Double Ugly Books: The RF-4B in the Tactical Reconnaissance Role 1965-1990


Lee De Haven & Richard Rentrop


Double Ugly Books, 2017
49.95. Get yours here.


Scott Van Aken


The Ultimate F-4 Phantom II Collection Vol 6
ISBN: 978-3-935687-86-7

One of the more written about aircraft is the F-4 Phantom II. You can find books on the aircraft from a variety of sources, but now there is a series of books about the Phantom II in service with the various nations of the world. A history of the type in the sort of depth that we have not seen before.

Double Ugly Books, a subsidiary of Air Doc, started this series with one of the more interesting services to use the Phantom II, the IDF/AF. This was followed by USN Atlantic then Pacific squadrons and two volumes on RAF Phantoms. Now we have a sixth one that covers strictly the USMC and that means the RF-4B, a type that was only operated by the Marines.

It was not uncommon, in the days before recce pods and instant digital transmission of images, for front line aircraft to be considered for development into a tactical recon platform. When the Phantom II came along, the RA-5C was also being developed from the A-5B tactical bomber. While a superb platform, was not exactly the cheapest aircraft to maintain, requiring over a hundred maintenance man hours for every flight hour. Besides, it was the Marines who needed a replacement for its recce Cougars and they had no interest or need for a big plane like the RA-5C.

Since the Marines were using the F-4B, it was only logical for a reconnaissance version to also be developed. The USAF liked the idea so much, they developed the RF-4C from their F-4C versions. In total, over two dedicated build cycles, the Marines operated 46 aircraft. After the first 36 had been built, attrition required an additional ten, those plane being more like the F-4J than the F-4B in terms of the airframe.

Eventually, the type was withdrawn from service in 1990. This was as much to a lack of airframe time and the onward move of technology, which made a dedicated photo airplane unnecessary. Some were sent to museums and other were put in storage, awaiting their fate to be turned into scrap.

The book is, like others in the series, superbly researched and gives us not only the development of the aircraft, but a detailed run-down of its systems and its various upgrades. The book is profusely illustrated with both photographs and full color profiles. The book also provides a history of the type in the four squadrons that flew the RF-4B; VMCJ-1, VMCJ-2, VMCJ-3, and VMFP-3. After the Vietnam war, it was decided to eventually combine all of the RF-4B assets into one unit and the VMCJ squadrons gave up their planes to VMFP-3, where the type finally ended its long and distinguished career. The appendices include individual aircraft history and camouflage schemes along other items of interest.

For the Phantom II Phan, this book is a must have for your shelf to go along with the others in the series. You won't find a better reference on the type and the superb selection of images makes the book one that appeals to modelers as well as the enthusiast. You simply need to pick this one up.

April 2018

Copyright All rights reserved.

My thanks to AirDoc for the review book. You can find these at your local hobby shop or book store, and if not, ask them to order them for you. You can also order direct by visiting this link.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.