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F-4 group holding conference in Panama City

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F-4 group holding conference in Panama City


DANIEL CARSON / News Herald Writer


PANAMA CITY — A national nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the history of the F-4 Phantom fighter jet will hold its annual conference in the Panama City area this year, a group spokesman said Monday.


The F-4 Phantom II Society’s “PhanCon” is scheduled for Sept. 20-23, with the group’s members planning to visit Tyndall Air Force Base and Pensacola’s Naval Air Museum as part of the conference.


The F-4 group last held its annual meeting in Panama City about five years ago, said James Thompson, the society’s event coordinator. The society chose to return to Panama City because of its proximity to Tyndall and the base’s use of converted QF-4 jets as aerial targets, he said.


The 82nd Aerial Target Squadron at Tyndall and Holloman AFB, N.M., operates the Department of Defense's only full-scale aerial target program, maintaining an inventory of 50 modified QF-4 Phantom II aircraft for this purpose.


“It’s a sad thing to see, but it’s a good thing for training,” Thompson said.


According to Boeing, more than 800 F-4 Phantom II aircraft are still on active duty with the defense forces of eight nations: Egypt, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Turkey.


Almost 100 Phantoms have been converted into QF-4 drones and missile targets that still serve the U.S. Navy and Air Force.


Thompson, who served as an F-4 maintainer for almost 15 years, said the F-4 society includes former pilots, maintenance personnel and members with a general appreciation of the fighter jet and its place in military history.


“It’s a pretty prestigious fighter of all of the fighters built,” Thompson said of the F-4, which first took to the air in 1958.


He said previous PhanCon conventions have taken place at Holloman and Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., also known as “The Boneyard.”


The society tries to hold its conferences near Air Force bases where the F-4 is still utilized for training purposes. “We’re running out of places to go,” Thompson said.


Convention-goers will visit Tyndall’s 82nd Aerial Target Squadron on Sept. 20, with society members also planning to see the base’s F-22 squadron.


Thompson said he expects between 75 and 80 people to attend the conference, including 10 international members based in Switzerland, England, Germany and Belgium.


The group’s U.S. membership is spread throughout the country, he added.


Retired Brig. Gen. Dan Cherry, author of “My Enemy, My Friend,” will be the guest speaker for this year’s conference.





The Walton Sun

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