ROKAF last F-4 fighter jets farewell flight

Ahead of the official retirement (that will take place on Jun. 7) of the iconic F-4, a mainstay of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) since 1969, four Phantom II fighter jets conducted a commemorative, farewell flight after having taken off from Suwon Air Base.

According to The Korea Times, during the farewell flight the four Cold War-era aircraft headed southward above an airbase in the central city of Cheongju — where the mighty F-4 was based from 1979 to 2018 and now home to the ROKAF US-built F-35A fifth gen fighters.

One of the Phantom IIs featured a Vietnam War-era SEA camo pattern and another a light gray in a nod to their past paint jobs, while the two others wore the current dark gray color.

The F-4s then flew over the east coast where Phantom IIs had been deployed to intercept a Soviet heavy bomber in 1983. The next year the fighter jets were deployed in the same area to respond to incursions by a Soviet bomber and a nuclear submarine.

Purchased after failed assassination attempt by North Korean against President Park Chung-hee

The Phantom IIs then landed at an airbase in the southeastern city of Daegu for refueling, where the country first received the F-4s in a move that heralded a major shift in the balance of air power between the two Koreas.

[Video] ROKAF last F-4 Phantom IIs conduct farewell flight over South Korea
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-4E Phantom II 32nd TFS, CR 68-446

The aircraft were purchased a year after a failed assassination attempt by North Korean commandos against then President Park Chung-hee in 1968, raising the need to bolster military capabilities to better fend off the North’s threats.

The Phantom II was then a state of the art aircraft that set the pace for the purchase of more advanced fighters like the F-16 amid its transformation into an economic powerhouse.

The F-4s flew to the southern city of Sacheon after refueling in Daegu. Sacheon is home to the country’s sole fighter jet manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) — where they briefly flew alongside two KF-21 prototype jets.

The KF-21 is aimed to replace the Phantom II and scheduled for deployment in 2026.

Next, the jets flew along the west coast, where Phantom IIs took part in a mission to sink a North Korean spy ship in 1971, before returning to Suwon.

Republic of Korea Air Force Phantom IIs

The mighty Phantom II was introduced to the ROKAF in 1969.

F-4 model
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The Park Chung-hee government ordered 16 ex-USAF F-4Ds, which were quickly delivered under the Peace Spectator program. They served with the 110th TFS, 11th Fighter Wing based at Daegu since 1969. In 1972 another 18 were delivered from the USAF 3rd TFW (Tactical Fighter Wing), in exchange for which South Korea delivered 36 Northrop F-5As to South Vietnam. Several more F-4s were delivered in the following years, with the last batch delivered in 1987–88. These were equipped with Pave Tack laser designators, an important feature that allowed the use of laser-guided bombs.

A total of 92 F-4Ds were delivered, making this air force the main export customer for the “D” model. The F-4Ds were joined by 37 new-build F-4Es, ordered in the 1970s. The last of these was the 5,068th F-4 built in St. Louis. Under Operation Peace Pheasant these were delivered to the ROKAF 152 and 153 TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron), 17th TFW at Cheongju. This was only the beginning of South Korean F-4 acquisitions, as more ex-USAF F-4Es were delivered in the next few years, giving a total of 103 F-4Es.

The last unit to operate the Phantom II is the 10th Fighter Wing’s 153rd Fighter Squadron.

The F-4 served as South Korea’s mainstay fighter until the full deployment of the KF-16 in 1994.

As noted by Alert 5, the ROKAF released the seven minute video below of the farewell flight at Bemil TV (@Bemil_TV). A small black and white video of the arrival of the first F-4D fighters can be found in the archive of KTV (@KTV_archive).

Photo credit: Republic of Korea Air Force