GEAR & TECH

The F-4 Phantom was inspired by this fighter

The McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom was a legend with over 50 years of service with the United States (yes, this included its service as a target drone). But every classic design has been inspired by something somewhere in the past.


An F-4G "Wild Weasel." (USAF photo)

In the case of the F-4 Phantom, the inspiration was the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. What did this old century-series fighter end up contributing to the classic plane that saw action in Southeast Asia and the Middle East? Believe it or not, it was the engine placement. The first version of the Voodoo, the XF-88, was intended as a long-range escort fighter (beating out the Lockheed F-90). The F-101, the version the Air Force actually bought, was seen as a long-range interceptor fighter-bomber and recon bird.

A McDonnell F-101B Voodoo. (USAF photo)

How did they get that long range? The XF-88 and F-101 put the engines low in the fuselage. This added a lot of space for fuel storage – and that gave the plane long range. That helped with the XF-88's mission of bomber escort, and the F-101's mission of being a fighter-bomber, interceptor, and reconnaissance plane also was given a boost.

Missile bay where the F-101 carried AIM-4 Falcons. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Wiarthurhu)

According to MilitaryFactory.com, the F-101 had a top speed of 1,221 miles per hour, a maximum range of 1,550 miles, and was armed with three M39 20mm cannon, up to six AIM-4 Falcon missiles, a combination of AIR-2 Genie rockets and AIM-4 Falcons, or conventional or nuclear bombs.

CF-101 Voodoo. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Bzuk)

The F-101 was a classic plane. It entered service in 1957, and was still in some Air National Guard units in 1983 — a 26-year service career in the United States. The plane's long range made it a good fit for Canada as well. The Republic of China on Taiwan also acquired these planes. You can see more about this long-serving inspiration for the F-4 below.