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12 May, 2024 21:18

Ukrainian military using US Vietnam War tactics – media

Kiev’s pilots have started to run so-called “wild weasel” missions first used by America against air defenses in Southeast Asia
Ukrainian military using US Vietnam War tactics – media

The Ukrainian Air Force is trying to adopt a decades-old American tactic to neutralize Russian air defenses in the ongoing conflict, Business Insider (BI) reported on Saturday. Dubbed ‘Project Wild Weasel,’ the US scheme involved high-risk missions in which pilots had to use their own planes as baits to lure out the enemy’s air defenses during the Vietnam War.

The strategy was used to suppress surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems by first tracing their radars and then striking them with bombs or missiles before they could lock onto the baiting US aircraft. Now, Ukrainian pilots are trying to mimic this approach by allowing the Russian systems to detect their aircraft before tracing their radar waves back to their source and hitting their presumed location with US-made AGM-88 HARM missiles.

Specifically designed to target an enemy’s radar, HARM missiles have been used by Kiev’s forces since the second half of 2022. It is unclear how many of this type of missile were supplied to Ukraine. In March, the Pentagon asked Congress to allocate at least $6.5 billion to replenish its stocks, which have been depleted after two years of constant weapons deliveries to Kiev, Bloomberg reported at the time. The list of weapons the US military said needed to be replaced included HARM missiles, among other weapon types.

The Ukrainian missions are still “very dangerous,” particularly for the “wild weasels” themselves, Frederik Mertens, a strategic analyst at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, told BI. He also described the Russian air defenses as the “key target” for Ukraine. “Ukrainians use all weapons, troops, and systems they have at their disposal to suppress and destroy Russian air defenses,” the analyst said, adding that Kiev’s pilots often “go far beyond the classic wild-weasel missions.”

The nation’s Air Force still has difficulties using Western-supplied missiles with its Soviet-era MIG-29 and Su-27 fighters, according to American officials. Last month, US Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante admitted to journalists that Kiev’s pilots have to rely on iPads to make their aircraft use Western arms.

It is unclear if the risky tactic has been effective. “Russian SAM operators quickly adapted their tactics,” Justin Bronk, a senior research fellow at the London-based think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), told BI. The HARM launches end up serving “a suppressive rather than a destructive purpose,” he added.

Russia’s military has not reported any significant harm to its air defenses inflicted by the Ukrainian military. Moscow’s forces have regularly reported shooting down HARM missiles and other Ukrainian projectiles throughout the conflict, with the latest instance on April 16.

The nation’s defense ministry has also repeatedly reported shooting down Ukrainian aircraft. In late March, three of Kiev’s close air support warplanes were destroyed in one day, according to one such report. In late April, the ministry said that the Russian troops had downed a Ukrainian fighter and another close air support aircraft in one week.