Originally designed as an interceptor/ fighter-bomber for the US Navy, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II soon became the US Military's primary fighter aircraft during the Vietnam War until the late 1970s when 4th Generation fighters such as the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet went into service. Even after being replaced, the US Air Force continued to operate the F-4 in the suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) role until the the 90's.
The Phantom is operated by a crew of two, a pilot and a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). While the jet has poorer maneuverability compared to its Soviet counterparts, it could fly at twice the speed of sound, faster than most Soviet fighter aircraft. The F-4 set 16 world records including time-to-altitude and fastest flight across continental US. Many of these records would remain unbroken until its replacement, the F-15, entered service.
While the F-4 is capable of carrying eight air-to-air missiles, it can also carry guided munitions, cluster bomb units as well as nuclear weapons. Earlier models of the F-4 did not include an internal cannon, which was common for U.S Interceptors during the Cold War. An M61 20mm gatling gun was eventually incorporated into the "E" model for the air force.
The F-4 now serves the US military as the QF-4, a target practice drone. Several countries continue to operate and upgrade the F-4 Phantom, which proves to be a strong and reliable aircraft regardless of its age.