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Various questions on the F-4E: Ordnance, Radar, Avionics, TISEO

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Various questions on the F-4E: Ordnance, Radar, Avionics, TISEO

Hi there! 

I'm Aussie_Mantis, I'm an avid F-4E fan and have been ever since as long as I can remember! I'm coming here to ask about what in heck the difference between all these AN/APQ-120 radars are:

AN/APQ-120 - AN/APQ-120(V) - AN/APQ-120(V)1 - - - > AN/APQ-120(V)6

And why do I keep hearing things about the AN/APQ-120 having some sort of "Look-down, Shoot-down" capability? I thought they were entirely incapable of using that type of setup due to the truncated, shrunken down fire control computer.

What are those reflective strips on the side and tail of Rivet Haste F-4Es for? Identification as Rivet Haste Phantoms? Indication of their formation leader role? Visual aid?

Did the F-4E use TERs plus the three inch spacer for the AIM-9 launchers?

Were any F-4Es retrofitted with internal ECM packages, or did they only ever use the external AN/ALQ-119/131 pods?

What exactly is TISEO? Is it just a camera that allowed F-4 pilots to zoom in on enemies far away, or was there more to it? Was it used to guide Mavericks, HOBOS and other such TV-guided weapons? Was it possible to slave the Radar or AIM-9J Sidewinder Extended Acquisition Mode to the TISEO set?


Sincerely yours,



Spooky 4E
I'm very new here, but I have

I'm very new here, but I have an inkling of some knowledge to try and answer your questions.

The different AN/APQ-120 variants are just that. Variants and improvements, I can't really tell what's what. But from what I have heard, the later variants of the AN/APQ-120 radar improved considerably that at some parts were on-par with the naval radars of the F-4J and F-4S.

Secondly, the "look-down-shoot-down" 'capability' you probably hear about comes from an addition to very late variants of the F-4E, I need to find it on my SSD, but it's essentually an add-on to the FCS system on the AN/APQ-120.

The government knew not having LDSD was a pain in the behind, so they comissioned to add on a development called "CAA Mode" this could help identify ground targets to lock onto them, but the nifty feature it had was the capability of a computer reading through essentially a data sheet of known aircraft contacts, such as a MiG-21 or MiG-23, to allow easier attainment of enemy aircraft. This allowed the computer to essentially discriminate between what is a target and what is simply ground clutter. The manual is aware that CAA mode can be erroneous, so if told the contact was not correct, the computer would remember to not follow that contact in the future. This is very close to the end of the lifespan of the F-4E in the USAF, so the plane would have a lot of the issues it had ironed out.


So by theoretics, yes. It had a limited look-down capability, but considering the USAF deemed it worthwhile to implement I would bet money it worked pretty darn good.


TISEO is a cool thing. You get a comfy lil' TV telescope in your cockpit so you can watch nice low-res footage of your enemy struggling for their life as a Sparrow is on it's way to rough up their day. On pay-per-view!


Jokes aside, the whole point of TISEO is to essentially see your opponent before they see you without the need of your radar. For instance, you lock onto somebody, but you lose track. TISEO will keep a steady job keeping eye out. If I remember correctly, they can also be used for Maverick missiles, and can be made to to slough the radar beam onto a target. I THINK. So for instance, you get a pickup on TISEO pod. Some rundown MiG coughing up smoke. Well, you can slough your radar over and narrow the beam down for a lock.


A good example is to look at that sim game 'DCS' and search up the F-14 on youtube. You'll see the TISEO pod being used as the tomcat essentially had the same thing but on the nose.


Can't help too much with the others, but I tried my best.

Better late than never?

Just in case you haven't yet learned through other means what "those reflective strips on the side and tail" of F-4Es are, if you're referring to what I think you're referring to, they're not actually reflective strips, they're not unique to Rivet Haste F-4Es, and they're not meant to indicate anything in particular about either the aircraft or its pilot.  They are, however a visual aid:  they're formation lights which, when turned on, emit a low-intensity greenish glow (I've seen the color referred to as "slime green") to assist pilots with maintaining proper position relative to their companion aircraft when flying in formation under low-light or no-light conditions.  They were first introduced in mid-1970 with the production of Block 45 and all later production blocks of the F-4E, and were subsequently retrofitted between 1971 and 1974 to all earlier USAF and foreign F-4C, RF-4C, F-4D, and F-4E models.  Between 1981 and 1982 the USN and USMC F-4J and F-4S models were also retrofitted with them.  However, none of the British F-4K and F-4M models and none of the German RF-4E models ever received them.  Source:  Ivan Ivanovich at

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