The story of the last MiG kill scored by F-4D 66-7463, the highest-scoring US combat aircraft since the Korean War

The story of the last MiG kill scored by F-4D 66-7463, the highest-scoring US combat aircraft since the Korean War

By Dario Leone
Jul 19 2020
Share this article

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.

Robin Olds' F-4C
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Col. Robin Olds’ F-4C Phantom II FP/63-7680, as it appeared during Operation Bolo, January 2, 1967 – note the missing chin pod, which was not yet retrofitted at the time of Operation Bolo.

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.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force via This Day In Aviation and Jacobst at English Wikipedia

The story of the last MiG kill scored by F-4D 66-7463, the highest-scoring US combat aircraft since the Korean War
F-4D owned by the Collings Foundation taxis at Selfridge ANGB, Michigan in May 2005. The plane has the markings of F-4D 66-7463.

Share this article

Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share this article

Share this article
Share this article

Always up to date! News and offers delivered directly to you!

Get the best aviation news, stories and features from The Aviation Geek Club in our newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Error: Contact form not found.

Share this article
Back to top
My Agile Privacy
This website uses technical and profiling cookies. Clicking on "Accept" authorises all profiling cookies. Clicking on "Refuse" or the X will refuse all profiling cookies. By clicking on "Customise" you can select which profiling cookies to activate. In addition, this site installs Google Analytics in version 4 (GA4) with anonymous data transmission via proxy. By giving your consent, the data will be sent anonymously, thus protecting your privacy. We and our selected ad partners can store and/or access information on your device, such as cookies, unique identifiers, browsing data. You can always choose the specific purposes related to profiling by accessing the advertising preferences panel, and you can always withdraw your consent at any time by clicking on "Manage consent" at the bottom of the page.

List of some possible advertising permissions:

You can consult: our list of advertising partners, the Cookie Policy and the Privacy Policy.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices