Ukrainian Pilots are Flying Dangerous “Wild Weasel” Missions

Wes O'Donnell
6 min readJun 17, 2024

First pioneered by USAF fighter pilots in the Vietnam War, Wild Weasel missions were often dubbed “suicide missions” by some pilots.

An F-16 is flown by Alec “Bulldog” Spencer during a mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Feb. 14, 2019. (US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Raven) Public domain

The origins of this batsh*t crazy mission tactic

From March 1965 to November 1968, the US Air Force lost more than 922 aircraft when, as part of Operation Rolling Thunder, the USAF flew headfirst into a wall — the Soviet SA-2 SAM.

Rolling Thunder was a gradual, sustained aerial bombing campaign against North Vietnam.

But Russia’s infamous SA-2 Guideline SAM created one of the most effective air defenses ever faced by American military aviators up to that point — at least since the daylight bombing campaigns over Germany in World War II.

By 1967, North Vietnam had formed an estimated 25 SAM battalions (with six missile launchers each) which rotated among 150 sites.

With the assistance of the Soviet Union, the North Vietnamese had also integrated an early warning radar system of more than 200 facilities that covered the entire country, tracking incoming US raids, and then coordinating SAMs, anti-aircraft batteries, and MiGs to attack them.

This perilous bombing environment, and Soviet advancements in SAM missile technology…



Wes O'Donnell

US Army & US Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | +Democracy | +Human Rights