Hunting the hunter


Air Power Association President, Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE turns his attention to one of the most hazardous missions faced by modern fighter pilots – suppression or destruction of enemy air defences.

Commander’s Update Briefing

The US Air Force entrusts its SEAD/DEAD mission to specially equipped F-16s, using the Raytheon AN/ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS) pod to detect, locate and identify ground-based emitters. This F-16CJ hails from the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. Jamie Hunter
Where it all began: the first SEAD/DEAD jets operated as ‘hunterkiller’ teams against North Vietnamese air defences. Perhaps the ultimate Vietnam-era ‘killer’ was the F-105G – this is an example from the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat, Thailand – that could carry the AGM-78 Standard anti-radar missile. USAF
The units responsible for the SEAD/DEAD mission – ‘Wild Weasels’ in USAF parlance – soon developed a strong identity, forged in part by the dangers of their work. ‘Willie weasel’ has featured prominently in many official and unofficial patches and logos. USAF

Some aspects of air power lend themselves more to the Wild West than modern 21st century warfare – one being the eternal competition between aircraft and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. While this could be viewed as a game of cat and mouse, where the roles can be quickly reversed, in practice it’s just like the OK Corral, where the one who shoots and hits first wins.

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