McDonnell Douglas RC-4C USAF airplane model. In the early 1960s, the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. The Air Force chose a modification of the F-4C fighter. The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964. A total of 499 RF-4Cs were eventually accepted by the Air Force.
The RF-4C can carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It can take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carries no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense.
The first unit to fly the RF-4C operationally was the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In October 1965 that unit deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. Since then, RF-4Cs have been involved in reconnaissance missions around the world, including the Desert Shield/Desert Storm operation in Iraq in 1990-1991.