I'm gonna be a re-con ranger!

I'm gonna live a life of danger!

I'm gonna fly an F-4 jet!

I'm gonna waste a So-vee-yet!

Well, since the collapse of the Empire so memorably dubbed Evil by Ronald Reagan, we don't hear that old marching song much any more, and that is surely a very good thing.

But it's hard not to feel a little nostalgia for the days of nuclear stand-off as the operational end draws nearer for what, alongside the Boeing B-52 bomber, is the iconic piece of Cold War machinery.

In service since 1960, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 may sport the most-recognised shape in military aircraft, after the Spitfire. With more than 5,000 built, it ranks numerically behind only the F-86 Sabre among Western jet fighters and was a crucial weapon for the US Navy, Marines and Air Force and for many allied nations, and even fought on TV in the Iran-Iraq war.

Nostalgia plays no role in defence planning, so one of the last users, Turkey, can't be faulted for retiring its F-4s to make way for the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter.

Still, it will be a shame when the last F-4 stops flying. F-35 Lightnings sound fine but there will be no better name ever for a supersonic fighter than Phantom.

Farewell Phantom - will there ever be a better name?

Source: Flight International