Saturday, June 3, 2023

Early McDonnell F-4B Phantom Configuration

The external appearance of the McDonnell F-4B changed in detail during its time in service. This is not a comprehensive list of the changes to a kit required to reverse it to the configuration when it was first deployed on Enterprise in 1962.

1. Early Bs did not have the slotted stabilizer:

2. Early Bs did not have the bump on the upper surface of the wing over the main landing gear strut or the doubler reinforcement plates on the lower surface of the wing.

3. Early Bs had the Mk 5 ejection seat; the difference in the top of the seat is apparent in any scale:

4. The initial external drop tanks on the wing were a McDonnell design; the Navy subsequently procured the cheaper Sergeant Fletcher tanks with a constant-diameter mid section (statements reversing the identification of the source of the tanks are wrong):

5. The total air sensor wandered around from the nose to the vertical fin and back: 

6. Initially the only external antenna was on the nose landing gear door:

All the other bumps were added later.

7. Deliveries of the IR sensor under the radome were behind schedule and the performance of the system when it was available, a disappointment, so it was usually not present, replaced by a cap. 


When present, the portion immediately behind the dome was probably cylindrical rather than tapered as in the picture above.

 The dome of the AN/AAA-4 sensor is reflective, essentially a mirror.

8. There were detail changes to the cockpit over time but with the exception of the top of the Mk 5 vs. Mk 7 ejection seat in any scale and the instrument panel/radar control in aft cockpit in 1/32, I doubt that they would be discernible by the casual observer. Bill Spidle provided the following illustrations for the Block 22 configuration (circa 1966), BuNo 152244 and subsequent, at least for a while:

Note that the radar scope in the rear cockpit retracted under the instrument panel and the black on either side of the upper part of the instrument panel were curtains (there was also one that blocked out light overhead).

9. One detail missed by most kit designers is that the aft bulkhead of the rear cockpit was never slanted. It was vertical (the compartment was not originally intended to be occupied) and the ejection seat rails were attached to the floor and the top of the aft bulkhead so as to be at the correct angle.

10, The wingtip lights:

For a more complete wingtip discussion, click HERE.


  1. Great information! Early block F4H-1 Phantoms were delivered with rectangular flush mounted wing tip navigation lights before being replaced with the hemispherical “bug eye” design.

    1. I don't think any F-4Bs (as opposed to F4H-1F/F-4A) were delivered with the flush lights but I could be wrong. For sure, I haven't seen a picture of the VF-102 F-4Bs with the tailcode AF (preceded the AE) with the flush lights.

  2. Very helpful information as always. I'm making 150414 from 1966 with VF-32 aboard the USS Roosevelt. I'm assuming it's unlikely the slotted stabs were fitted, and the same for the wing bulges. Sound about right? I've got everything else covered by photos (except the RIO panel).

  3. I have a project in mind to build some early F-4A and B Phantoms. One part of the project I want to do is to build VF-102 Diamondback F-4Bs assigned to USS Enterprise for their first deployment. I have plenty of info on markings and such, what I need is a kit, but which one? There's the old reliable Hasegawa kit, but they reboxed it billed as a B/N. Hobby 2000 has reissued the Hasegawa F-4C, maybe the B could be next but were the bumps and bulges added to the mold to make the N model permanent? I know Fine Moulds has produced the best ever F-4 kits but, so far, they've stuck to doing later versions like the J model. There's Fujimi, ESCI, AMT Ertl, Accurate Miniatures/Monogram, Revell, yet there are hardly any F-4B kits outside of the ancient Airfix kit, but they've stuck to British versions of the Phantom for their new tool kits.

    Is there anything on the horizon for a truly new tool F-4B? If not, do you guys have a best recommendation?

    Thanks in advance, Dave...

    1. Not to worry - Hasegawa has seperate runners for bulged and unbulged wings. No permanent mold changes or anything. In fact, all my RF-4B kits feature both runners.

  4. Would modex 172 in the photo most likely be from VF-121?


    1. That's an F4H-1 assigned to VF-101 Det A, tail code AD, which is why the side number is well outside the range for that of a deployable squadron. The airplanes are being used for carrier qualification aboard Independence.

  5. Another early F-4B thing to watch for is the upper tacan antenna mid-way along the upper fuselage/turtleback. This was added in production from Block 9 (151473 and subsequent) and retrofitted by ASC-186 “Individual upper & lower TACAN antennas”

  6. Another thing I noticed - for early carrier trials VF-84's B's flew without outer main landing gear covers. Once seen it cannot be unseen!