X-Plane 9.70 – US Air Force F-4E Thunderbird US Air Force F-4E Thunderbird. By 1967, the Thunderbirds had flown 1000 shows. In 1969, the squadron adopted the noisy and huge F-4E Phantom II, which it flew until 1973, the only time the Thunderbirds would fly jets similar to those of the Blue Angels, as the F4 was the standard fighter for both services. A special white paint had to be developed to cover high-temperature metals, replacing the bare metal paint scheme of past planes. The white paint scheme has been continued to the present. By David Austin.