Category Archives: Military Aviation

First In, Last Out: the story of the SEAD missions flown by the F-105 in Vietnam

Here’s why Wild Weasel missions were among the most dangerous sorties flown in Southeast Asia.

During the Vietnam War the main threat to the strike packages was the V-750 (S-75) Dvinathe first effective Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM). Better known by the NATO designation SA-2 Guideline, the missile was developed in the mid 1950s and it was used to shoot down Gary Powers’ U-2 over the USSR in 1960 and Maj. Rudolph Anderson’s U-2 over Cuba in 1962.

North Vietnam began receiving SA-2s shortly after the start of Operation Rolling Thunder and on Jul. 24, 1965, a Guideline shot down a USAF F-4C, the first of 110 USAF aircraft lost to SAMs in Southeast Asia.
After its appearance, the SA-2 threatened to halt air operations over North Vietnam: in fact while flying low to avoid SAMs, fighter-bombers were more vulnerable to deadly anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire which forced them to jettison their bombs early or drop them inaccurately. Moreover,  the SA-2 sites were ringed with AAA, that made them even more dangerous to attack as proved by the U.S. aircraft losses suffered in the first strike against two SAM batteries conducted on Jul. 27, 1965, when 6 out of  46 F-105s involved in the mission, were shot down and many more damaged by AAA.
To suppress and destroy this threat, the U.S. Air Force countered with the courage and skill of the Wild Weasels, who not only flew some of the most dangerous missions in Southeast Asia but also became pioneers in Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) operations.

As we have already explained, the first Wild Weasel sorties were flown in the fall of 1965 and were planned around the “hunter-killer” concept by using two aircraft: one had to locate the enemy SAM batteries while the other had to physically destroy them.

The first, tasked to hunt the SAM airplane, was the F-100F while the killer aircraft was the F-105.  In January 1966 the two seat F-105F was chosen to replace the F-100F to improve the performance of both members of the team.





The Republic F-105 was designed to replace the company’s F-84F as a fighter-bomber for Tactical Air Command (TAC) and thanks to its avionics the Thunderchief possessed a high degree of all-weather capability. To serve as Wild Weasel, the “Thud” (as the F-105 was nicknamed by its aircrews) was fitted with the ATI (Applied Technologies Inc.) equipment that mainly relied on the RHAW (Radar Homing And Warning) device to monitor different radar frequencies. These aircraft were unofficially called EF-105Fs and officially designated F-105F WW-IIIs (with WW-III meaning Project Wild Weasel III).

To avoid the overflight of the target by the F-105F, the U.S. Air Force armed this variant of the Thunderchief with the anti-radiation AGM-45 Shrike missile: in fact, being a sort of stand-off weapon, the Shrike could be launched up to 10 miles from the target and, thanks to its high-speed, it had a flight time of less than sixty seconds. Despite all these features, as told by  Ted Spitzmiller in his book Century Series The USAF Quest for air supremacy 1950-1960, the Shrike had a kill rate of only 25 percent because of its small fragmentation warhead and a strike over the target was often required to destroy the rest of the complex after the AGM-45 attack had only damaged it.

Hunter-Killer USAF

The F-105F flew the first Iron Hand missions in the middle of the 1966. These missions were the most hazardous of the war because the Wild Weasels had to arrive in the target area before the strike force and stay until all strike aircraft had struck their target (hence their motto “First In, Last Out”) thus being exposed to enemy fire (MiGs, AAA and SAMs) longer than any others. The strike force was in and out as fast as possible while the Weasels had to hang around for extended periods of time.




After having flown as F-100F hunter pilot, Colonel Edward Rock flew the Iron Hand mission with the Thud. He recalls his first F-105F sortie in his book First In, Last Out: “My first combat mission on 11 July 1966…was unremarkable except it was the first time I had seen Radar Homing And Warning gear light up like a Christmas tree from all the radars trying to track and destroy us with real bullets and real missiles. In addition, each radar made its own particular sound. The SAM radar had a very distinctive aural signature that sounded like rattlesnake about to strike. The lights and noise were enough to scare the hell out of you.”

F-105 3 USAF

This impression is dramatically confirmed by the F-105F WW-III losses in the first month of missions: in fact, by July 1966, eleven Thuds were active on Vietnam, but within a month five were lost due to hostile action. This loss rate ensured that no pilot could complete a tour as Wild Weasel, made by 100 missions.

To reduce the losses, several improvements were introduced, such as the AGM-78 Standard missile with a 220 pounds warhead that could be fired against the target from a distance of 60 miles. But the most important feature was the introduction of the ALQ-101 ECM pod to reduce the effectiveness of the  radar-directed defenses: with this pod permanently mounted, the F-105F was designated F-105G.




Still, despite all these improvements, the Wild Weasel missions remained a risky business for the F-105 aircrews and some of them were awarded with the Medal of Honor because of the courage they showed in combat.

As happened to Merlyn Dethlefsen and his EWO (Electronic Warfare Officer) Mike Gilroy, in March 1967: “Despite being damaged by AAA their actions resulted in rendering ineffective the enemy defensive SAM and AAA sites in the target area and enabled the ensuring fighter-bombers to strike successfully the important industrial target without loss or damage to [those aircraft].”

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Image Courtesy of Mads Bangsø /


“Turkish Air Force F-16s ambushed the Su-24 Fencer”: here’s Russia’s version of the controversial shootdown

Here’s the Russian version of the Su-24 shootdown.

On Nov. 24, a Su-24M Fencer bomber was shot down by a TuAF F-16 near the Turkey-Syria border. The Turkish Air Force claims the Russian bomber violated the Turkish airspace after ignoring several radio warning issued by a GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) radar station.

Although the violation (the last in a series of alleged incursions) was extremely short (17 seconds) the intruding Su-24 was hit by an air-to-air missile and caught fire. Both crew members ejected: one died after being fired upon while descending towards the ground; the other one was rescued by a CSAR (Combat SAR) mission.

However, the Russian Air Force has a different version of the story.

Here’s the release by the Russian MoD (highlights mine):

“In the course of appearance of different versions concerning circumstances of the attack on the Russian Su-24M aircraft carried out by the Turkish F-16 fighter in the sky over Syria on November 24, the Russian Defence Ministry presents facts of this situation unprecedented in its disloyalty.

The accident happened on November 24. Combat loss of the Su-24M, tail number 83, was caused by fire engagement.

At 9.15 (MSK) it was assigned to carry out strike near Kepir-Motlu-Zahiya located in the north of Syria.

This task was assigned to two Su-24M aircraft crews, including one of pilot Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Captain Konstantin Murakhtin (aircraft number 83, with combat payload four OFAB-250-270 air bombs).

The crews were assigned to conduct combat air patrol near Maarrat al-Numan at flight levels of 5800 m and 5650 m correspondetly.

The aircraft took off from the Hmeymim airbase at 9:42.

At 9:52, the Su-24M entered detection zone of the Turkish Air Force radar means and was under their coverage in the course of 34 minutes.

After 20 minutes passed since the crew had entered its area of responsibility, the Command centre of the Hmeymim airbase ordered it to eliminate militants in the area.

The crews bombed two assigned targets and turned to the left to make another approach for destruction of two remaining targets.

As it was carrying out an airstrike at the target located 5.5 km to the south of the Turkish border, at 10:24 the crew led by Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov O.A. launched bombs at the target and was then downed by an “air-to-air” missile from an F-16 fighter of the Turkish Air Force, which had performed take-off from the Diyarbakir airfield of the 8th Air Brigade located in the territory Turkey.

During the analysis of video air situation display provided by the Command Centre of the Syrian Air Force and Air Defence, an aerial target was spotted, moving from Turkey in the direction of the state border at the speed of 810 kmph and with the heading of 190 degrees.

After the Turkish fighter approached the Su-24M at a range equal to the range of a missile launch (equal to 5-7 km, which proves that the F-16 was in the Syrian air space), it quickly maneuvered to the right, lowered, and disappeared from the display of the air situation display.

According to the objective monitoring data received from the air defence means, the Turkish jet remained in the Syrian air space for 40 seconds and dived 2 km into Syrian territory, while the Russian bomber did not cross the Turkish border.

The crew of the leading aircraft confirms the missile launch. After the launch and a left turn for heading 130 degrees, they observed a flash and a tail of white smoke, which he reported to the flight control officer.

At 10:25, the flight control officer registered that the mark from the Su-24M aircraft disappeared from the radars. The further requests and the requests of the leader crew of the Lieutenant Colonel Peshkov remained without answer.

The estimated time of arrival of an F-16 aircraft from the military airfield Dyabakyr from the stand-by position on the ground to the possible place of missile launch constitutes 46 minutes (15 minutes for preparation and take-off, 31 minutes – flight time needed to arrive at the firing point).

Thus, interception of a Su-24M aircraft from the stand-by position on the ground from the military airfield Dyabakyr is impossible as the necessary time for approaching the target exceeds the minimum time needed for attack by 12 minutes.

Objective monitoring data received from the Syrian radar stations confirmed the presence of two F-16’s in the duty zone from 9:11 till 10:26 min (for 1 h 15 min) at the altitude of 2400 metres, that shows that the operation was planned beforehand and the fighters were ready to attack from the air ambush over the territory of Turkey.

It is to be mentioned that the fighter aircraft stopped maneuvering in the duty zone an headed rapidly to the offset point 1 minute and 40 seconds before the maximum approach of the Su-24M aircraft to the Syrian-Turkish border. The method the F-16 aircraft entered the engagement zone (not by the curve of pursuit) shows that it was vectored from the ground.

Actions of the Turkish aircraft after launching of missiles over the territory of Syria ­- the wind-down turn with loss of altitude and going under the lower range line of the air defence means – also speaks for the fact that the perfidious crew’s actions were planned beforehand.

Objective monitoring data from the Hmeymim airbase and the leader aircraft did not register any request made by the crew of the Turkish aircraft to the Russian pilots on the pre-arranged frequency.

The readiness of the Turkish media to cover this incident is also surprising.

The strike with the “air-to-air” missile was made by a pilot of the F-16 aircraft of the Turkish Air Force at 10:24 and just in an hour and a half the video showing the falling warplane was published on the YouTube video hosting site by the Turkish private television company. The angle of the footage allows to define the possible place of recording. It is situated in the area controlled by the radical terrorist groupings consisting of people from the North Caucasus and the former republics of the USSR. The operator had known in advance the time and place, which would be the best for recording the exclusive footage.

Rapid appearance of militants’ groups in the landing area and publication of the video in the Internet just 1.5 hours after the accident show that the terrorists had been informed in advance about the prepared provocation for its videoing and publication of the materials in social media on the Internet.

All these facts clearly show the earlier preparation for downing of the aircraft and the coverage of those events using the Turkish Air Force, illegal armed groups and Turkish information agencies along with active support of the media.

Since the signing of the mutual understanding memorandum between the Russian Ministry of Defence and the Department of Defence of the USA on October 23, 2015, the Command of the Russian air group has undeviatingly taken all measures to prevent incidents between Russian military aircraft and warplanes belonging to the Coalition countries.

In accordance with these agreements, the Russian Air Force Command Centre at the Hmeymim airbase had informed representatives of the US Air Force concerning the engagement areas and echelons of a pair of Russian Su-24M bombers in advance.

That is why statements made by different officials from Turkey concerning that they had not identified the Russian aircraft are, at least, confusing.

Moreover, the Turkish military command has violated all articles and dispositions of the international law that regulates defence of the state border in the air space.

It is to be stressed that there were neither apologies, nor offers of help in positioning and evacuation of the downed crew received from the Turkish party after the tragedy happened.

In conclusion, it is necessary to touch upon the subject of the search-and-rescue operation conducted to evacuate the navigator, Captain Konstantin Murakhtin from the landing location .
First of all, the Command expresses its gratitude to all the members of the operation for their accurate, coordinated work, their tenacity and composure shown in the most difficult situation at night, surrounded by terrorists. Their work helped to bring the ejected navigator to the base.

As soon as Captain Murakhtin was safe, massive airstrikes were made by Russian aircraft and the Syrian rocket artillery on the area occupied by terrorists who had been actively searching for him.

In conclusion, it must be said that the Aerospace Forces Command is proud of its pilots, technicians, commanders, and maintenance personnel, which carry out combat missions to fight international terrorism in Syria.

The Command wishes to express its deepest condolences to the families of Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Peshkov and Private Alexander Pozynich, who lost his life rescuing the crew.

The families of the servicemen will not be left on their own and they will receive all required assistance.”

So, summing up, the Russian Air Force believes that the TuAF have established Combat Air Patrol (CAP) stations along the border (for years…) to ambush Russian (or Syrian) planes passing close by its F-16s.

Furthermore, it’s worth noticing that the entire “ambush” was monitored by the Syrian Air Defense and that, once again, the Russian MoD said that the F-16s did not make an attempt to radio the warning, but did not mention the GCI station that actually radioed the warnings.

Following the incident, Ankara said that the warnings, on a dedicated mutually agreed radio channel and the international Guard (emergency) channel (243.0/121.5 MHz – that the Su-24M is not able to monitor with the current radio equipment), were not answered by the Russian plane that continued to fly towards the Turkish airspace, leading the Turkish Air Force to believe the intruding aircraft was not Russian but Syrian.

In the meanwhile, Moscow has deployed the S-400 air defense system at Latakia, moved the Moskva guided-missile cruiser off the airbase and decided to escort its bombers with the Su-30SM Flankers.

Image credit: Russia MoD

The Turkish Air Force suspends flights over Syria amid crisis with Russia over Su-24 downing

The Turkish Air Force is no longer supporting the air war on ISIS.

According to  Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, the Turkish Air Force has suspended the missions over Syria of its aircraft supporting the international air campaign against ISIS.

This is the effect of the unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Moscow sparked by the downing of the Russian Su-24 Fencer bomber by a TuAF F-16 after the alleged and controversial violation of the Turkish airspace on Nov. 24.

According to the Turkish authorities, the Su-24 violated Ankara’s airspace (for 17 seconds) and did not respond to 10 warnings in 5 minutes, radioed by a TuAF GCI (Ground Controlled Intercept) station while the aircraft, along with another one of the same type approached the border. Russian authorities deny this report and claim no warning was issued by the Turkish and no violation occurred at all.

Following the incident, the TuAF said that the warnings, on a dedicated mutually agreed radio channel and the international Guard (emergency) channel (243.0/121.5 MHz), were not answered by the Russian plane that continued to fly towards the Turkish airspace, leading the Turkish Air Force to believe the intruding aircraft was not Russian but Syrian.

One of the Su-24 pilots was killed by fire from the ground after successfully ejecting from the plane in flames whereas the second pilot was rescued in a 12-hour-long operation

Actually, according to the Turkish media outlet, the decision was mutual and aimed at preventing the repetition of the incident along the border: on one side, TuAF jets will no longer take part in the air war on Islamic State, on the other one, the Russians will halt their raids near the Syria-Turkey border.

In the meanwhile, Moscow has deployed the S-400 air defense system at Latakia air base as the following video shows.


Interesting video shows Il-78 tankers refueling a Tu-160 strategic bomber over the Caspian Sea

Watch this Il-78M Midas refueling a Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bomber over the Caspian Sea.

As we have already explained, beginning on Nov. 17 the Russian Air Force Strategic Bomber fleet, has started pounding Islamic State (as well as rebel forces) in Syria.

On Nov. 20, for the first time ever, two Blackjacks carried out a 13,000km round trip war mission taking off from a deployment base in Kola Peninsula: they flew off Norway and UK, around western Europe, entered the Mediterranean Sea via Gibraltar and, after meeting the Su-30SMs departed from Latakia, launched some ALCMs (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) against terrorist targets in Syria. Then, they entered the Syrian airspace and returned home via the eastern corridor: Iraq-Iran-Caspian Sea.

Two Il-78M tankers were also part of the mission supporting the strike force refueling the Tu-160s on their way back home.



Russia deploys S-400 and moves guided-missile cruiser off Latakia to protect its jets near Turkish border

After the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24, Moscow has decided to deploy some air defense systems to western Syria.

Following the downing of a Russian Su-24 by the Turkish Air Force on Nov. 24, that caused the death of one pilot (the other one was rescued and brought back to Latakia on the following day) Moscow has decided to put in place some new measures to protect its air group operating in northwestern Syria.

First of all, all the Russian attack planes will be escorted by Su-30SM Flankers during their missions against ground targets in Syria (previously, they operated without air cover).

Second, Moscow has decided to deploy at least one S-400 SAM battery to Latakia, to protect its planes from aerial threats in a range of 250 miles. As explained in a previous post about this air defense system, the S-400 (SA-21 “Growler” according to the NATO designation) is believed to be able to engage all types of aerial targets including VLO (Very-Low Observable) aircraft within the range of about 400 km at an altitude of nearly 19 miles.

Third, Russia has already moved the Moskva guided-missile cruiser off the coast of Latakia. Equipped with early warning systems and outfitted with 8 S-300F Fort anti-air systems with a range of 90 km and ceiling at 25,000 mt. Actually, the cruiser has been operating in the eastern Mediterranean to provide cover to the Russian air forces in Syria since Sept. 30.

The following infographic, prepared by @Naval_Graphics, details most of the weapon and sensor systems aboard the Slava-class cruiser.

Needless to say, with all the air defense systems amassing in the area, the 18 Turkish Air Force F-16s currently on CAP (Combat Air Patrol) station at the Syrian border, while the Russian jets conduct airstrikes in the Turkmen mountains (more or less in the same area where Su-24 pilots ejected yesterday), have something more to be worried about.

Moskva info full

Image credit: @Naval_Graphics