McDonnell Douglas F-4 Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA)
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II made up the basis for the F-4 Wild Weasel radar hunter.
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"Wild Weasel" was a concept tied to various aircraft serving the United States military in the Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) role. These aircraft were specifically outfitted with equipment to detect Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) threats and neutralize them - typically with anti-radiation missiles. The series began in 1965 as "Wild Weasel I" during the Vietnam War with North American F-100 Super Sabres and Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and graduated to "Wild Weasel II" and its McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II and Republic F-105F Thunderchief platforms. To generate better success from the approach, the F-4C Phantom II was tried again, resulting 36 conversions from standard fighters for "Wild Weasel IV". With the arrival of the F-4E and - principally - the F-4G Phantom II marks, this shifted to "Wild Weasel V".
In practice, these specialized aircraft accompanied conventional attack aircraft and scanned for SAM threats. This proved a vital role in the skies over North Vietnam where Soviet-originated SAM systems consistently scanned the skies for inbound threats. Once detected, these ground-based units would launch several missiles at the target or targets in the hopes of destroying them. Wild Weasel hunts were typically hair-raising and lethal mission types for American airmen as they led the way as sacrificial lambs of sorts in an effort to clear the path for the incoming bomber herds. One of the most potent SAM systems fielded by the NVA was the SA-2 "Guideline" - a telephone-pole-length missile with a large warhead and Mach-speeds. Between the speed of the incoming Wild Weasel and the missile there proved just seconds to react in most cases.
Some thirty-six F-4C models were converted by the USAF to the "Wild Weasel IV" standard for service in the Vietnam War and armed with 2 x AGM-45 "Shrike" anti-radiation missiles along underwing hardpoints. These weapons worked in conjunction with an ER-142/ALR-53 receiver and AN/ALQ-119 ECM pod used to track signals outputted by scanning enemy radars. The aircraft were put to the test in 1969 yielding mixed results.
In the post-war years, the F-4G model formed the basis of a new breed of Wild Weasel through the "Wild Weasel V" standard. The F-4G Wild Weasels were now based on the improved F-4G airframe, the Phantom regarded by many as one of the finest combat aircraft ever to fly. Though outwardly similar to their conventional combat brethren, the Phantom Wild Weasels initially lost their internal cannon for close-in work. The compartment was used for fitting the AN/APR-38(t) Radar Homing and Warning Receiver (RHWR) system which was later upgraded to the APR-47 series. The regular F-4G Phantoms were themselves born from F-4E conversions and were first flown on December 6th, 1975 - just missing out on service in the Vietnam War. First squadrons were formed for 1978.