The following video was filmed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, on Dec. 21, 2016, during the final flight with the U.S. Air Force of the legendary F-4 Phantom.
As explained by Skyes9, the user who posted it on YouTube, the long footage shows the start-up, taxi out, and flyby of the F-4s, followed by water cannon salute and then shut down of the USAF McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
Interestingly, it also shows (actually, it lets you hear) the double “sonic boom” caused by two Phantoms flying overhead.
Also read: The F-4 Phantom was inspired by this fighter
Lt. Col. Ronald King, the only active duty U.S. Air Force F-4 pilot flew AF 349, the last QF-4 Phantom II in the USAF story.
“This has been a humbling experience,” said King, the Det. 1, 82nd Aerial Target Squadron commander in an Air Force release. “There is no way to truly understand what this aircraft has done without talking to the people who lived it.”
In 53 years of service, the Phantom set 15 world records, including aircraft speed – 1,606 miles per hour – and absolute altitude – 98,557 feet. Moreover, it has been the only aircraft to be flown by both the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Nicknamed Double Ugly, Old Smokey, and the Rhino, the aircraft was retired from the active service in 1997. However, it continued to serve with the flying branch: re-designated the QF-4 and assigned to the 82nd ATS, 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, 53rd Wing, at Holloman, the QF-4 has flown as manned and unmanned aerial target until Dec. 21, 2016.
During its service as an aerial target, the QF-4 has helped test an array of weapons that have contributed improving 4th and 5th generation fighters and weapons systems.
It flew its last unmanned mission in August 2016 and will be replaced by the QF-16 in 2017.
Air Combat Command declared initial operational capability for its replacement, the QF-16 full-scale aerial target, that has been flying with the 82nd ATRS, based at Tyndall AFB, Florida, since September 2014, on Sept. 23: therefore the QF-4 flown by the 82nd ATRS Det. 1 at Holloman AFB were retired on Dec. 21.
Whilst unmanned operations ended, the last unmanned mission in a threat representative configuration was flown on Aug. 17, 2016, “against” an F-35 Lightning II.
During that sortie, the Vietnam-era remotely piloted aircraft was shot at by the F-35 Lightning II with two AIM-120 AMRAAMs (advanced medium range air-to-air missiles). However, the aircraft was not destroyed in the test.
On Oct. 25, 2016, two USAF QF-4Es made flew through the famous “Star Wars Canyon” (Jedi Transition) in Death Valley, CA, during a transit from NAS Point Mugu, CA to Hill AFB, UT.
The final F-4 Phantom appearance at an airshow occurred during Nellis Air Force Base’s Aviation Nation air show, on Nov. 12 and 13, 2016.