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Magnum! The Wild Weasels in Desert Storm

 by Lt. Col. Braxton “Brick” Eisel and James A. Schreiner, Pen and Sword Books Ltd., England, 2009, $50.

 When Francis Gary Powers’ Lockheed U-2 spy plane was shot down by a Soviet surface-to-air missile, a new sort of air-to-ground war began that would resume in earnest over Vietnam when SAMs became a regular feature of North Vietnam’s air defenses. The threat became manifest on July 24, 1965, when an SA-2 SAM shot down a MacDonnell F-4C Phantom II. More losses followed, and in August the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, General John P. McConnell, directed Brig. Gen. Ken Dempster to come up with a solution to the SAM problem. It took the form of fighter-bombers fitted with specialized electronics as radar “ferrets” that would actively seek out SAM sites to destroy or at least neutralize them. The concept, which would come to be known as “Wild Weasel,” was applied in a succession of aircraft: the North American F-100F (Wild Weasel I), Republic F-105F (Wild Weasel II), F-105G (Wild Weasel III) and EF-4C (Wild Weasel IV).

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, during which SA-6s shot down one-third of the Israeli air force, the U.S. Air Force produced its ultimate SAM killer, the McDonnell-Douglas F-4G Wild Weasel V. In Magnum! “Brick” Eisel, a former Pentagon staff officer and author of Beaufighters in the Night: 417 Night Fighter Squadron USAAF, teams with Jim Schreiner, a retired Air Force major with more than 4,700 flying hours, to examine the F-4G’s record, alone or paired with a General Dynamics F-16, to penetrate Baghdad’s defensive ring of Soviet-installed SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery during Operation Desert Storm. The book is based on a journal Schreiner kept during his deployment to the Persian Gulf region for that operation, combined with records he collected. Eisel and Schreiner conclude that by modifying an outdated airplane, the Air Force succeeded in defeating the Soviet air defense system and taking some revenge for its losses in Vietnam.


Originally published in the May 2010 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.