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The Phantom - Wattisham Station Heritage Airfield Museum

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The Phantom

Airfield History
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In 1976 both 56 and 23 Sqn’s replaced it’s Lightning’s with the Phantom FGR2. The colour scheme at that time for the Phantom was the standard camouflage grey-green, but in late 1978, 56 Squadron Phantoms started to appear with the light grey scheme only, which became known as the “Air Superiority Scheme”. In July 1979 an aircraft from 56 Squadron, piloted by Flt. Lt. Alcock and Flt. Lt. Browne was flown across the Atlantic to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the first transatlantic crossing. After the Falklands war 23 Squadron at Wattisham disbanded in 1983 due to 29 squadron detached at Port Stanley in the Falklands being re-named 23 Squadron.

On August 30th 1984, 74 Squadron was reformed and arrived at Wattisham flying the US Navy F4J Phantom. The colour scheme was slightly odd, the original colour was painted over with a yellow undercoat and then the normal air force grey over the top giving an overall duck egg green colour.
The tails were adorned with a tigers head. Soon after their arrival all the F4J’s in 74 “Tiger” Squadron had their tails painted black. With the collapse of the “Warsaw Pact” the need for two fighter squadrons in Germany and nine in the UK was no longer justified. Many Phantom Squadrons were replacing their aged aircraft with the newer Tornado F3.The now surplus Phantoms were stored at Wattisham ready for re-sale or to provide a pool of airframes for the remaining Phantom Squadrons.

In early 1991, 74 Squadron swapped its F4J’s for the standard FGR2 which by now was in plentiful supply. Before handing in their F4J’s the squadron flew a last diamond 9 formation over the airfield and surrounding area. All the Phantom airframes were located at Wattisham in early 1991 and the scrap dump started to fill with hulks. In the Spring of 1992, 74 Sqn. won a fly off with 56 Squadron to select a crew to demonstrate the solo Phantom at air shows in the Phantoms final year. Wattisham provided the Royal Fly Past to celebrate the Queens birthday in the June, with no fewer than sixteen aircraft in formation.

In July 1992, 56 Squadron was stood down at Wattisham, 65 (R) Squadron the OCU at Coningsby was re-named 56 (R) Squadron to preserve the Squadron number with the “Greater” heritage. A photo call was held where many aircraft from other countries and all the resident Phantoms from both 56 & 74 Squadrons  were on display, lined up along the taxiways. In July 1992, 74 Squadron held a mini “Tiger” meet, with aircraft from France, Portugal and the USA attending and a Phantom from 74 Squadron was painted to mark the occasion. The Squadron was the last RAF Squadron to operate the Phantom and in  early  October 1992 they moved to RAF Valley Anglesey  to fly the Hawk as part of 4 FTS. On the 31st October 1992 RAF Wattisham stood down as a Fighter Base.

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