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QF-4N 153030/145 awaiting it's afternoon mission. The F-4N was an upgrade of the initial Navy variant, the F-4B, under the programme name ‘Bee Line’.
© Peter Greengrass
EOS-3 50mm K64 250/f8
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Day two, and the main event of PhanCon'99 saw F-4 Phantom II Society members treated to extensive tours of the flightlines and facilities at Naval Air Weapons Station Point Mugu on the Pacific coast. Host unit the Naval Weapons Test Squadron Point Mugu, the 'Bloodhounds', operates small fleets of NF-14 Tomcats, NP-3D Orion's and DC-130A Hercules in the weapons evaluation role, all of which were accessible to the PhanCon photographers.

The squadron is also the sole remaining operator of the F-4 Phantom in the US Navy, and has on strength a number of QF-4N and QF-4S variants, used primarily as manned vehicles for missile testing and simulation, and in the less frequent but more high profile role of unmanned target drone.

The Navy QF-4s wear the same red coloured tails and wings as their Air Force counterparts, but are an altogether more attractive breed, many retaining the gull grey paintwork and colourful national insignia of their last fleet operators over a decade ago.

Sharing the 'Bloodhounds' flightline were two visiting F-4Fs from the 20th Fighter Squadron, tasked with training German aircrews at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The unit has strong ties with the Phantom Society and is a regular PhanCon participant.

Also along for the party was a Holloman based QF-4E of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron Det 1. PhanCon'ers were given full access to the flightlines and presented with near perfect conditions for photography of arguably the most colourful aircraft in current US military service. Highlight of the day was the flight operation of two QF-4Ns, giving photographers the rare chance to record these veteran machines go to work.

QF-4S 158359/104 wears a faded low visibility grey scheme, applied during the final years of the Phantom operations with the front line Navy fighter squadrons.
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
QF-4S 155524/103 soaks up the Mugu sunshine. The S model Phantom was an upgrade of the F-4J variant, and was the final and definitive Phantom variant flown by the Carrier Air Wings.
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
QF-4N 151482/148 sitting in the sun. Point Mugu is infamous for it's Sea Fog, which clearly didn't materialize on this occasion!
EOS-3 50mm K64 250/F8
QF-4N 152970/143 in unusual pose, with nose gear leg extended as ground crews perform final pre-flight checks.
EOS-1N 70-200mm K64 250/F8
QF-4N 152970/143 returns after an afternoon sortie. Most QF-4 missions are flown by a single pilot, indeed a number of the machines have no seat in the rear cockpit.
EOS-3 70-200mm K64 250/F8
QF-4N 153030/145 taxies back to the ramp following an early afternoon mission. The object on the wing is the braking chute, already collected by the ground crew and perched for transportation back to the parking spot.
EOS-3 70-200mm K64 250/F8
F-14D 163416/200 displays a colourful NWTSPM unit badge on the tail fin.
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
F-14A 162606/231 of VX-9. The unit was formed by the merging of VX-4 ‘Evaluators’ from Point Mugu, and VX-5 ‘Vampires’ from China Lake
EOS-1N 50mm K64 250/F8
NWTSPM operates three NP-3D Orion's in the telemetry and data relay mission for the coastal weapons ranges.
EOS-1N 50mm K64 125/F11
F-14A 160378/220 operated by the ‘Bloodhounds’. The NAWC/AD title on the wing root stands for Naval Air Warfare Centre / Aircraft Division
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
F-14B 163226/241 of VX-9 'Evaluators'. The test squadron is unusual in being split between two bases. The F-14s are based at Point Mugu, whilst EA-6Bs, F/A-18s (all marks A to F) are flown from NAS China Lake in the Mojave desert. .
EOS-3 50mm K25 125/f7.1
F-14D 163223/210 receives the attention of its civilian contractor ground crew
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
F-4F 72-1261 was one of two visiting machines from the 20th FS at Holloman AFB, seen here departing for a morning mission
EOS-1N 50mm K25 125/F7.1
Another shot of QF-4S 158359/104 photographed from the hanger roof.
EOS-5 70-200mm K64 500/F5.6
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Report:Tim Hunter
Photos:Peter Greengrass & Tim Hunter
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