F-4 Phantom Launching an AQM-37D super-sonic target

QF-4N Phantom II launching and AQM-37D. A mainstay mission of VX-30. This was a sub-sonic launch, normally we did super-sonic. I checked my log book when I saw the date, I was sure I was either the shooter or the chase…alas, I was on leave for the shot. But, here is a picture my Squadron-mate LCOL “Otis” Price took with me in the Lead of a similar mission.

The normal profile was to start the run at .9 Mach and 40,000 feet. Once pointed at the shooter (normally an SM-2ER Destroyer) we’d unload to zero-g and go full burner. Punching through the sound barrier quickly, we’d level off at 35,000 feet, the best energy addition altitude for the F-4 Phantom. There, we would let the dog run! At 1.5 Mach, a climb to 50,000 feet was initiated. Just a couple of degrees nose up established a 6,000 feet per minute (plus) climb rate. The VSI needle buried on the gauge, so we didn’t really know what the rate was. At 50K we’d have to throttle back to maintain 1.5 Mach. Controllers would sweeten up the run in and at the launch point we’d pickle the AQM. It flew or tumbled. After launch, a quick turn and look over the canopy rail told the story.

Now, it was time to save ass! Real missiles, with real warheads, were being shot toward us. A full burner break turn, got us into the notch, 90 degrees offset. A super-sonic egress, stage left, was in order now. Of course the fuel gauge, just about this time, normally started banging near empty. Easing out of burner, we’d establish a super-cruse profile by maintaining 1.1 Mach in a slight descent. When we’d hit 40,000 feet, we’d level off and set the bingo profile fuel flow.

I liked to cross the field at 15,000 feet and then split-S into the break. 500+ indicated airspeed was our personal minimum in the break….man it was fun!


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