Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), also known as "Wild Weasel
Wild Weasel
A Wild Weasel is an aircraft specially equipped with radar seeking missiles, and tasked with destroying the radars and SAM installations of enemy air defence systems....

" and "Iron Hand" operations in the United States, are military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 actions to suppress enemy surface-based air defenses (Surface-to-air missile
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

s (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA)), primarily in the first hours of an attack.

One fourth of American combat sorties in recent conflicts have been SEAD missions.


The weapons most often associated with this mission are anti-radiation missile
Anti-radiation missile
An anti-radiation missile is a missile which is designed to detect and home on an enemy radio emission source. Typically these are designed for use against an enemy radar, although jammers and even radios used for communication can also be targeted in this manner.- Air-to-Ground :Most ARM designs...

s (ARMs) such as the American AGM-88 HARM
The AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a tactical, air-to-surface missile designed to home in on electronic transmissions coming from surface-to-air radar systems. It was originally developed by Texas Instruments as a replacement for the AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard ARM system...

 and British ALARM
ALARM is a British anti-radiation missile designed primarily to destroy enemy radars for the purpose of Suppression of Enemy Air Defense...

. Weapons used for SEAD missions can be anything which damages or destroys a component of an air defense system. A Paveway LGB
Paveway is a generic term for Laser Guided Bombs .Pave or PAVE is sometimes used as an acronym for precision avionics vectoring equipment; literally, electronics for controlling the speed and direction of aircraft...

, for example, is not a SEAD-specific munition but, when used to destroy a radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 antenna, it achieves the objective of Suppression of Enemy Air Defense.

Possibly the most effective type of unguided ("dumb") weapon used during SEAD strikes are cluster bomb
Cluster bomb
A cluster munition is a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that releases or ejects smaller sub-munitions. Commonly, this is a cluster bomb that ejects explosive bomblets that are designed to kill enemy personnel and destroy vehicles...

s, because many SAM sites are dispersed over a fairly wide area, in order to increase the difficulty of inflicting serious damage on the battery, and the relative "softness" of the targets (missile launchers
Transporter erector launcher
A transporter erector launcher is a vehicle with an integrated prime mover that can carry, elevate to firing position and launch one or more missiles. Such vehicles exist for both surface-to-air missiles and surface-to-surface missiles...

, exposed radars, etc.). The Mk-20 Rockeye II anti-armor cluster munition and the CBU-87 general-purpose cluster munition are often used against these fixed-location SAM sites, often for "clean-up" of a site whose radar or C&C facilities are first destroyed by a longer-range ARM or AGM. The relatively new American AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon
AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon
The AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon is the product of a joint venture between the United States Navy and Air Force to deploy a standardized medium range precision guided weapon, especially for engagement of defended targets from outside the range of standard anti-aircraft defenses, thereby...

 is a valuable SEAD weapon due to its fairly long standoff range which allows the launching aircraft to avoid being threatened by all but the longest-range missiles, and its relatively large area of destruction against soft targets.

By country

In U.S. service in Vietnam, SEAD missions were carried out by dedicated variants of tactical fighters such as the F-105G Thunderchief and F-4G Phantom II. These aircraft were nicknamed "Wild Weasels", and often used themselves as bait for enemy defenses. On the other hand, the Soviets preferred to use modified stand-off interceptors
Interceptor aircraft
An interceptor aircraft is a type of fighter aircraft designed specifically to prevent missions of enemy aircraft, particularly bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. Interceptors generally rely on high speed and powerful armament in order to complete their mission as quickly as possible and set up...

 such as the Mikoyan MiG-25BM
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25 is a supersonic interceptor and reconnaissance aircraft that was among the fastest military aircraft to enter service. Designed by the Soviet Union's Mikoyan-Gurevich bureau the first prototype flew in 1964 with entry into service in 1970...

 and missile-armed bombers such as the Tupolev Tu-22M
Tupolev Tu-22M
The Tupolev Tu-22M is a supersonic, swing-wing, long-range strategic and maritime strike bomber developed by the Soviet Union. Significant numbers remain in service with the Russian Air Force....

 to destroy targets from a distance rather than up-close.

Currently the main United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 (USAF) SEAD aircraft is the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multirole aircraft configurable for a variety of ground strike missions including SEAD. The Air Force and Navy's emphasis on multirole strike aircraft has largely made specified SEAD variants obsolete; virtually any aircraft in the U.S. arsenal designed to carry air-to-ground ordinance can, if needed, be configured for SEAD. The F/A-18 Super Hornet
F/A-18 Hornet
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a supersonic, all-weather carrier-capable multirole fighter jet, designed to dogfight and attack ground targets . Designed by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, the F/A-18 was derived from the latter's YF-17 in the 1970s for use by the United States Navy and...

 navy multirole fighter, F-15E Strike Eagle medium strike fighter, AV-8B Harrier marine strike fighter and A-10 Thunderbolt II
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II is an American single-seat, twin-engine, straight-wing jet aircraft developed by Fairchild-Republic in the early 1970s. The A-10 was designed for a United States Air Force requirement to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks,...

 Close Air Support aircraft are common secondary choices for SEAD missions depending on availability and mission requirements.

In European NATO air forces, the SEAD mission falls mostly to Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 Tornado GR.4s
Panavia Tornado
The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

, Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 Tornado Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance variant (ECR), and Aeronautica Militare
Aeronautica Militare
The Italian Air Force is the air force of the Italian Republic. It has held a prominent role in modern Italian military history...

 (AMI) Tornado ECRs. The RAF Tornados rely on the aforementioned ALARM missile and the Italian/German Tornado ECRs employ the AGM-88 HARM missile. The Tornado ECR was designed from the outset as a SEAD platform and is unique in the European NATO air order of battle. Although several European NATO aircraft can carry SEAD weapons, few were designed for, or are specifically tasked with, the dangerous SEAD mission. All modern SEAD aircraft are modified to equip some level of electronic jamming equipment to make the job easier on the pilot.

Current types

  • Boeing EA-18G Growler
  • Chengdu J-10S
  • Chengdu JF-17 Thunder
  • Lockheed Martin
    Lockheed Martin
    Lockheed Martin is an American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington Metropolitan Area....

     F-16CJ Fighting Falcon
  • Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler
  • McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
  • Mikoyan MiG-27
    Mikoyan MiG-27
    The Mikoyan MiG-27 is a variable-geometry ground-attack aircraft, originally built by the Mikoyan design bureau in the Soviet Union and later license-produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautics as the Bahadur . It is based on the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighter aircraft, but optimized for...

  • Panavia Tornado
    Panavia Tornado
    The Panavia Tornado is a family of twin-engine, variable-sweep wing combat aircraft, which was jointly developed and manufactured by the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy...

     ECR and GR4
  • Shenyang J-8
    Shenyang J-8
    The Shenyang J-8 is a high-speed, high-altitude Chinese-built single-seat interceptor fighter aircraft.-J-8:...

  • Sukhoi Su-24
    Sukhoi Su-24
    The Sukhoi Su-24 is a supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft developed in the Soviet Union. This variable-sweep wing, twin-engined two-seater carried the USSR's first integrated digital navigation/attack system...

  • Xian JH-7A
    Xian JH-7
    The Xian JH-7 ; NATO reporting name Flounder), also known as the FBC-1 Flying Leopard, is a tandem two-seat, twin-engine fighter-bomber in service with the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force , and the People's Liberation Army Air Force...

Historical types

  • A-6B Intruder
  • Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk
  • F-4G Phantom II
  • F-100F Super Sabre
  • EF-105F/F-105G Thunderchief
  • Sukhoi Su-17M3P
    Sukhoi Su-17
    The Sukhoi Su-17 is a Soviet attack aircraft developed from the Sukhoi Su-7 fighter-bomber. It enjoyed a long career in Soviet, later Russian, service and was widely exported to communist and Middle Eastern air forces, under names Su-20 and Su-22.-Development:Seeking to improve low-speed and...

External links

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