Society of Wild Weasels

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Editor’s Note: In out threat section we hope to capture the intensity of the threat faced by the Wild Weasels. Each war is different and each threat is unique and one thing that holds true today is that the Weasels of Vietnam, Desert Storm and tomorrow were dedicated to making their systems, tactics and capabilities better after each conflict. These improvements saved lives and destroyed our enemies!


Vietnam, with tremendous help from the Soviet Union and China, set out and succeeded in building the world’s strongest integrated air defense at the time.  The Soviets also sent more than 8,000 initial military advisers and technicians, who wore Vietnamese uniforms to hide their nationality. At the same time hundreds of Vietnamese were placed in Soviet military training schools. Additionally, Moscow shipped radars, anti-aircraft artillery and coastal defense equipment to Hanoi. Not to be outdone by its rival, Beijing accelerated the training program for the 30 North Vietnamese pilots who were being trained on Soviet-donated MiG-17s at China’s Son Dong Airfield since early 1963 (later Mig 19s and Mig 21s would be added to the inventory). China also donated training aircraft to Hanoi and initiated a training program for about another 200 pilots. One of several American intelligence estimates in early 1965 indicated that North Vietnam possessed 1,039 antiaircraft guns: 322 14.5-mm and 37-mm, 709 57-mm, and eight 85-mm. There were an estimated 298 antiaircraft sites, of which 161 were considered active. The sites were located mainly around the Hanoi-Haiphong area and along important rail lines, roads, and bridges north and south of the two cities. US Air Force concern about the north’s antiaircraft defenses was pervasive.

Some 15,000 Soviet personnel served in Indo-China as advisers and occasionally as combatants. The largest part of the Soviet adviser personnel were air defense officers. The Soviets provided the V-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE) missile system as the primary air defense system. They supplemented this with anti-aircraft guns and possibly some S-125 ‘Neva’(SA-3 GOA) missiles. Short-range air defense weapons included the Strela 2 (SA-7 GRAIL) shoulder-fired missiles. 

SA-2 SAM deployments began in the Hanoi area, extending by the end of the year to Haiphong, the LOC area south of Thanh Hoa, and elsewhere. More than 60 sites were known by the end of the year. By the end of 1966, there were about 150 SAM sites in North Vietnam. Radar sites had grown to over 100, a mixture of early warning, ground-control intercept, AA fire control, and SAM-associated. Another 100 sites were discovered by the end of 1967, and the force organized into 25 SAM battalions. By April 1968, the North Vietnamese had 8000 AA weapons (the majority light AA or automatic weapons, but including 100mm AA guns) (The first of the 100mm AA guns were introduced in Jul 1965). There were more than 350 radars and almost 300 SAM sites.

Vietnam Air Defense Links 

Hanoi Real World Mission
3 MIG Kills on the F-105
Desert Storm

Iraqi air defenses were designed with a network of radars, surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and antiaircraft artillery (AAA) primarily concentrated around strategic and industrial facilities in the Baghdad area. The national air defense operations center (ADOC) in downtown Baghdad controlled Iraq’s air defenses. The ADOC maintained the overall air picture in Iraq and established priorities for air defense engagements. Subordinate to this facility were sector operations centers (SOC), each controlling a specific geographic area. The SOC and the ADOC were connected by the French-built Kari command and control system. This modern, computerized system linked the diverse inventory of Soviet and Western radar and air defense weaponry. It provided a redundant C 2 capability.

SA-2 Battalion

By the summer of 1990, Iraq possessed 16,000 radar-guided and heatseeking surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), including the Soviet SA-2, SA-3, SA-6, SA-7, SA-8, SA-9, SA-13, SA-14, and SA-16, and the Franco-German Roland. Additional air defense was provided by Air Force interceptors and organic Army assets, including the SA-7/14, SA-8, SA-9/13, SA-16 missile systems, and the ZSU-23/4 self-propelled AAA system. In addition, the Iraqi air defense had more than 7,500 AAA pieces protecting all targets of value, some deployed on the roofs of numerous buildings in Baghdad housing government facilities. These weapons — 57-mm and 37-mm AAA pieces, ZSU-23/4 and ZSU-57/2 self-propelled AAA systems, and hundreds of 14.5-mm and 23-mm light antiaircraft weapons — formed the backbone of the integrated air defense network. In major high value target areas (such as Baghdad, airfields, chemical agent production complexes, and nuclear facilities) the combined arms air defense could prove lethal to aircraft operating below 10,000 feet.

The Iraqi air defense system was formidable, combining the best features of several systems. The multi-layered, redundant, computer- controlled air defense network around Baghdad was more dense than that surrounding most Eastern European cities during the Cold War, and several orders of magnitude greater than that which had defended Hanoi during the later stages of the Vietnam War. If permitted to function as designed, the air defense array was capable of effective protection of key targets in Iraq. In addition, the Iraqi system had IHAWK systems which were taken from Kuwait, this would give Allied planners some sleepless nights on how to attack this very well-designed US system.

Iraq Initial Attacks
Iraq ZSU-23-4 A Weasel Target to Protect Allied Helicopters
SA-3 Goa Missiles
SA-8 SAM System
The Threat for Today’s Wild Weasels

The threat for today’s Wild Weasels increasing complex and growing each day as both Russia and China build new SAM and radar guided AAA systems to try and counter the western capability in aircraft, precision, intelligence, and stealth. To match this capability Wild Weasels train against the most modern threats possible and the evolution of tactics (especially Joint operations) has gone through a maturation process. While facing down Russian systems in Syria and other places, the Weasels must still be capable of rendering assistant to troops engaged such as in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Russia has deployed several Air Defense and Command and Control systems to Syria and has gained much experience in that conflict. In addition to the S-300 and the S-400 they have built a defense in depth with long range, medium range and short range systems. The Russian military has deployed its Pantsir air defense system to the Qamishli Airport in northeastern Syria. The Pantsyr (Western reporting name SA-22 Greyhound) is a short-range air defense system. It was designed to protect strategic military and civil point targets. It was originally designed to meet requirements of Russian Air Defense Forces (PVO). The system can engage a wide variety of aerial targets, such as aircraft, helicopters, ballistic and cruise missiles, guided bombs, and UAVs.

SA-22 Short Range System
Russian SA-11
Russian S-300 Long Range System
Chinese Systems

The Chinese Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) consists of three core components—early warning, SAM systems, and airborne interceptors. China’s SAM systems include the HQ-16 which fills the critical gap between the short-range HQ-7 (15 km) and the long-range HQ-9 (200 km). Since the 1990’s China has sought to build an IADS capable of defeating Western aircraft.

Chinese HQ-16