Wild Weasel
A Wild Weasel is an aircraft (usually 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...

) specially equipped with radar seeking missiles, and tasked with destroying the radars and SAM
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...

 installations of enemy air defence systems.

Wild Weasel tactics and techniques were first developed in the Vietnam
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 and the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

, and were later integrated into the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD
Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses , also known as "Wild Weasel" and "Iron Hand" operations in the United States, are military actions to suppress enemy surface-based air defenses , primarily in the first hours of an attack.One fourth of American combat sorties in recent conflicts have been SEAD...

) a plan used by US air forces to establish immediate air control, prior to possible full scale conflict. Initially known by the operational code "Iron Hand" when first authorized on August 12, 1965, the term "Wild Weasel" derives from Project Wild Weasel, the USAF development program for a dedicated SAM
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...

-detection and suppression aircraft. (The technique {or a specific part} was also called an "Iron Hand" mission, though technically the Iron Hand part refers only to a suppression attack that paves the way for the main strike.) Originally named "Project Ferret", denoting a predatory animal
The ferret is a domesticated mammal of the type Mustela putorius furo. Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators with males being substantially larger than females. They typically have brown, black, white, or mixed fur...

 that goes into its prey's den to kill it (hence: "to ferret out"), the name was changed to differentiate it from the code-name "Ferret" that had been used during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 for radar counter-measures bombers.

In brief, the task of a Wild Weasel aircraft is to bait enemy anti-aircraft defenses
Anti-aircraft warfare
NATO defines air defence as "all measures designed to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of hostile air action." They include ground and air based weapon systems, associated sensor systems, command and control arrangements and passive measures. It may be to protect naval, ground and air forces...

 into targeting it with their radars, whereupon the radar waves are traced back to their source allowing the Weasel or its teammates to precisely target it for destruction. A simple analogy is playing the game of "flashlight tag" in the dark; a flashlight is usually the only reliable means of identifying someone in order to "tag" (destroy) them, but the light immediately renders the bearer able to be identified and attacked as well. The result is a hectic game of cat-and-mouse in which the radar "flashlights" are rapidly cycled on and off in an attempt to identify and kill the target before the target is able to home in on the emitted radar "light" and destroy the site.

Wild Weasel I

The Wild Weasel concept was originally proposed in 1965 as a method of countering the increasing North Vietnamese SAM
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...

 threat, using volunteer crews flying the two-seat F model of the F-100 Super Sabre
F-100 Super Sabre
The North American F-100 Super Sabre was a supersonic jet fighter aircraft that served with the United States Air Force from 1954 to 1971 and with the Air National Guard until 1979. The first of the Century Series collection of USAF jet fighters, it was the first USAF fighter capable of...

. While an effective airframe, the F-100F Wild Weasel did not have the performance characteristics to survive in a high threat environment. The first Wild Weasel squadron was the 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Takhli Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand. After 45 days of operations against North Vietnamese targets, the 354th had one airplane left and of the 16 aircrew members, four had been killed, two were POW's, three had been wounded and two had quit.

Wild Weasel II and III

The Wild Weasel role was then passed in the summer of 1966
1966 in aviation
This is a list of aviation-related events from 1966:-January:* The United States Armys helicopter assault-oriented 1st Cavalry Division begins Operation Matador to destroy North Vietnamese Army forces in Pleiku and Kon Tum Province, South Vietnam....

 to the EF-105F Thunderchief
F-105 Thunderchief
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief, was a supersonic fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force. The Mach 2 capable F-105 conducted the majority of strike bombing missions during the early years of the Vietnam War; it has the dubious distinction of being the only US aircraft to have been...

. The F-105 Wild Weasel II was a better platform for this role and was equipped with more advanced radar, jamming equipment, and a heavier armament. 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 were outfitted that could seek out radar emplacements. The F-105F Wild Weasel II was eventually replaced by the F-105G Wild Weasel III variant; 61 F-105F units were upgraded to F-105G specifications.

Wild Weasel IV

The F-105 had gone out of production by 1964. With severe combat attrition of the F-105 inventory, the need for a still more sophisticated aircraft resulted in the conversion of 36 F-4C Phantom II
F-4 Phantom II
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II is a tandem two-seat, twin-engined, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor fighter/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. It first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable,...

 aircraft, designated EF-4C Wild Weasel IV.

Wild Weasel V

The F-4E, the most advanced Phantom variant with extensive ground-attack capabilities and an internal gun, became the basis for the F-4G Wild Weasel V (also known as the Advanced Wild Weasel). This modification consisted of removing the gun and replacing it with the APR-38(t) Radar Homing and Warning Receiver (later upgraded to the APR-47), and a cockpit upgrade for the back seat to manage the electronic combat environment. A total of 134 F-4G models were converted from F-4Es with the first one flying in 1975. Squadron service began in 1978.

F-4Gs were deployed to four active wings. Two were stationed at George AFB, Victorville, California
Victorville, California
Victorville is a city located in the Victor Valley of southwestern San Bernardino County, California. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2010 census, the city had a population of 115,903, up from 64,030 at the 2000 census.-Geography and climate:...

. as part of the rapid deployment force; one wing was assigned to USAFE (US Air Forces Europe) at Spangdahlem AB, Germany; and the other to PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) at Clark AFB, Philippines. F-4Gs from George AFB and Spangdalhem AB saw combat during the 1991 Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, successfully protecting strike packages from enemy air defenses. During this conflict the F-4G saw heavy use, with only a single loss: an aircraft from Spangdahlem AB crashed in Saudi Arabia while returning from a mission. After an investigation into the loss of the aircraft which occurred during several aborted landing attempts in a sandstorm, it was determined that a fuel cell was punctured by anti-aircraft fire. The pilot and EWO safely ejected after the engines seized when the aircraft ran out of fuel attempting to land at a forward airstrip.

After the Gulf War, some of the George AFB aircraft were assigned to the 124th Wing
124th Wing
The United States Air Force's 124th Fighter Wing is an Air National Guard unit operationally-gained by the Air Combat Command . The 124 FW is located at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, in Boise, Idaho.-Mission:...

 of the Air National Guard at Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho
Boise is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho, as well as the county seat of Ada County. Located on the Boise River, it anchors the Boise City-Nampa metropolitan area and is the largest city between Salt Lake City, Utah and Portland, Oregon.As of the 2010 Census Bureau,...

, 190th Fighter Squadron
190th Fighter Squadron
The 190th Fighter Squadron flies the A-10 Thunderbolt II. It is a unit of the Idaho Air National Guard. Its parent unit is the 124th Fighter Wing. The squadron was deployed to the Middle-East in 2003 to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq...

. Aircraft from Spangdahlem, Clark, and the remainder from George were assigned to the 57th Fighter Wing (Active AF) assigned to Nellis AFB at Las Vegas
Las Vegas metropolitan area
The Las Vegas Valley is the heart of the Las Vegas-Paradise, NV MSA also known as the Las Vegas–Paradise–Henderson MSA which includes all of Clark County, Nevada, and is a metropolitan area in the southern part of the U.S. state of Nevada. The Valley is defined by the Las Vegas Valley landform, a ...

, 561st Fighter Squadron
561st Fighter Squadron
The 561st Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force squadron, being last assigned to the 57th Operations Group at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. It was inactivated on 1 October 1996....

. The aircraft remained in service until 1996, with both squadrons participating in frequent deployments to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Operation Provide Comfort, Operation Southern Watch, and Operation Vigilant Warrior enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq. By this time the F-4G was the last operational variant of the Phantom II in the US forces. Many of the airframes were later used as target drones and Aircraft Battle Damage Repair training aids.


A change in aircraft design theory to stress versatile multirole aircraft meant that the F-4G was the last aircraft specifically outfitted for the SEAD role. The Wild Weasel mission is now assigned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon
F-16 Fighting Falcon
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a multirole jet fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force . Designed as an air superiority day fighter, it evolved into a successful all-weather multirole aircraft. Over 4,400 aircraft have been built since...

, using the Block 50 and Block 52, with production beginning in 1991. The single-seat Block 50/52 F-16C is specifically tasked with this mission. The pilot now performs both the role of flying the airplane and targeting and employing against ground threats. Other aircraft, such as the F-15E Strike Eagle
F-15E Strike Eagle
The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle is an all-weather multirole fighter, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. United States Air Force F-15E Strike...

 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,...

 "Warthog", while capable of engaging mobile SAM launchers and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) in a CAS
Close air support
In military tactics, close air support is defined as air action by fixed or rotary winged aircraft against hostile targets that are close to friendly forces, and which requires detailed integration of each air mission with fire and movement of these forces.The determining factor for CAS is...

 role lack the avionics
Avionics are electronic systems used on aircraft, artificial satellites and spacecraft.Avionic systems include communications, navigation, the display and management of multiple systems and the hundreds of systems that are fitted to aircraft to meet individual roles...

 to perform a true SEAD mission.

The F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability...

 is slated to gradually replace these aircraft for various air-to-ground roles, including SEAD, beginning with its introduction in 2016. Its stealth capabilities promise a significant increase in effectiveness against air-defense radars, though to maintain its lowest radar signature, its payload capacity would be limited to the internal weapons bays, reducing the number of missile site attacks per sortie. However, it can carry more or larger air to ground weapons internally than even the F-22 and is more advanced in a ground attack capacity, making it the best manned aircraft for destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses.

Mission tactics

In 1966 over North Vietnam, Wild Weasel flights of four aircraft sometimes were led by a single F-105F/G two-seat aircraft (aided by its Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) with his electronic receivers & analyzers) plus three F-105Ds. Sometimes two "F"s, each with a "D" wingman, operated independently.

The Wild Weasel mission was to precede strike flights, sanitizing the target area of radar guided 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...

 SA-2 'Guideline' threats, leaving the threat area last, which sometimes would result in 3.5-hour missions, before returning to Royal Thai Air Force Bases
Royal Thai Air Force Bases
Within the period of 1954-1975 , the Thai Government allowed the Joint United States Military Assistance Group to fund and manage the modernization of Royal Thai Air Force airbases...

. This was achieved by turning toward the air defense site in a threatening manner, firing radar homing missiles at the site, or visually locating the site to dive bomb it. These tactics were attempted while under attack by MiGs and anti-aircraft artillery.

The F-105F did not utilize radar jammers since its purpose was to provide a decoy target, protecting the strike flights, and encouraging SAM launches that generated enough bright smoke to make possible seeing the SAM site for immediate dive bombing attack. With multiple incoming missiles in visual sight it was possible to dive abruptly or sharply break to avoid them. Failure to see the missiles approaching at three times fighter cruise speed would result in the destruction of the aircraft and failure of the mission.

Post-Vietnam tactics developed "Hunter-Killer" teams, where a F-4G Wild Weasel would be teamed with one or more conventional F-4E Phantoms. The Wild Weasel would destroy missile radar emitters, clearing the way for the F-4E's to destroy the rest of the missile site using cluster munitions.

A tactic used during Operation Desert Shield was known as "Here, kitty kitty", wherein one Weasel would get the attention of a SAM or anti-aircraft artillery site while other Weasels would then sneak up behind the site and destroy it.

In one of the Wild Weasel concept's most famous uses in military operations, five F-105Gs, using the call-signs "Firebird 01–05", provided support for the Son Tay P.O.W. Rescue Mission
Operation Ivory Coast
Operation Ivory Coast was a failed rescue mission conducted in North Vietnam during the Vietnam War by United States Special Operations Forces and other elements of the U.S. Military....

, which was conducted in the early morning hours of 21 November 1970. One of these aircraft was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile, but its crew ejected safely and was rescued by the HH-53 "Super Jolly"
MH-53 Pave Low
The Sikorsky MH-53 Pave Low series is a long-range combat search and rescue helicopter for the United States Air Force. The series was upgraded from the HH-53B/C, variants of the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion. The HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant" was initially developed to replace the HH-3 "Jolly...

 helicopters that also participated in the raid. None of the aircraft of the raiding force protected by Wild Weasels was lost to enemy action.

Motto and traditions

The unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel crews is YGBSM: "You Gotta Be Shittin' Me". This appears prominently on the logo patch of some squadrons. As the story goes, this was the response of Jack Donovan, a former B-52 EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer
Electronic Warfare Officer
In the U.S. Air Force, an Electronic Warfare Officer is a trained aerial navigator in the Air Force who has received training in enemy threat systems, electronic warfare principles and overcoming enemy air defense systems...

This was the natural response of an educated man, a veteran EWO on B-52s and the like, upon learning that he was to fly back seat to a self-absorbed fighter pilot while acting as flypaper for enemy SAMs.

The "WW" tailcode of the 35th Fighter Wing
35th Fighter Wing
The 35th Fighter Wing is an air combat unit of the United States Air Force and the host unit at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The 35 FW is part of Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force.-Mission:...

 derives from its Wild Weasel heritage.

See also

  • 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...

  • Active radar homing
    Active radar homing
    Active radar homing is a missile guidance method in which a guided missile contains a radar transceiver and the electronics necessary for it to find and track its target autonomously...

  • SEAD
    Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses , also known as "Wild Weasel" and "Iron Hand" operations in the United States, are military actions to suppress enemy surface-based air defenses , primarily in the first hours of an attack.One fourth of American combat sorties in recent conflicts have been SEAD...

"The first Wild Weasel success came soon after (the first Wild Weasel mission December 20,1965 where both air crewmen were either captured or killed), when Captains Al Lamb and Jack Donovan took out a site during a Rolling Thunder strike on the railyard at Yen Bai, some 75 miles northwest of Hanoi."
"Beyond the Wild Blue, A History of the U. S. Air Force 1947-1997" Page 158, second paragraph.
Author Walter J. Boyne

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.