Manston’s Tiger

For the last 32 years Manston has been home to a certain breed of ‘Tiger’ and it is very nearly time for her to be relocated to a new home in the Cotswolds where she will be restored to static condition.

 

Phantom F-4J(UK) ZE360, now owned by the British Phantom Aviation Group (BPAG), was last flown operationally by the Royal Air Force back in 1991. Assigned to 74(F) Squadron, the RAF’s famous Tiger Squadron, ZE360’s last flight was into Manston and relegated to the role as a rescue airframe for the RAF’s fire school training the next generations of firefighting crews. It’s here she stayed until 2021 when, after being successfully being purchased by BPAG back in 2019, she was relocated to the ‘live’ side of Manston Airport ready to be split for removal.

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic was to stall the project for approximately a year, but by mid-2021 the aircraft had been towed from the MoD Fire School back onto the airfield. It is now in the final stages of disassembly and it is hoped that by the end of summer ZE360 will leave Manston for the final time.

So, what makes this aircraft special and why is it being saved? After serving with the US Navy and Marine Corps from 1968 to 1982, ZE360 was one of 15 Phantom’s chosen by the RAF to be modified for RAF service after the Falklands Conflict meant that a UK based Phantom Squadron had to be relocated to the Falklands for defence. These modifications were quite unique and therefore meant that the 15 aircraft chosen were different from the 5000+ Phantoms built in total. Of those 15, only two ‘complete’ examples survive. Duxford’s American Air Museum has the other example, ZE359, however this was restored back to its US Navy specification meaning that ZE360 is the last ‘complete’ example of its type.

BPAG’s steady stream of fantastic volunteers over the last few years, led by 360 Project Manager Steve Pope, have achieved amazing results in prepping the airframe for transportation. Limited in resources and money, plenty of out the box thinking has seen used to get as far as the team has. It should also be noted that BPAG will always be grateful to the owners of Manston Airport and the staff at Polar Helicopters whose assistance and help had made this difficult project a lot easier to deal with.

 

If you wish to keep up to date on the progress of this ZE360 or the other two Phantom Aircraft restoration projects the group are involved in, please join our Facebook page @BPAGofficial.

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