exported arsenic cheaper options.
Many countries inactive opted for and were granted support to acquisition the F-4, successful peculiar those successful strategically important positions specified arsenic frontline NATO members Turkey, Greece, Britain and Germany, Japan and Iran connected the frontlines with the USSR’s Asian regions, and Israel which faced Soviet-aligned Arab states specified arsenic Syria and Iraq. Of the F-4’s eleven overseas clients 4 proceed to run the aircraft, the newest of which are inactive implicit 40 years old, with each expected to regenerate their Phantoms earlier 2030. Japan and Egypt, too, operated F-4s until 2021 and 2013 erstwhile they were belatedly retired for replacement by the F-35 and MiG-29M fighters. Of the remaining 4 F-4 operators, a look astatine the sizes and roles of their remaining fleets and the apt craft which volition regenerate them successful work provides penetration into however the Phantom could yet permission operational work and however it volition apt walk its last years.
South Korean F-4 Phantoms: Likely Replacement with F-35A Fighters
The Republic of Korean Air Force (ROKAF), the authoritative sanction of the aerial unit of South Korea, presently fields 9 squadrons of 3rd procreation F-4E and F-5E/F Vietnam War epoch fighters, which signifier a precise important proportionality of its fleet of 23 combatant squadrons. The F-4E perviously formed the elite of the Korean fleet, and is heavier and much costly to run than immoderate of its craft different than its F-15K Slam Eagles and caller F-35A Lightning II stealth jets. The F-4’s comparatively precocious operational costs and constricted show compared to simpler more modern designs specified arsenic the KF-16 person led to it being phased retired of work faster than the little attraction F-5 contempt its superior capabilities. Only a azygous squadron of 30 F-4E fighters, which person been domestically refurbished and modernised, remains successful service. It is expected that these volition beryllium replaced by the F-35A, of which the state is acceptable to tract 60, with the indigenous KF-21 stealth fighter expected to participate work aboriginal successful the decennary aft the past Phantoms are retired. The KF-21 is expected to regenerate galore of South Korea's remaining older fighters classes apt including overmuch of its F-5 and F-16 fleets. South Korea is expected to beryllium the adjacent F-4 relation to discontinue the people from work apt by the mediate of the decade.
Greek F-4 Phantoms: Likely Replacement with Rafale oregon F-35 Fighters
Greece is 1 of the largest defence spenders successful NATO arsenic aa proportionality of its GDP, and fields a azygous squadron of 34 F-4E Phantoms alongside 10 squadrons of lighter 4th procreation fighters - 8 of F-16s and 2 of French Mirage 2000s. Greek F-4s are the astir susceptible successful the satellite successful presumption of aerial to aerial performance, and integrate modern AIM-120 AMRAAM progressive radar guided aerial to aerial missiles providing superior beyond ocular scope capabilities to galore 4th procreation aircraft. As Greece moves to modernise its fleet further, the F-4 remains the astir apt combatant to beryllium phased retired of work duet to some its property and its higher operational costs than the country’s different fighters. The Hellenic Air Force's receipt of second manus Rafale fighters from France, a information of them arsenic aid, could pb to the craft replacing the F-4s successful service. The state has besides sought to get F-35As from the United States, which could past regenerate the Mirage 2000s successful service, portion F-16s are modernised to the F-16V modular with 5th procreation level avionics to let them to stay relevant.
Turkish F-4 Phantoms: Likely Replacement with F-16 Block 70 Fighters
Turkey is presently by acold the largest overseas relation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon with 10 squadrons successful work betwixt them fielding 250 fighters, portion the F-4 and F-5 signifier 2 further squadrons the erstwhile chiefly for crushed onslaught roles and the second for training. The Turkish Air Force was initially acceptable to regenerate its F-4s with F-35As, which it produces implicit 900 parts for domestically and was acceptable to get implicit 130 of. The country’s expulsion from the F-35 programme has near the F-4’s replacement highly uncertain. The state has sough to get further F-16s from the United States, namely the F-16 Block 70/72 which boasts ‘4+ generation’ capabilities acold superior to those currently successful service, but besides reached advanced stages successful talks to get heavier Russian Su-35 fighters. There is besides a anticipation that the state whitethorn acquisition neither of these, and alternatively absorption connected its questionable TF-X 5th procreation combatant programme which is expected to trust precise heavy connected exertion transfers from overseas partners owed to the country’s precise constricted technological base. The TF-X is expected to beryllium importantly little susceptible than the Su-35 oregon F-35. With the TF-X expected to struggle, and an acquisition of Russian fighters remaining unlikely, F-16s are the astir apt campaigner to regenerate the F-4 successful the Turkish fleet.
Iranian F-4 Phantoms: Likely Replacement with Stealth Drones, JF-17 Bl. 3, J-10C, Su-35, oregon Indigenous Fighters
The Iranian Air Force is by acold the largest relation of the F-4 Phantom, and is the lone remaining relation of the older F-4D variants which flies alongside larger numbers of much modern F-4Es. F-4s signifier 5 of the country’s seventeen combatant squadrons, with an further squadron of RF-4E reconnaissance jets besides operational for a full of astir 70 Phantoms successful service. They are the 2nd astir wide utilized fighters aft the F-5, of which an estimated 80 are successful service. Iran is expected to look to the Chinese J-10C ‘4++ generation’ fighter, and perchance the lighter JF-17 Block 3 which uses akin avionics and weaponry, to modernise its fleet. These would some person importantly little operational costs than the F-4, meaning replacing the Phantoms would efficaciously wage for itself implicit time. Another enactment for fleet modernisation is the acquisition of heavyweight Su-35S fighters, which figures successful the Iranian Air Force enactment noted was being considered successful September 2022 with a imaginable bid for up to 60 airframes. These would person operational costs acold higher than the F-4, and apt unit a contraction of the Iranian fleet if acquired to regenerate them.
Iran’s quality to nutrient each spare parts and weaponry for its Phantoms domestically, and to refurbish and modernise the aircraft, means the Iranian Air Force whitethorn beryllium loathe to portion with the Phantoms and again go reliant connected overseas sources for upgrades and parts. The F-4 whitethorn stay successful work until the state develops an indigenous combatant susceptible of replacing it. The Iranian Air Force began to field the Kowsar lightweight fighter, based connected the American F-5, from 2018, which are expect to gradually regenerate F-5s successful service. With a heavier indigenous fighter besides having been announced, perchance from a akin value scope to the F-4, it remains a important anticipation that the Phantoms are being retained successful work until this programme produces a viable home replacement. Another anticipation is that Iran’s ample combat drone industry, which has produced formidable combat proven stealth designs, could supply an unmanned successor to the F-4 leveraging what is possibly the top spot of the country’s defence sector.