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Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Aug. 7, 2008

History behind Langley's F-4C static display

By Dean Heald NASA Langley

Upon entry onto Langley through the La Salle Gate, there is an aircraft on display on the left in front of The Ryan Center - a McDonnell Aircraft Company F-4C Phantom II. Many pass by it, but may not be aware that this particular aircraft has a rich history and has purposefully been displayed as it is.

McDonnell Aircraft delivered the F-4C, tail number 64-0748, to the Air Force Aug. 6, 1965, and it was assigned to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The wing was transferred to Phan Rang Air Base in South Vietnam in March 1966 and moved to Da Nang Air Base in October 1966.

On May 20, 1967, the aircraft launched from Da Nang AB armed with four AIM-7 Sparrow and four AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles, a centerline and two wing fuel tanks, and a QRC-160-3 Electronic Countermeasures jamming pod on the right pylon.

While flying combat air patrol over North Vietnam, the aircraft commander, Maj. Robert D. Janca and his back-seater Lt. William E. Roberts Jr., spotted a MiG-21. According to Aces and Aerial Victories, Major Janca reported he "put the pipper on him, received a good tone, and fired an AIM-9B with the MiG about 4,000 feet ahead, zero angle-off, and framed against the blue sky. The missile guided straight ... and detonated ..."

The AIM-9B was powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor with more than 6,000 pounds of thrust and had an infrared homing guidance system, a speed of Mach 2.5, and a maximum range of 11,000 feet. The AIM-9B had a length of 9 feet 4 inches and a launch weight of 155 pounds.

This MiG was one of six enemy aircraft destroyed that day by Air Force F-4C aircrews.

Tail number 64-0748 is displayed today at Langley as it appeared after its MiG kill. The paint is the standard camouflage scheme of the period; the tail markings and "Gunfighter" decal are those used by the 389th TFS / 366th TFW. The four AIM-7 Sparrows are mounted on the fuselage launchers, the three remaining AIM-9B Sidewinders on the wing rails, and the QRC-160-3 ECM jamming pod on the right pylon. The centerline and two wing fuel tanks were jettisoned prior to the combat engagement and are not displayed. The red star, signifying a MiG kill, was applied shortly after landing.

The aircraft left Vietnam in December 1967 and served with units in Japan until February 1978 when it transferred to Luke AFB, Ariz., for use in aircrew training. The aircraft returned to combat status with the 188th Tactical Fighter Group, Arkansas Air National Guard, in March 1986, and after nearly 23 years of service, was retired to museum status on July 21, 1988.

Although Major Janca was one of many pilots who flew this particular aircraft, he was the only pilot who earned it a red star.