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F-4 fighter jets hold farewell flight after over five decades of service

F-4 Phantom II aircraft stage a commemorative flight above Suwon in this file photo provided by the Air Force, May 12. Yonhap

A group of South Korean Cold War-era fighter aircraft staged one of their final flights last week ahead of retirement next month, bidding farewell after more than five decades of service.The four F-4 Phantom IIs took off from their home base in Suwon, just south of Seoul, for the commemorative flight boarded by reporters on Thursday, retracing the supersonic fighter-bomber’s 55-year history in South Korea’s airspace.The first batch of the U.S.-made jets arrived in South Korea in 1969, in a major boost to the Air Force that sought to beef up its aircraft fleet against threats posed by North Korea’s Soviet-made jets amid fierce rivalry between the two Koreas.More than a half-century later, the Phantoms will be fully retired from service on June 7, handing over operations to defend the skies to a new generation of aircraft.

During the farewell flight, the jets first headed southward above an airbase in the central city of Cheongju — home to the aircraft from 1979 to 2018 — that now operates the latest-generation U.S.-built F-35A stealth fighters.One of the Phantoms was painted in a jungle camouflage pattern and another in light gray in a nod to their past paint jobs, while the two others were in the current dark gray color.Moving on to the east coast, the jets revisited airspace where Phantoms had been deployed to intercept a Soviet heavy bomber in 1983. The aircraft were also mobilized to respond to incursions by a Soviet bomber and a nuclear submarine in the area the next year.They then landed at an airbase in the southeastern city of Daegu for refueling, where the country first received the jets in a move that heralded a major shift in the balance of air power between the two Koreas.The delivery took place just a year after a failed assassination attempt by North Korean commandos against then President Park Chung-hee in 1968, raising the need to bolster military 메이저 capabilities to better fend off the North’s threats.


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