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The Grunts get the Spey Phantom

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McDonnell Douglas F-4L Phantom - VMFA-334 'Falcons', United States Marine Corps, 1974


With all the considerable design effort being put into the marriage of the Phantom airframe and the Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engine McDonnell Douglas thought it might be a good idea to propose a version to the US Navy and the US Marine Corps to allow the Phantom to operate from the smaller carriers that were limited to F-8E Crusaders. In June 1966 the designation F-4L was given to the proposed Spey-powered Phantom and in October 1966 an initial order for 130 F-4L's was made, followed by an unexpected export order of 30 F-4L's for the Royal Australian Navy.


Deliveries to the US Navy commenced in February 1969 with VF-24 becoming the first operational squadron. By this time the wisdom of operating such a relatively large aircraft on the older, smaller carriers was seriously questioned and most F-4L's served aboard the larger carriers or with land-based units. 


When the decision was made not to re-equip the USMC 'fighter-attack' Phantom squadrons with the hugely expensive Grumman F-14A Tomcat, McDonnell Douglas pushed hard for low-rate production of the F-4L to continue specifically for USMC use and they were eventually successful meaning that production continued until 1976 with an eventual  total of 306 F-4L's being built. Apart from Australia, F-4L's also served with the Royal Air Force where 15 ex-USN F-4L's were sold to the UK Government to allow the formation of an additional home-based Phantom squadron to release a squadron for the defence of the Falkand Isles. 











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