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F-4G Advanced Wild Weasel

With the introduction of newer, more capable weapons systems, the F-4 mission narrowed to specializing in the suppression of enemy air defense. The F-4G "Advanced Wild Weasel," was the last model in the active Air Force inventory, until it was replaced by the F-16CJ/DJ in the role of increasing the survivability of tactical strike forces by seeking out and suppressing or destroying enemy radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery batteries and surface-to-air missile sites. F-4G's were E models modified with sophisticated electronic warfare equipment in place of the internally mounted 20mm gun. The F-4G could carry more weapons than previous Wild Weasel aircraft and a greater variety of missiles as well as conventional bombs. The primary weapon of the F-4G, however, was the AGM-88 HARM (high speed anti-radiation missile). Other munitions included cluster bombs, and AIM-65 Maverick and air-to-air missiles.

Although the role of defeating enemy anti-aircraft defenses dates back to World War II, the Wild Weasel tradition started in 1965 after a North Vietnamese SAM shot down an F-4C fighter near Hanoi. It signaled the dawn of a new era in aerial warfare where fighter aircraft were targeted by anti-aircraft artillery and SAMs. The introduction of the Soviet-built SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) ushered a new and deadly threat into an air war over Vietnam. Although the SA-2 was not an unexpected threat- having earlier shot down two American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft-the US Air Force's tactical forces were largely unprepared. A counter had to be found, and that counter was the Wild Weasel. To defeat the SAMs, the Air Force converted seven two-seat F-100 Super Sabre fighters and pressed them into service as its first Wild Weasel jets. These specially configured F-100F aircraft were equiped with electronics for detecting and then homing on radar emissions from SAM sites. In combat, the Weasels would enter the target area ahead of a group of bombers or fighters to locate pinpoint enemy defenses. The Weasels would often set themselves up as bait and keep the enemy gunners and surface-to-air operators occupied in any way they could. They would often "taunt" the enemy by exposing themselves to hostile fire, which prompted the enemy to shoot at them versus the other fighters and bombers. The Weasel proved to be an effective weapon for suppressing enemy radar and SAM threats. Many changes occurred in the Wild Weasel program. The F-100F airframe was too slow to keep up with the primary attack aircraft of the day, the F-105, so the Weasel electronics were added to an F-105 aircraft designated the EF-105 and later redesignated the F-105G. That airframe had too little life left in it and was itself replaced by the F-4C.

Following the Vietnam War, the F-4C was replaced by the current Wild Weasel platform, the F-4G, a modified F-4E platform incorporating more capable electronic gear for employment against the mobile threats. Along with changes in aircraft came changes in weapons and tactics. The first Weasels employed rockets to mark the target for following attack aircraft who would destroy the SAM sites with bombs or cluster munitions. These tactics required the aircraft to over-fly the heavily defended sites, increasing the aircraft's vulnerability to the SAMs and to AAA. The introduction of the Shrike antiradiation missile (ARM) negated the requirement to overfly the site, but its short range required further improvement. The improvement came in the Standard ARM, a missile that was followed by development of the high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM)-still the weapon of choice for the Wild Weasel.

The F-4G "Advanced Wild Weasel," which inherited most of the features of the F-4E, was capable of passing real-time target information to the aircraft's missiles prior to launch. Working in "hunter-killer" teams of two aircraft, such as F-4G and F-16C, the F-4G "hunter" could detect, identify, and locate enemy radars then direct weapons that will ensure destruction or suppression of the radars. The technique was effectively used during Operation Desert Storm against enemy surface-to-air missile batteries. Primary armament included HARM (AGM-88) and Maverick (AGM-65). F-4G's deployed to Saudi Arabia also were equipped with ALQ-131 and ALQ-184 electronic countermeasures pods.

Following their 90-day deployment supporting Operation Provide Comfort 15 December 1995, the F-4G Phantoms assigned to the Idaho Air National Guard's 190th Fighter Squadron retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, otherwise known as the "boneyard," at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:31:17 ZULU