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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

Made in the USA: Iran Still Loves the F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet

F-4 Phantom II. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
F-4 Phantom II. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Nicknamed the “Flying Anvil”, the F-4 Phantom II twin-engine, tandem seat supersonic jet interceptor saw extensive service in Vietnam as a strike fighter platform. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force all utilized the third-generation jet fighter since the onset of its entry into service in the 1960s. The McDonnell Douglas platform established 16-speed, altitude, and time-to-time climb records, making it one of the most versatile aircraft of its time. Weighing it at nearly 30,000 pounds unloaded, the F-4’s heavy frame could carry thousands more pounds of munitions than its predecessors.

F-4 Multirole in the Air

The Phantom II performed four crucial roles during the time of its conception, including interdiction, air superiority, close-air support, and fleet defense. However, the platform’s lack of a built-in cannon and reliance on subpar newly-introduced missiles clouded its track record in both the Korean War and Vietnam War. In the 1970s, improvements helped elevate the Phantom’s lethality across each military branch. The Air Force improved its fleet’s maneuverability by upgrading wing slats, and the Navy established the Top Gun training program to promote air combat training. Over 5,000 F-4 platforms were delivered throughout its lifespan in the U.S., and their subvariants are still being used today.

Unlike the F-14 Tomcat, whose sole foreign customer was Iran, the Phantom II was distributed around the world. Israel’s success in the 1973 Yom Kippur War could in part be attributed to the platform’s capabilities. In the same time period, the U.S. granted Iran 225 Phantoms with the intention of garnering anti-Soviet support in the region. However, similar to the F-14 Tomcat’s history, the Phantom II shifted into adversarial hands post-Iranian Revolution in 1979.

F-4 Continued Upgrades

While the U.S. ceased distributing the F-4 platform to Iran after the fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty, its Air Force has been able to maintain and even advance the fighter jets through modifications and newly formed defense partners. In November 2020, Iran showcased its Qased 900kg electro-optic-guided smart bombs in its annual “Defenders of the Sky” drills. The regime’s ability to potentially strike targets with significantly greater precision poses a threat to the region.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

F-4 Phantom

Image: Creative Commons.

F-4 Phantom

Image: Creative Commons.

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Iran’s current F-4 fleet should alarm its adversaries. “To supplement its long-range strike capabilities, Iran could also attempt to use its regional proxies and limited airstrike capability to attack an adversary’s critical infrastructure. Iran maintains an aging inventory of combat aircraft—such as decades-old U.S. F-4 Phantoms— which it could attempt to use to attack its regional adversaries. However, these older platforms would be more vulnerable to air defenses than modern combat aircraft.”

Although the F-4 platform is aging, the fighter jets can successfully outperform counterparts across the region. Iran’s acquisition of advanced air-launched anti-ship missile systems is a threat. These armaments from U.S. adversaries, including China, continue to help elevate the mission set of their F-4 fleet to an armed maritime strike role. For example, Iran’s Nasr anti-ship cruise missile is a variant of the People’s Liberation Army’s C-704. The Iranian Air Force has also manufactured its own native-grown medium-range cruise missiles to launch from the F-4.

Combined with its F-14 and MiG-29 fighter squadrons, Iran’s Phantom fleet remains the backbone of its Air Force. This Vietnam-era platform should not be underestimated.

Maya Carlin, now a 1945 Middle East Editor, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.

Written By

Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.



  1. Arash

    May 14, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Nice Subject ,
    But if U could state the deep Experience of Iranian Pilots fue to 8 years IRAN , IRAQ was , the highest use of Phantoms in Actual War !!!! Also including some of Iranian Phantoms photos on this Article , Not USAF !!!

    Joy Jet

    • José Luis Antonelli

      May 14, 2022 at 10:12 am

      Así ,es. Coincido plenamente con tu hecho también los F14 Tomcat también tuvieron más acción en manos de pilotos iraníes.

    • Maziar iraji from iran

      May 14, 2022 at 1:34 pm

      Hello, in this article, you have stated that Iran’s air and military capabilities are very advanced You have realized that this is not the case. The total number of Iranian military aircraft does not even reach 200, all of which are at least forty years old, and according to the existing sanctions, if they become operational, they will be able to In a large-scale operation, the capability of the Iranian Air Force will be destroyed very soon, and the same is true of the Iranian ground force.Iran’s only military power is in long-range missile and drone operations and in close combat It does not have good military equipment such as a professional soldier, etc. I consider this article to be far from reality

    • Michael

      May 16, 2022 at 3:40 am

      Great article the one in the top photo could do with a wash.✌️

  2. Paul

    May 14, 2022 at 10:46 am

    Phantoms were not around during g the Korean war.

    • larry ciummo

      May 15, 2022 at 9:06 pm

      The Phantom II vs MIG-17 would have been a great fight. Puff article.

  3. Jim

    May 14, 2022 at 12:24 pm

    The USAF F-4E was the first F-4 delivered with a built in cannon. Iran is a terrorist country but it isn’t stupid. The Iranians know that if they were to engage in an air war with Israel they would lose all of their F-4’s and F-14’s in one day. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

    • Crazy

      May 14, 2022 at 12:41 pm

      Yeah you’re righ…no doubt..? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

      • Marc

        May 15, 2022 at 3:00 pm

        Of course, so as not to be a threat, Iran has to completely disarm, so as not to impede peace loving US from using its freedom bombs and liberty rockets to make make weaker and uppity countries toe the line.

        • Jim

          May 15, 2022 at 8:43 pm

          Please give Internet verifiable examples of the “peace loving US using its freedom bombs and liberty rockets to make make weaker and uppity countries toe the line.”
          You can, can’t you? Put up or shut up, hater.

    • Abbas

      May 14, 2022 at 12:42 pm

      Iranian don’t think about air war ,
      It was 40 years ago , air war is for terrorists
      Iran today winning the wars by politics and war in other countries,
      like a powerfull country , like USA and UK . Israel is just a gamefield between Iran and USA ?

    • Teimour Bakhtiar

      May 14, 2022 at 2:49 pm

      Have no idea, what planet-ape, you come from, fellow!
      The real human world, we Iranians do live in, tells us: The Zionists in your “Israel” – are just a distasteful bunch of cranked-up lies! That is with all the F-35s, F-15s & F16s, the terrorist cowboys at the Pentagon, who have lovingly delivered to these filthy, Zionist child killers!
      In that & just to let you digest it: Iran is soon, going to wipe these Talmudic cold vomits, off the face of the Middle East – All of you cowboys are invited to see the spectrum. As you’ll be allowed to mourn the loss, as much as, your heart content – Long Live ?? Independent Iran!

      • Jim

        May 14, 2022 at 5:47 pm

        What are you going to do when your Islamic Caliphate is never realized? Because it won’t be. Sucker.

        • Abolfazl

          May 14, 2022 at 7:52 pm

          L’Iran est une puissance régionale merci Maya ?

          • Jim

            May 15, 2022 at 12:17 pm

            Ahora eres un terrorista ?

      • larry c

        May 15, 2022 at 9:09 pm

        A bit harsh, no?

    • Payam

      May 14, 2022 at 4:04 pm

      My country havn’t advanced jet or warplanes but we have faith and decision for resistance against USA

      • Jim

        May 14, 2022 at 5:44 pm

        And what country do you live in?

    • bernard reymond kenedi

      May 14, 2022 at 10:23 pm

      do not think it will be that easy, dear friend. I think it is the United States that is committing terrorist acts. I would like to inform you about Israel. Although we do not have a common border with Israel, we are working hard to design a non-nuclear strategy.
      We are for their destruction

      • Jim

        May 15, 2022 at 12:13 pm


      • AJS

        May 15, 2022 at 3:02 pm

        Bernard, you said,”We are for their destruction”. So who are the terrorist again?

  4. SIA

    May 15, 2022 at 2:14 am

    The Russia-Ukraine war showed that victory does not only require weapons, but also fighters with a heartfelt goal and belief in what they are fighting for, and we Iranians are fighting for the highest goals, and we will definitely win.

    • Jim

      May 15, 2022 at 12:19 pm

      And what exactly are you fighting for?

  5. LQJonas

    May 15, 2022 at 12:43 pm

    Stealth Piper Cubs are the way to go.

  6. Nash

    May 16, 2022 at 4:00 am

    Iran has no choice but to use them a country under sanctions by the Yiddish mafia controlling the U.S to protect their illegal ncolony in the middle east.. They are junk of a plain. But the Iranians will prevail

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