In 1973, under the “Peace Rhine” program, the Luftwaffe purchased the F-4F (a lightened and simplified version of the F-4E) which was upgraded in the mid-1980s. 24 German F-4F Phantom IIs were operated by the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing of the USAF at Holloman AFB to train Luftwaffe crews until December 2004. In 1975, Germany also received 10 F-4Es for training in the U.S. In the late 1990s, these were withdrawn from service after being replaced by F-4Fs. Germany also initiated the Improved Combat Efficiency (ICE) program in 1983. The 110 ICE-upgraded F-4Fs entered service in 1992, and were expected to remain in service until 2012. All the remaining Luftwaffe Phantoms were based at Wittmund with Jagdgeschwader 71 (fighter wing 71) in Northern Germany and WTD61 at Manching. The German Air Force retired its last F-4Fs on 29 June 2013. German F-4Fs flew 279,000 hours from entering service on 31 August 1973 until retirement.

Two German Air Force F-4F Phantom aircraft fly in formation during a refueling mission near Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall, United Kingdom (GRB).

Two German Air Force F-4F Phantom aircraft fly in formation during a refueling mission near Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall, United Kingdom (GRB).

Initially, they were camouflaged in Norm 72 camouflage pattern, which is comprised of geometrically painted Dark Green and Dark Grey area on the top side. This camouflage was proven effective when the aircraft was on the ground but not effective when airborne. So a demand was placed for new camouflage. Phantom units “Richthofen” and “Mölders” were used to test this new camouflage. It’s interesting that with the new camouflage was also changed size of national insignia. New camouflage pattern was named Norm 81 and it came at the same time when the Phantoms were upgraded. The follow-on to this scheme was later introduced, NORM 83 with dominant green colors and the last scheme developed was NORM 90, a pure air defense camouflage.

In conjunction with this, many anniversary schemes were used on Phantoms. Camouflage colors used on German Phantoms are based on their RAL standard and they are:

NORM 71
RAL 6014, RAL 7012 and RAL 9006

NORM 81,
RAL 7001, RAL 7030, RAL 7009, RAL 7035, RAL 9005, RAL 7039, RAL 7012 and RAL 7037

NORM 83
RAL 6003, RAL 7021, FS 34079 and RAL 9005

NORM 90
RAL 7030, FS 36375, FS 35237, FS 36320

Srecko Bradic