Aviation Historian 14
D.Powers - Bunny Power!
Originally tasked with the evaluation of airborne early warning systems, VX-4 initially operated Boeing PB-1Ws, including this example, BuNo 77230, photographed during a test flight circa 1946. Built as a B-17G, it was on strength with the USAAF as 44-83862 when it was transferred with 20 others to the US Navy and redesignated.
Another of the batch of 20 B-17Gs transferred to the US Navy and operated by VX-4 was PB-1W BuNo 77233, seen here at NAS Glenview, Illinois, in August 1950. The W in the PB-1W designation denoted the anti-submarine role, for which a large radome was fitted beneath the fuselage to accommodate the APS-20 search radar equipment.
A trio of VX-4 Phantoms in standard fleet colours in mid-1970. Nearest the camera is Vandy 6, F-4J BuNo 155896, beyond which is Vandy 1, F-4B BuNo 151439, and flying lead is Vandy 5, F-4B BuNo 150440. In the 1950s the unit flew trials with various types including the Cutlass, Skyknight, FJ Fury, Skyhawk, Demon and Crusader.
Meet the new kid on the block - on October 20, 1987, F-4S BuNo 158358 was photographed with F-14A Tomcat BuNo 161444, both adorned with bunnies and in the colours of Vandy 1. The Tomcat had been painted in an all-over matt black scheme with blue fin flashes with stars and red outlines for that year's Point Mugu airshow.
Same callsign, different type; Grumman F-14A Tomcat BuNo 159853 shows off its sleek lines during a VX-4 deployment to NAS Key West in Florida in 1990.
The last of the black Tomcats; in September 1994, following nearly two years without a black Vandy 1, VX-4 received F-14D Super Tomcat BuNo 164604 in an all-black scheme but without the bunny logo, by that time deemed politically inappropriate. The unit was disbanded and folded into evaluation unit VX-9 a few days later.
One of five Phantoms known to have carried the VX-4 designation Vandy 1, F-4S BuNo 155539 was built as an F-4J and made its first flight on February 22, 1968. It was upgraded to F-4S configuration in May 1981 and was retired to the “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan AFB in May 1986.
The original all-black Vandy 1, McDonnell Douglas F-4J BuNo 153783, awaits its next mission on the VX-4 flightline - complete with bunny logo on the fin - at Naval Air Station (NAS) Point Mugu, California.
This photograph of BuNo 153783 was taken after it had become Vandy 1, and shows the blue star flashes with yellow outlines on the fuselage, fin and wings to good advantage. The Playboy bunny has been applied, if somewhat crudely when compared to later iterations.
Crew members of VX-4 walk out to a pair of all-black F-4S Phantoms at Point Mugu for another mission. Both Phantoms - BuNo 158360 (nearest) and BuNo 158358 (Vandy 1) - are wearing the bunny logo on their fins, so it is possible that 158358 was shortly to be delivered to the NARF at North Island, with 158360 painted black and “bunnied” to take over the Vandy 1 mantle.
The new black - F-4J BuNo 153783, callsign Vandy 9, was the first of the VX-4 Phantoms to be painted in an overall gloss-black colour scheme, for visibility trials in 1969. It is seen here beside Hangar One at NAS Moffett Field, California, in October 1969 with blue star flashes on fin and fuselage and the unit’s “XF” tail codes on the fin.
Any colour as long as it’s black. Or white. In May 1977 VX-4 F-4J BuNo 158350 - Vandy 5 - was painted in an experimental all-over white colour scheme with low-visibility titles, codes - and bunny. By this time the rabbit was being applied to many of VX-4’s F-4s, and this example was inevitably dubbed ‘‘The White Bunny”.