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Signed Aviation Art F-4 Phantom VX-4 Black Bunny "The Phantoms" by Denver Kissinger
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Signed Aviation Art F-4 Phantom VX-4 Black Bunny "The Phantoms"
Description: Off the coast of California, hurtling through the Vandenburg Test Range, the F-4J Phantom, Black Bunny, from VX-4, closes in upon a darkening sky. Looking intently within the clouds, there appears to be a specter, a vision of a different Phantom. Such was the premise behind the artwork created here, a juxtaposition of the real and the imagined.
The VX-4 Evaluators was an Air Test and Evaluation Squadron established by the U.S. Navy in 1950 as Air Development Squadron 4, out of New England. It moved to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland in 1951, but was disestablished later that year due to a lack of testing programs assigned to it. In 1952 it was resurrected as VX-4, out of NAS Point Mugu, California. Initially it was used as a test facility for air-launched guided missiles only. Later, starting in 1960, other types of weapons and systems testing were begun, which included operational test and terrain clearance radar, Doppler navigation systems, air-to-air distance measuring systems, and evaluation of various aircraft color scheme patterns, for purposes of achieving low visibility.
To this degree is what lies behind the reason for the unusual overall gloss black paint application on the F-4J Phantom, Black Bunny. The gloss black paint was utilized for testing to determine if it would aid in making the aircraft less visible during night flights. The end results, however, were disappointing. The application of the white Playboy Bunny Logo on the tail is another part of the story. The artist was fortunate enough to speak with a member of the paint crew responsible for applying the gloss black coating to the F-4J. According to this crew member, at the time the aircraft was being painted, founder of Playboy Magazine, Hugh Hefner, owned a custom built DC-9, which was painted gloss black, and emblazoned with the white Playboy Bunny on the vertical stabilizer. Taking their cue from this aircraft, the crew in the paint shop added the Bunny Logo to the F-4J. And contrary to what some have stated, Mr. Hefner had no objections to the use of the Bunny as an insignia. In fact, insignia collectors still will be able to find old VX-4 patches that display the Bunny Logo.
Unfortunately, VX-4 and the Black Bunny Phantom are long gone. The F-4J’s color scheme was later changed to a low visibility grey, before the aircraft was retired to the Davis Motham aircraft bone yard, outside of Tucson, Arizona in 1980. In 1984, it was refurbished and sold to the British, where it served in the South Atlantic after the Falklands War. And in 1993, in keeping with the U.S. Government’s efforts to downsize and consolidate the military, VX-4 was disestablished, its aircraft and assets being combined with those of VX-5, out of China Lake, California. The new, combined squadron was given the designation of VX-9. NAS Point Mugu still exists, but simply as a Detachment for the VX-9 unit in China Lake.