This is an 1970s-era film that covers the entire process of training a young cadet from total novice to certified McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter pilot.
The F-4 Phantom II was one of the pre-eminent fighter jets of its age and it was the aircraft that many (if not most) cadet pilots dreamed of flying. The path to get from a greenhorn cadet to the Phantom pilot seat was a long one however, and most didn’t make the grade, instead being sent off to fly different (perhaps less desirable) aircraft.
This film would have cost a small fortune to make as it includes a signifiant amount of air-to-air footage between various training aircraft on the path from Chipmunk rookie to highly-trained Phantom pilot.
Above Image: A British F-4K Phantom II from the 892 Naval Air Squadron is launched from the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Independence during the NATO exercise “Ocean Safari” in November 1975. Photograph courtesy of the US Department of Defence.
One of the most fascinating parts of the training process is a look at the simulator they used in 1973. Without modern computers they had to do flight simulation using only analogue technology, so a 3D map of the airfield and its surrounds was painstakingly built, a camera would then be moved across this map to provide the simulated footage to a monitor placed in front of the pilot.
The Brits did have the F4 Phantom in the Falklands during the war which took place over 10 weeks in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom. It’s likely that the rookies you see training in this film would have been involved, as they would have been experienced veterans by this point and they would have been ideal candidates for deployment. Though it’s important to note that the Phantom wasn’t used in combat during the conflict.
The story behind the McDonnell Douglas Phantoms used in the United Kingdom is worth a read, these aircraft were quite different to the models used by the USA and others, incorporating British engines, avionics, and many other parts. There’s a well-written Wikipedia page on the subject here.
Above Image: A Royal Air Force (RAF) McDonnell F-4M Phantom FGR.2 (XT907) at the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland (USA). Photograph courtesy of the US Department of Defence.
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