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Starting in 1969 and for 5 seasons the USAF Thunderbirds Demonstration Team flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II. This was a move back to the team's tradition of using front-line type aircraft in their performances, something they had gotten away from when they previously flew the T-38A Talon super-sonic trainer. Converting the large F-4E to Thunderbird requirements was the most difficult and extensive in the team's history. The various metals used on the F-4E to combat high heat and friction caused the paint that had been used on previous Thunderbird aircraft to look patchy. Out of necessity a polyurethane based paint was developed that would meet all requirements and provided a smooth looking finish. The main color on the F-4 became white instead of the usual silver of the previous aircraft. The white paint scheme has been used on all the Thunderbird aircraft from the F-4E through to today's F-16.

McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II

Designed as a fleet defense fighter for the US Navy, the F-4 Phantom was first flown on May 27, 1958. This twin-engine, long-range all-weather fighter/bomber proved highly adaptable and served in the Marine Corps and the US Air Force as well as in the Navy. During the Vietnam War, it was the principal air superiority fighter for the Navy and the Air Force and was also used for reconnaissance and ground attack. The Phantom continued to serve well into the 1970s and 1980s and even flew missions during the first Gulf War. Finally phased out by the F-14, F-16 and F/A-18, the Phantom was retired in 1996.
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