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YF-4K - Alternate Earlier Timeline

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McDonnell YF-4K (Phantom F.1) 1963

The successful first flight of the McDonnell XF4H-1 (Phantom II) on May 27th, 1958 certainly piqued the interest of both the RAF and the Royal Navy and by 1959 both were granted official 'observer status' on the project. The realisation that only two of the Royal Navy's five aircraft carriers could operate an aircraft of the XF4H-1's size (and that only after extensive modernisation) soon cooled the interest of the Senior Service but the RAF could see a promising aircraft of obvious potential across many roles and not just in their search for a Hunter replacement. By 1960 McDonnell were scheming various tactical fighter versions of the F4H-1 Phantom II with J79 engines including a minimum change version of the baseline USN F-4B to replace the Hunter and Javelin in RAF service and supplement the Lightning.

The RAF had already bore the brunt of the 1957 Defence White Paper and had then suffered the ignominy of losing the UK's nuclear deterent in the planned switch from V-Force to Polaris. Following this heavy perceived loss of status the Air Staff were so determined to get the TSR.2 that in March 1961 they volunteered to forsake the supersonic V/STOL P.1154 strike fighter and STOL AW.681 tactical transport and replace both with off the shelf purchases of American aircraft. Both projects were declared as "too technically challenging to succeed in the current fiscal situation" but the early cashing-in of both projects did ultimately save the TSR.2 which went onto survive the 1964 Budget Review and enter RAF service at the end of the 1960's.

Meanwhile, back in August 1961 the UK Government became the first export customer for McDonnell's XF4H-1 with an order for 350 aircraft consisting of 150 interceptor-fighters for RAF Fighter Command and 200 tactical fighters for RAF Germany and No.38 Group. Designated by McDonnell as the F-4K and by the RAF as Phantom F.1 and Phantom FGA.2 the first F-4K rolled off the St. Louis production line in February 1963 with a ceremonial first flight on April 1st, 1963 to coincide with the RAF's 45th birthday celebrations. These early RAF Phantoms retained the AAA-4 infrared search and tracking sensor fitted to a prominent bulge underneath the radome housing the powerful AN/APQ-72 radar and were powered by two General Electric J79-GE-8A engines each rated at 10,000lbs dry thrust and 17,000 lbs thrust with afterburner.

The Phantom F.1 entered service with No.19 squadron at RAF Leconfield in March 1964 and eventually equipped no less than ten RAF squadrons at home and abroad with the last squadron (an expanded No. 1435 Flight) disbanding at RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Isles in 1992.

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