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  • 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.

     Updated: 5/2/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    "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.

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    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Wild Weasel Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1969
    Type: Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA)
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): McDonnell Douglas - USA
    Production Total: 116

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 2
    Length: 62.99 feet (19.2 meters)
    Width: 38.58 feet (11.76 meters)
    Height: 16.70 feet (5.09 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 28,274 lb (12,825 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 61,793 lb (28,029 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x General Electric J79-GE-17 afterburning turbojet engines developing 17,900 lb of thrust.

    Maximum Speed: 1,432 mph (2,305 kph; 1,245 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,612 miles (2,594 km)
    Service Ceiling: 58,750 feet (17,907 meters; 11.13 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 48,000 feet-per-minute (14,630 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    2 x AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles
    2 OR 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles.

    Other mission-specific weaponry included the AIM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, conventional drop bombs, cluster bombs, rocket pods and countermeasures pods. Fuel tanks could also be carried in place of ordnance.

    Global Operators / Customers

    Australia; West Germany; Greece; Japan; Iran; Israel; South Korea; Spain; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    XF4H-1 - Prototype Model Designation of which two produced.

    F4H-1F - Preproduction models fitted with General Electric J79-GE-2/2A engines generating 16,150 lbs; series would later become the F-4A model designation of which 45 produced.

    F4H-1 - Production Model Designation fitted with J79-GE-8 engines generating 17,000lbs standard thrust; series would later be redesignated as the F-4B model series.

    F-110A - Initial Production Designation for United States Air Force strike variant; redesignated as the F-4C model series.

    F-4A - Production Model Designation of redesignated F4H-1F preproduction model variant.

    F-4B - Redesignation of the F4H-1 model series; 649 produced.

    F-4C - Redesignation of F-110A for strike fighter role in the United States Air Force; fitted with J79-GE-15 powerplants; 635 produced.

    F-4D - USAF version of the United States Navy base F-4C model.

    F-4E - USAF model fitted with J79-GE-17 powerplants of which 1,405 models produced; featured improved radar systems, internal 20mm cannon and leading edge slats.

    F-4F - Air Superiority Model for West German export.

    F-4G - USAF "Wild Weasel" Radar-Suppression Role Model.

    F-4J - United States Navy Model fitted with J79-GE-10 engine series generating 17,900lbs of thrust; featured revised wing element and tail section assembly; 512 produced.

    F-4K - Royal Navy (United Kingdom) Export Model based on the F-4J but fitted with Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines of which 52 were produced.

    F-4M - Royal Air Force Export Model based on the F-4K model.

    F-4N - Modernization Conversion Model fitted with updated avionics and similar features based on the F-4B base model.

    F-4S - Modernization Conversion Model fitted with updated avionics and similar features based on the F-4J base model.

    RF-4B - United States Marine Corps Designation for Reconnaissance Variant.

    RF-4C - USAF Tactical Reconnaissance Variant of which 499 produced.

    Phantom 2000 - "Super Phantom" model produced by the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) based on the F-4E base model.

    FG.1 - British designation of the F-4K base model.

    FGR.2 - British designation of the F-4M model.