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The F-4F Jagdgeschwaders; Wittmund, June 28 – 29, 2013

Phantom Pharewell, 1973 – 2013, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The German Luftwaffe had over the years four operational Jagdgeschwaders which flew the F-4F. These units, were; JG-71 at Wittmund, JG-72 at Rheine-Hopsten, JG-73 at Laage and JG-74 at Neuburg. JG-72 and JG-73 were originating fighter-bomber units which operated under the name JBG-35 and JBG-36.

Jagdgeschwader 71 (JG-71) was established in June 1959 at RAF Ahlhorn in Germany. The unit was at that time equipped with 50 Canadair Sabre 6 aircraft. The unit would fly with the Sabre until 1963. On April 21, 1961 the name of the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen was coupled to the unit. It was on that particular date exactly 43 years ago the Red Baron died after a lost dogfight at Amiens in France. In 1963, JG-71 moved from RAF Ahlhorn to Wittmund in northwestern Germany. Wittmund is located in the Province of Lower Saxony and was at that time an important base for the air defense of the West German airspace. The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter entered service as the replacement for the Sabres during the move of the squadron. The Starfighter was only 10 years in service with JG-71, because in May 1974, the unit at Wittmund became the first squadron of the German Luftwaffe which started to use the McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom II. The Richthofen Phantoms are recognizable by the red letter "R" which is painted on the air intake of the aircraft. At the beginning of 1979, the last Starfighters were retired and Wittmund was fully operational with the Phantom. In 2008 and 2009, the Phantoms of JG-71 participated in the Air Policing mission in the Baltic States and Iceland. JG-71 received its first EF2000 Eurofighters in 2010 and the unit flew a mixed fleet of Phantoms and Eurofighters. The last Phantoms would be retired at Wittmund during the Phantom Pharewell on June 29, 2013.

Jagdgeschwader 72 (JG-72) is directly originated from Jagdbombergeschwader 36 (JBG-36). JBG-36 was established in March 1961 at the German airbase Nörvenich. The unit was then a part of JBG-31 which was equipped with the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. JBG-36 quickly became an independent unit at the new airbase Rheine-Hopsten in western Germany next to the Dutch border near Enschede. The Lockheed F-104G Starfighter was introduced at JBG-36 on February 2, 1962. On March 13, 1963, JBG-36 was nicknamed "Westphalia". This new name links the unit to

the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen. The squadron at Rheine-Hopsten was for the first time equipped with the F-4F Phantom from February 4, 1975. The Phantoms of JBG-36 were unlike JG-71 and JG-74 fully focused on the offensive role. The unit kept this task until the fall of the Berlin wall. From January 1, 1991, JBG-36 was renumbered to JG-72. The new unit was again stationed at Rheine-Hopsten. The unit was from this point tasked with the air defense task, and the QRA task returned therefore to Hopsten. Until now, this task in the northern part of Germany was performed by JG-71 at Wittmund. From February 1, 2002, JG-72 was renamed again to Fluglehrzentrum F-4F (FLZ). The FLZ was tasked with the training of F-4F pilots in the European theater. Due to the German cutbacks Rheine Air Base-Hopsten was finally closed in 2005. The FLZ was disbanded and the Phantoms were divided among the other units.

Jagdgeschwader 73 (JG-73) originated from the former Jagdbombergeschwader 42 (JBG-42). JBG-42 was established at the German airbase RAF Ahlhorn and later Oldenburg on April 1, 1959. The unit became in 1964 a unit which was specialized in close air support and was equipped with the Fiat G91. JBG-42 also received the role of reconnaissance unit which was later removed again because of the arrival of the RF-4E within the Luftwaffe. The unit was equipped with the F-4F Phantom and was renumbered to JBG-35 from April 1, 1975. JBG-35 moved to Pfersfeld which is located in the southwest of Germany near Wiesbaden. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unit was renumbered to JG-73 in February 1991. A test unit operating the MiG-29 was activated in Preschen in the former East Germany at the same moment. In 1993 it was decided to merge this MiG-29 unit together with JG-73. The merged JG-73 moved to Rostock Laage in the former East Germany. On September 18, 1997, JG-73 received the name of the ace Johannes Steinhoff. The MiG-29 was sold to the Polish Air Force in August 2004. The aircraft were flown to the Polish airbase Malbork. The Phantoms also stopped flying in this period. JG-73 was from that moment that the first unit which became operational with the EF2000 Eurofighter. The Eurofighter would eventually replace all Phantoms in Germany.

Jagdgeschwader 74 (JG-74) was as the last West German unit established at the German airbase Leipheim on May 5, 1961. The squadron was called JG-75 and was equipped with the North American F-86K Sabre. The squadron moved quickly to Neuburg an der Donau in the southern part of Germany and was operating under the name JG-74 from that moment. Neuburg an der Donau is located 20 kilometers west from the city of Ingolstadt. Nowadays, the squadron is still based on this southern German airbase. In the period from 1964 until 1966, the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter came into service of JG-74. The Starfighter was an extremely unreliable aircraft, because there were almost 300 crashed in German service. The Starfighter remained in service with JG-74 until late 1974. JG-74 was the second squadron which switched over to the F-4F Phantom. The delivery of the Phantom was complete at Neuburg in September 1975. On November 22, 1973, JG-74 received more than 32 years after his death the name of Werner Molders. In 1998, however, this name was taken away from the unit because the government reconsidered this name; Molders was during the Second World War a Nazi pilot. In 1990 Germany became a sovereign state again and JG-74 was the first unit which received the updated version of the F-4F. These Phantoms were updated to the “ICE” standard and were able to carry heavier air to air weapons like the AIM-120 AMRAAM. JG-74 today still consists of two staffels, namely; Staffel 741 "Falcons" and Staffel 742 "Viva Zapata". The last F-4F was taken out of service at JG-74 on June 12, 2008. The squadron was the second unit in Germany which switched to the EF2000 Eurofighter.




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