By Dario Leone
Jan 7 2017
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F-4 scramble

Taken in a West Germany air base in the 1970s the gorgeous video in this post shows a typical Cold War Era scramble performed by a couple of U.S. Air Force (USAF) F-4E Phantoms on “Zulu Alert.”

Noteworthy Zulu Alert is the air-sovereignty mission where fighters scramble to intercept unknown ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone which actually is airspace over land or water in which the identification, location, and control of unidentified aircraft is performed in the interest of national security) intruders or anyone else who shouldn’t be where they are.

F-4E Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-4E Phantom II 32nd TFS, CR 68-446

As explained in the video the interceptors had to be airborne within 5 minutes of horn going off, while the usual loadout of the Phantoms for this type of mission consisted of 20 mike mike M61 Vulcan cannon, AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles and AIM-7 Sparrow semi-active radar homing (SARH) missiles.

According to the clip description, moments during Zulu Alert scrambles were so tense that “sometimes during taxi and takeoff you were still trying to finish strapping in.”

So sit down, enjoy the video and feel the adrenaline of a Cold War Era Zulu Alert Scramble.

The F-4E

The F-4E is essentially an F-4D with improved J79-GE-17 engines (900 pounds more static sea level thrust each) and an M61A1 “Vulcan” 20mm cannon. Operational experience gained in Vietnam had a direct influence on the addition of the cannon. The air-to-air missile fire-to-hit ratios were low and air combat usually degenerated to subsonic “dogfighting” where the F-4 was at a decided disadvantage when flying against more maneuverable enemy aircraft (MiG-17 and MiG-21). The hydraulically powered wing-folding mechanism and the emergency ram-air turbine were removed to save weight and a seventh fuel cell was added. The addition of self-sealing fuel tanks starting with block 41 aircraft lowered the fuel capacity by 139 gallons but provided much better combat survivability.

Artwork courtesy of

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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.

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  1. Belzee says:

    Participated in many, many claxon’s while being a SAC Crewchief. Four claxon’s a month at any given hour and one of the four required our four 135 tankers and eight B52’s to taxi into takeoff position. In some cases we were across the base at the barber shop or BX or even in a theater when that claxon’s sounded you better be at the aircraft and on headset within 10 minutes. It’s very very chaotic when 12 flight crews and the crew chiefs are running out to the jets when the horn blew. Needless to say, the sound of a loud buzzer type horn stayed with me for a couple of years. Loved SAC.

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