By: Mir M.Hosseini
US delivered a fleet of 16 F-4D Phantom jet planes to Iran on Sep, 18, 1968. Mohammad Reza Shah planned ambitiously to become the greatest military power in the Middle East. Besides, the United States saw Iran as a strong ally for Israel and part of a tampon region alongside Turkey and Pakistan against The Soviet Union. F-4 Phantom II was a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/bomber originally developed for the U.S. Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. First entering service in 1960, the Phantom continued to form a major part of the U.S. military air power throughout the 1970s and 1980s,
Iranian Phantoms immediately started engaging Soviet MIG 25 jets that entered Iranian airspace illegally, but F-4Ds were too slow comparatively. After that, Iranian Phantoms became active in a war in favor of king of Oman against rebels during which one plane was shot down.
Iran ordered 208 F-4E Phantoms in early 1970s. US delivered 177 units until 1979, but did not completely comply with the agreement. Apart from official deliveries, there were unregistered Iranian Phantoms equipped with cutting edge spying technology. These ghost planes could be traced by missing serial numbers given by the Iranian Air Force.
Although Iran could only use %40 of its large fleet of 225 Phantoms in the Iran–Iraq War, the Soviet made Iraqi MIG fleet was soon practically paralyzed. This comparative advantage did not last long; specially after US pressure, embargo and delivery of high tech military equipments such as French Mirage jet planes to Iraq.
There are still some mysteries related to Iranian Phantoms: On Aug, 31, 1984 an Iranian F-4 pilot sought refuge in Saudi Arabia. Inspections on his plane showed that it had been overhauled by parts registered to some NATO countries.
Iran is still using some of the old fleet of Phantoms alongside MIGs and is on fast track of developing her home-made air fleet.