(All images by Alan Allen, reproduced with permission)
To British aviation enthusiasts, XV404 was the most strikingly painted F-4 Phantom in Royal Air Force service. But unfortunately, the famous markings were short lived. Seen here during its final days at RAF Wattisham, the aircraft was unceremoniously shredded in 1993 to satisfy Cold War arms treaties.
The FGR.2 model Phantom had been painted in special “Tiger” markings to commemorate the disbandment of 74 Squadron as an F-4 unit in October 1992.
But by that time the majority of RAF Phantoms had been withdrawn, and rather than repainting a serviceable aircraft, XV404 (a redundant airframe previously operated by 19 Squadron) was cleaned-up and wheeled into the paint shop.
The retired jet emerged looking absolutely immaculate in a scheme that captured the imagination of Phantom enthusiasts at home and abroad. But despite the famous paintwork and efforts made the save it, the F-4, which never flew in the Tiger scheme, was sold to Hanningfield Metals for scrap.
Tellingly, even the scrap dealers couldn’t bring themselves to destroy XV404. The fuselage, with wings removed, lay in the yard at Chelmsford in Essex (below), for a year before the Ministry of Defence demanded it be cut-up once and for all. (Above: another F-4 awaits disposal in the ‘Phantom graveyard’ at RAF Wattisham.)
Meanwhile, ex-RAF Phantom numbers continue to dwindle, and with the anticipated closure of Leuchars in Scotland as an RAF base, at least two airframes are thought to be in imminent danger. One of them – another specially painted FG.1 known as Black Mike – was the first UK Phantom to pass 5,000 flying hours.
More recently, the tail fin of XV404 (along with that of another Phantom, ZE351) has reportedly resurfaced on eBay.