The F-4 Phantom II fighter still flies with a number of air forces, including Egypt, Germany, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and possibly Iran. These large 2-seat multi-role fighters were a triumph of thrust over aerodynamics, and formed the mainstay of the USAF and US Navy fleets for many years. QF-4s are former F-4s that currently sit in storage at the AMARC “Boneyard” near Tucson, AZ. They are refurbished for flight at AMARC, then flown to BAE in Mojave, CA and fitted with remote-control equipment in a process that takes about 160 days. Once fitted for the UAV role, they are used as aerial targets and decoys for testing against air-air missiles, radars, surface-air missiles, et. al. As of April 2007, BAE Systems had converted 217 F-4s to the QF-4 configuration.
It’s financially prudent, and fitting in a way for an old warrior to go out in a fireball of glory – but sad, too, somehow. Recent announcements indicate some interesting possibilities ahead, however, even as the very last QF-4 order comes in.