The British Phantom Aviation Group (BPAG) are pleased to announce the commencement of two new preservation projects in the UK.
The group have entered into partnership with the 74 Squadron Association (74SA) to begin the preservation of F-4J (UK) ZE360. This aircraft was one of only 15 ex-US Navy F-4Js that were obtained to fill a gap in UK air defence requirements, following a government decision to base a squadron of RAF Phantoms in the Falkland Islands after the 1982 conflict and is the last of the type to remain in MOD hands.
ZE360 is an ex-74 Squadron aircraft, which avoided scrapping when the type was withdrawn from service and was retired to RAF Manston in February 1991. It is one of only two remaining complete examples of the F-4J (UK)- the other one being on display at Duxford in its previous USMC markings– and when the planned restoration is complete it will be the only complete F-4J (UK) on display in RAF colours anywhere in the world.
However, the aircraft has suffered greatly during its years of outdoor storage. Its role as a spare parts source and the coastal location have also played a part in the airframe’s deterioration. Therefore, the BPAG and the 74SA are under no illusion at all that this will be a long, difficult and costly restoration.
Although the aircraft will never fly or move under its own power again, the aim is to restore it as close to functioning condition as possible and a fundraising drive is underway to support the costs of the preservation work.
Donations can be made via bank transfer to-
Account Name – Tiger360 Sort Code – 30-96-26 Acct. Number – 53212368
Or via PayPal to email@example.com
The unique and striking colourscheme of the A&AEE (nicknamed ‘Raspberry Ripple’) has been applied to many aircraft during their test and development phases and the Phantom is no exception. XT597 took its first flight in November 1966 and is one of three pre-production F-4K models. It served as the trials and evaluation aircraft for the UK’s Phantom fleet for many years (including conducting the initial deck trails aboard the USS Coral Sea) before eventually retiring to the museum at MOD Boscombe Down. When this facility closed in 2012, the aircraft was put up for disposal and resided at a private airfield while awaiting a buyer. The BPAG are happy to report that not only has a buyer been found, but that he is a senior member of the BPAG management team.
The new owner has naturally appointed the BPAG to manage the aircraft on his behalf and as it is private property- not a BPAG group asset- all the costs of transport and restoration will be met by the owner. The BPAG will be providing the workforce and the facilities for the preservation work to be carried out and in return the aircraft will, when ready, be on display as part of the BPAG collection.
Both of these aircraft will be moving from their current locations to an airfield in the East Midlands, where the preservation work will begin, in the coming months.
Photo credit: BPAG, Nigel Hodgson and Julian Dixon
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