And I recall reading a air mag in the late eighties, celebrating "Thirty Years of Phabulous Phantom". It was a British aeronautical magazine, I still have it somewhere. Anyway, by that time the F-4 was already a grizzled old veteran.
And now, again almost thirty years later, the curtain is finally about to fall: via John Smith over at American Thinker:
"The final flight and retirement ceremony for the venerable F-4 Phantom will be December 21 at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The Phantom is still in active service at Holloman with Detachment 1 of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.
The F-4 first flew in 1958 and set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record and an absolute altitude record. It first entered active service with the Navy in 1960 and eventually became the frontline fighter not only with the Navy, but also with the Air Force and the Marines.
The Phantom was the fighter plane of the Vietnam generation and was the last U.S. fighter plane flown to achieve Ace status. To my knowledge, it was also the only aircraft to achieve a supersonic gun kill, also while in action over Vietnam. The Phantom was the mainstay of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy during the Cold War throughout the '70s and early eighties until replaced by F-15s, F-16s in the USAF, and F-14 Tomcats, and F/A 18 Hornets in the Navy. Phantoms also saw action in the Persian Gulf War as reconnaissance aircraft and as the "Wild Weasel," conducting anti-enemy air defense missions. The F-4 was finally removed from its combat role in 1996.
Over its production run, a total of 5,195 were built, making it the most numerous American supersonic military aircraft. Phantoms were also used by eleven other nations, including Israel, where the planes had extensive combat operations in the many Arab-Israeli conflicts. And it was the only aircraft to be used by both the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels flight demonstration teams."