Real to Replica: Wild Weasels – Defense Suppression & Electronic Warfare Aircraft
This is the third volume of Phoenix Scale Publications Real to Replica series and focuses on “Wild Weasel” and other air defense suppression and electronic warfare aircraft.
While the suppression of enemy air defenses probably started as soon as ground forces realized they could shoot back at the aircraft that were bombing or harassing them, it did not really come into its own until the Vietnam war. In order to combat the ever increasingly sophisticated and deadly air defenses over North Vietnam, the United States Air Force created the “Wild Weasel” program. The United States Navy also realized that there was a need to address this problem but took a slightly different approach initially.
As noted by its name, the book focuses on the Air Force’s Wild Weasel aircraft – aircraft designed to seek out and destroy or suppress enemy air defenses. Initially the Air Force addressed the problem by modifying a number of two-seat F-100F aircraft with the addition of specialized sensors and pairing them with strike aircraft. Next came the EF-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel aircraft that we are all so familiar with. By the end of the Vietnam War, due to the dwindling numbers of Thunderchiefs, the Air Force had begun modifying F-4C Phantoms into EF-4C Wild Weasels. After the Vietnam War the Air Force continued its development of F-4 Wild Weasels, culminating in the F-4G Wild Weasel which served up through Desert Storm. With the retirement of the Phantom from the Air Force’s inventory, the Wild Weasel role was passed on to the F-16CG aircraft, which continues in that role today. The authors also include a brief discussion of the Air Force’s EB-66, EF-111A and EC-130 (“Compass Call”) electronic warfare aircraft.
Next the authors take a look at the United States Navy’s approach to defense suppression and electronic warfare. From the start the Navy’s emphasis was more on developing electronic warfare to deny the North Vietnamese’s ability to guide or direct their defenses. The authors discuss early Navy EW aircraft such as the Douglas AD-2/3/5Q Skyraider, the EF-10 Skyknight and the EA-6A Intruder, then move on to the stars of the Navy’s EW efforts, the EA-6B Prowler and the EA-18G Growler. The authors include a nice explanation of the evolution of the EA-6B’s systems over the years and the initial Growler systems.
There is a brief section looking at the early efforts at electronic warfare by the RAF and others in World War Two, followed by a short chapter discussing electronic warfare aircraft of the RAF (Valiant and Canberra) and the use of the Vulcan for SEAD in the Falkands campaign. Next is a brief examination of the use of the Tornado by the Royal Air Force, the German Air Force and the Italian Air Force. The authors also include a short one-page overview of some of the aircraft used by the Soviet Union and Russia in this role.
Each of these sections is lavishly illustrated with outstanding contemporary photographs of the actual aircraft in service. There are also five pages of color side profiles illustrating USAF and USN aircraft.
Next are a series of walkaround of preserved F-105G and F-4G and active examples of the EA-18 Growler, Tornado ECR (both Germany and Italy) and the EA-6B Prowler with wonderful detail photographs. This is followed by a couple of pages describing the AGM-88 HARM, AGM-45 Shrike (erroneously captioned as the AGM-65) and the AGM-78 Standard ARM missiles. Surprisingly there is nothing on the RAF ALARM missile as used by RAF Tornadoes.
The last section of the book consists of 7 model builds – two F-4G’s (1/32 & 1/48), two F-105G’s (1/48 & 1/72), one EA-6B (1/48) and two F-16CJ’s (1/32 & 1/48). Again, I was surprised not to see any Tornados or other European aircraft in this section. Most of the write-ups in the build section include discussions of the actual builds including construction tips, colors, markings and weathering. I picked up a couple of ideas I am looking forward to trying out on my next build. I would skip the build of the 1/32 F-16CJ as it includes none of these and reads more like a letter to the editor about model building in general.
Overall, I really like the concept of this series and I found the historical/background sections very interesting and helpful. I would like to have seen a bit more discussion of the non-United States suppression of enemy air defenses programs and especially a build or two of non-US aircraft included. With the documented use of AGM-88 HARMs by Ukrainian MiG-29’s and Su-27, hopefully there will be enough information in the future to do a second volume on non-US SEAD/EW efforts.
I really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it to anyone who has a kit of any of these aircraft in their stash.
Thank you to Phoenix Scale Publications for the review sample.