F-4E 71-1091 was one of a group of special capability aircraft, deployed late in the Vietnam War, which were considered at the time to be the most capable Phantoms employed during the conflict. Designated ‘RIVET HASTE’, the project equipped the F-4E with modifications designed to optimise air-to-air capability, including wing leading edge slats, cockpit weapon selection ‘switchology’ improvements, TISEO electronic telescope and ‘COMBAT TREE’ IFF-interrogator kit. Also, sometimes overlooked, is that they were already equipped to utilise the AGM-65A Maverick TV-guided missile.
The aircraft took to the air for the first time on September 18, 1972. It was accepted into the USAF inventory on October 31, 1972 and inducted into the Ogden ALC depot at Hill AFB for post production mods on November 6, the same year. Assigned to the 432nd TRW, it was ferried to Udorn AB, Thailand between January 13 to 15, 1973, joining the 555th TFS ‘TRIPPLE NICKEL’ on arrival. The Phantom ultimately stayed at Udorn AB for the next three years, transferring to the 25th TFS on July 5, 1974, when ‘TRIPPLE NICKEL’ squadron was replaced within the wing as part of one of the many force realignments in the region. Its time in Thailand ended on December 19, 1975, when 71-1091 departed Udorn for Clark AB, Philippines and was reassigned to the 3rd TFW / 3rd TFS. Sadly, only a couple of weeks after joining her new unit, she was lost on January 7, 1976.
Phantom 71-1091 seen up from Udorn with the 555th TFS on the squadron’s last combat mission on August 15, 1973. Of note is her orange fin tip – not a squadron marking but denoting that she belonged to the orange section of the 432th TRW’s recently re-organised maintenance function, which emphasised wing level rather than squadron level control.
(William Riboli via Richard Davies Collection)