Bitburg Air Base - 36th Fighter Wing - F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom

By 1966 the Thud was being phased out of NATO, being replaced by the McDonnell F-4D "Phantom II". By December 1966, all the 36th TFW Thuds had been ferried Stateside for combat crew training duties at McConnell AFB, Kansas, or on to warfighting glory in SEA after stateside refurbishment.

During November 1968 the F-102s of the 86th AD were sent to Air National Guard units at CONUS and the 525th FIS was re-equipped with F-4Es and assigned to the 36th TFW. In 1969, the 23rd TFS left the 36th TFW and moved to the new 52nd TFW at neighboring Spangdahlem Air Base. In 1970 the Tail Code concept was established, with the following squadron insignia: 22d TFS "BR", 53d TFS "BT" and the 525th "BU". The 36th would continue to fly the F-4 until 1977, and all Bitburg tail codes were eventually streamlined to read "BT", and the aircraft's squadron was then identified by a color band tail flash.

On 4 January 1969 the 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron from Shaw AFB South Carolina was activated at Spangdahlem Air Base and assigned to the 36th TFW. The 39th TEWS flew the Douglas EB-66C/E "Destroyer" aircraft which engaged in various forms of electronic warfare. The B-66s were identified with tail Code "BV", with a black stripe on tail.

In August 1972 the 52d TFW was activated at Spandahlem. With this activation, the 39th TEWS and the 23d TFS were transferred to the 52d TFW. In September, the F-4Ds of the mid-1960s were replaced with the F-4E model with upgraded avionics and more importantly, the addition of an M61A1 cannon which give the Phantom an increased air-to-air combat capability. The tail coding of the 36th TFW aircraft were also standardized with "BT.

The operational squadrons of the 36th TFW in 1973 were:

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