Soon after its Oct. 15, 1972 F-4D 66-7463’s left splitter plate was repainted to show all six victory stars.
On Oct. 15, 1972 one of the fiercest MiG encounters of the Operation Linebacker period took place, resulting in the destruction of three MiG-21s.
‘Chevy’ flight was the third MiGCAP formation for a large, Ubon-based F-4 strike in the Hanoi area. It was led by Maj Ivy McCoy and his Weapon Systems Operator (WS0), Maj Fred Brown, in F-4D 66-7463. As explained by Peter E Davies in his book USAF F-4 Phantom II MIG Killers 1972-73, this famous aircraft had been assigned to Capts Steve Ritchie and Chuck DeBellevue for Ritchle’s fifth kill at the and of August, and it probably still bore the worn, white-stencilled names of its former ‘owners’ on its nose.
‘Chevy’ flight moved in to meet a wave of MiGs as the previous MiGCAP (‘Buick’ flight) headed for the tankers. Ivy McCoy Initially passed the MiGs head-on in cloud. Turning quickly through 180 degrees at an altitude of 12,000 ft, he saw contrails at his ‘one o’clock’ position and then observed MiGs descending ahead and slightly to the right of his flight path.
He turned behind them as Fred Brown unsuccessfully attempted to get a radar lock and released three AIM-7E-2s in quick succession. All three missiles fell away without guiding.
Maj McCoy followed the MiG in a shallow, 20-degree banking turn and fired three AIM-9E Sidewinders. The third missile detonated just 250 ft ahead of the F-4D, and very close to the MIG’s tailpipe. The rear fuselage of the North Vietnamese jet began to burn and disintegrate, causing its pilot to eject. Ivy McCoy noted that the time was 1425.40 hrs exact.
After 66-7463’s fourth MiG kill on May 10, 1972, Steve Ritchie and the jet’s crew chief, Sgt Reginald Taylor, had intended to name the F-4D ‘Smash Four’. Although this nickname was never painted on the jet, it acquired a sixth kill marking after McCoy and Brown’s victory, making it the highest-scoring US combat aircraft since the Korean War.
Soon after its Oct. 15, the Phantom II’s left splitter plate was repainted to show all six victory stars, and these were carried in various configurations right up until the fighter was put on permanent display at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in May 1987.
Collings Foundation airworthy F-4D 65-0749 was painted for a certain period of time in markings of F-4D 66-7463, while assigned to the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, circa 1972.
USAF F-4 Phantom II MIG Killers 1972-73 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.