Air supremacy

Air supremacy is a degree of air superiority where a side holds complete control of air warfare and air power over opposing forces. They are levels of control of the air in warfare. Control of the air is the aerial equivalent of command of the sea.

Air power has increasingly become a powerful element of military campaigns; military planners view having an environment of at least air superiority as a necessity. Air supremacy allows increased bombing efforts, tactical air support for ground forces, paratroop assaults, airdrops and simple cargo plane transfers, which can move ground forces and supplies. Air power is a function of the degree of air superiority and numbers or types of aircraft, but it represents a situation that defies black-and-white characterization. NATO forces in air superiority over Kosovo have lost a stealth strike aircraft to an "obsolete"[1] Serbian air defense system, and primitive An-2 biplanes (less visible to radar than metal planes) were considered for some time a serious capability of the Korean People's Air Force in North Korea.

The degree of a force's air control is a zero-sum game with its opponent's; increasing control by one corresponds to decreasing control by the other. Air forces unable to contest for air superiority or air parity can strive for air denial, where they maintain an operations level conceding air superiority to the other side, but preventing it from achieving air supremacy.

Friendly Forces Opposing Forces
Air supremacy Air incapability
Air superiority Air denial
Air parity Air parity
Air denial Air superiority
Air incapability Air supremacy

Levels

  • Air supremacy is the highest level, where a side holds complete control of the skies. It is defined by NATO and the United States Department of Defense as the "degree of air superiority wherein the opposing air force is incapable of effective interference."[2][3][4]
  • Air superiority is the second level, where a side is in a more favorable position than the opponent. It is defined in the NATO glossary as the "degree of dominance in [an] air battle ... that permits the conduct of operations by [one side] and its related land, sea and air forces at a given time and place without prohibitive interference by opposing air forces."[3]
  • Air parity is the lowest level of control, where a side only holds control of skies above friendly troop positions.

Methods

Although the destruction of enemy aircraft in air-to-air combat is the most glamorous aspect of air superiority, it is not the only method of obtaining air superiority. Historically, the most effective method of gaining air superiority is the destruction of enemy aircraft on the ground and the destruction of the means and infrastructure by which an opponent may mount air operations (such as destroying fuel supplies, cratering runways with anti-runway penetration bombs and the sowing of air-fields with area denial weapons). A historical example of this is Operation Focus in which the outnumbered Israeli Air Force dealt a crippling blow to the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian Air Forces and airfields at the start of the Six-Day War, achieving Israeli air supremacy.

Disruption can be carried out through ground and air attack. On 6 December 1944, the Imperial Japanese Raiding Group Teishin Shudan destroyed B-29 aircraft on Leyte. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union claimed it could achieve air superiority despite the inferiority of its fighters, by over-running NATO airfields and parking their tanks on the runways, similar to what they have done during Tatsinskaya Raid during the Battle of Stalingrad (note the Germans used parts of their autobahn motorways as airfields during the last war). The Soviet Union planned to use its Spetsnaz special forces in attacks on NATO airfields in the event of conflict.

Attack by special forces is seen by some commanders as a way to level the playing field when faced by superior numbers or technology; attacking German aircraft and airfields was the main role which the British Special Air Service was formed for. Given the disparity in effectiveness between their own and South Korean and US fighters, North Korea maintains a large force of infiltration troops. In the event of a war, they would be tasked, amongst other missions, with attacking coalition airfields with mortar, machine gun and sniper fire, possibly after insertion by some 300 An-2 low radar-observable biplanes. Even in today's era of asymmetrical warfare, 15 fedayeen destroyed or severely damaged 8 Marine Harrier jump jets in the September 2012 Camp Bastion raid, with pilots fighting as infantry for the first time in 70 years.[5]

World War I

During the First World War, air superiority on the Western Front changed hands between the Germans and the Allies several times. Periods of German air superiority included the Fokker Scourge of late 1915 to early 1916, and Bloody April (April 1917).

The Italian Corpo Aeronautico Militare established air superiority over the Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto (late October 1918). The defeat suffered by Austria-Hungary in the battle caused the dissolution of the empire.[6]

Interwar period

In 1921, Italian aerial warfare theorist Giulio Douhet published The Command of the Air, a book positing that future wars would be decided in the skies. At the time, mainstream military theory did not see air power as a war-winning tactic. Douhet's idea that air power could be a decisive force and be used to avoid the long and costly War of Attrition was influential although later events proved him wrong in many details. In The War of 19, Douhet theorized that a future war between Germany and France would be settled in a matter of days, as the winner would be the one to gain air supremacy and destroy a few enemy cities with aerial bombs. (The targets would be announced ahead of time and all the population evacuated.) That would terrorize citizens into pressuring their government into immediate surrender. At the beginning of World War II, Douhet's ideas were dismissed by some, but it became apparent that his theories on the importance of aircraft were supported by events as the war continued.

In 1925, the Royal Air Force (RAF) tested the ability of air supremacy in isolation from other warfare forms during their first independent action in Waziristan. The operation, that later came to be known as Pink's War after Wing Commander Richard Pink in charge, used only air warfare in a combination of air attack and air blockade over 54 days to force militant tribes to surrender. The campaign was successful in defeating the tribes with two deaths for the RAF, but contemporary critics were not entirely convinced of its use in isolation; Commander-in-Chief, India General Sir Claud Jacob stated that "satisfactory ... the results of these operations have been, I am of [the] opinion that a combination of land and air action would have brought about the desired result in a shorter space of time, and next time action has to be taken, I trust that it will be possible to employ the two forces in combination."[7]

Ostfriesland-2,000lb-bomb
A 2,000 lb. bomb "near-miss" severely damages Ostfriesland at the stern hull plates in the Project B demonstration of naval air power

American general Billy Mitchell was another influential air power theorist of the inter-war period. After World War I, then-Assistant Chief of Air Service in the United States Army Air Service under Chief Mason Patrick, Mitchell arranged live fire exercises that proved that aircraft could sink battleships (the largest and most heavily armed class of warships). The first of these was Project B in 1921, in which the captured German World War I battleship, SMS Ostfriesland, was sunk by a flight of bombers in 22 minutes.

Mitchell's ideas were not popular, with his outspoken opposition to Army and Navy resistance resulting in a court-martial that precipitated his resignation,[8] but he would prove prescient; his 1924 inspection tour of Hawaii and Asia culminated in a report (published in 1925 as the book Winged Defense) that predicted future war with Japan, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.[9] He would also go on to influence air power advocates such as Russian-American Alexander P. de Seversky, whose 1942 New York Times bestselling book, Victory Through Air Power, was made into a 1943 Walt Disney animated film that opened with a quote from Mitchell; the film is reported to have been influentially shown by Winston Churchill to Franklin D. Roosevelt in support of long-range bombing.[10]

World War II

At the beginning of World War II, the main sides took different views on the importance of air power. Adolf Hitler saw it as a helpful tool to support the German Army, in an approach dubbed "flying artillery". The Allies saw it, specifically long-range strategic bombing, as being a more important part of warfare which they believed capable of crippling Germany's industrial centers.

After the Battle of France, the German air force (Luftwaffe) achieved air supremacy over Western Europe. The Battle of Britain represented a concerted attempt by Germany to establish air superiority over Britain, which it never achieved. Through home-territory advantage and Germany's failure to push home its strategy of targeting Britain's air defenses, Britain was able to establish air superiority over the territory – a superiority that it never lost. It denied the German military air superiority over the English Channel, making a seaborne invasion (planned as Operation Sea Lion) impossible in the face of Britain's naval power. Strategically, the overall situation at home and abroad at the end of the battle might be considered air parity between Britain and Germany. After the air battle, known as the Battle of Britain, the Germans switched to a strategy of night bombing raids, which Britain echoed with raids over Germany.

During Operation Barbarossa, the Luftwaffe initially achieved air supremacy over the Soviet Union. As the war dragged on, the United States joined the fight and the combined Allied air forces gained air superiority and eventually supremacy in the West. (For example, the Luftwaffe mustered 391 aircraft to oppose over 9,000 allied aircraft on D-day.) Russia did the same on the Eastern Front, meaning the Luftwaffe could not effectively interfere with Allied land operations. Achieving total air superiority allowed the Allies to carry out ever-greater strategic bombing raids on Germany's industrial and civilian centers (including the Ruhr and Dresden), and to prosecute the land war successfully on both the Eastern and Western fronts. Following the Big Week attacks in late February 1944, the new 8th Air Force commander Jimmy Doolittle permitted P-51 Mustangs to fly far ahead of the bomber formations instead of closely escorting them starting in March 1944. This commenced in March 1944 and was part of a massive "fighter sweep" tactic to clear German skies of Luftwaffe fighters. Allied planes went after the German fighters wherever they could be found and substantially lowered bomber losses for their side for the rest of the war over Western Europe.

Bott4
361st Fighter Group P-51D Mustangs of the Eighth Air Force heading out on an air supremacy mission over Nazi Germany

The element of air superiority has been the driving force behind the development of aircraft carriers, which allow aircraft to operate in the absence of designated air bases. For example, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was carried out by aircraft operating from carriers thousands of miles away from the nearest Japanese air base.

Some fighter aircraft specialized in combating other fighters, while interceptors were originally designed to counter bombers. Germany's most important air superiority fighters were the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190, while the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane were the primary ones on the British side. Performance and range made the P-51 Mustang the outstanding escort fighter which permitted American bombers to operate over Germany during daylight hours. They shot down 5,954 aircraft, more than any other American fighter in Europe. In the Pacific Theater, the A6M Zero gave Japan air superiority for much of the early part of the war, but suffered against newer naval fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair which exceeded the Zero in performance and durability. The Hellcat shot down 5,168 enemy aircraft (the second highest number), while the land-based Lockheed P-38 was third, shooting down 3,785 in all theaters.[11]

After World War II

Cold War

During the Cold War between 1946 and 1991 the US, UK, and NATO allies faced the USSR and its allies and were engaged in an arms race of improving radar and fighter intercept capability versus the threat of intercontinental strategic bombers carrying nuclear weapons. Initially, high altitude, later combined with high supersonic speeds, was hoped to keep nuclear bombers out of range of fighters and later surface to air missiles, both of which were sometimes equipped with nuclear warheads. In the 1960 U-2 incident an American very high altitude spy plane was shot down over the USSR with a S-75 Dvina(SA-2) long range high altitude surface to air missile largely refuting the concept of high altitude as a refuge for high-performance bomber aircraft. US training changed to low altitude flight of bombers and unpiloted cruise missiles in the hopes of avoiding ground-based air defense radar networks by hiding in with ground clutter and terrain, thwarting attempts at air supremacy over the enemy landmass. Nuclear missiles were also introduced and were very difficult and expensive to intercept even with nuclear-armed defensive missiles. Airborne early warning and control flying radar aircraft as well as look down shoot down radar in fighter and interceptor aircraft allowed engaging low flying invaders again tipping the balance though this was partly ameliorated by succeeding generations of electronic countermeasures. Ultimately the US lead the way in first applying stealth technology to small strike aircraft like the F-117 and stealthy nuclear cruise missiles carried in conventional bombers for standoff release before the air defenses got too thick. The Soviet Union invested heavily in expensive to defeat intermediate and intercontinental range nuclear missiles and less on expensive to maintain patrol bombers, though they had to spend heavily on interceptors and surface to air missiles as well as radar sites to cover the huge landmass of the Soviet Union. The US joined with Canada to organize defense of the area of Alaska, Canada, and the continental US with North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD using both interceptors, some armed with the nuclear AIR-2 Genie, and a surface to air missile component, which was at one point partly nuclearized. Development for the B-2 stealth bomber was intended for, and in anticipation of, a nuclear war and it was the first fully mature stealth aircraft to enter service. The F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter was a stealth fighter and interceptor aircraft designed during the Cold War as a medium altitude air superiority fighter which was intended to destroy Warsaw Pact aircraft without ever being detected or engaged; both were introduced after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Air superiority in the feared Cold War era WW-III European theater would include fighters intercepting or diverting nuclear and conventionally armed strike aircraft and ground-based air defences some of which were developed into mobile systems which could accompany and protect armored and mechanized formations.

While the Cold War never went hot directly between NATO and Warsaw Pact alliances, the US was engaged in two major limited air wars aiding allies who faced Soviet supported enemies with both sides using weaponry designed to fight WW-III; the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Korean War

94th Fighter Squadron - F-15 - Langley
A United States Air Force F-15C Eagle air superiority fighter

In the Korean War, the swept-wing jet-powered MiG-15 quickly outclassed initial superiority of United Nations forces. The United States introduced its own swept-wing F-86 Sabre, which claimed kill ratios as high as 10 to 1 against the MiGs. The Grumman F9F Panther, the mainstay for the USN during the war, was a straight wing carrier-based jet; it had a good showing, even having a 7:2 kill ratio against the more powerful Mig-15.

Vietnam War

During the Vietnam war the US side, especially over the north, had restrictive rules of engagement often requiring visual identification nullifying the advantage they would have had using beyond visual range missiles though possibly avoiding friendly fire due to IFF systems not being ubiquitous on US strike aircraft. In the 1950s, the United States Navy tasked the F-8 Crusader, known affectionately as the "Last Gun Fighter" as their close-in air superiority fighter. This role would be taken over by the F-4 Phantom, which was designed as a missile armed interceptor. The USAF had developed the F-100 and F-104 as air superiority fighters, though by the Vietnam war had already phased out the F-100 from all but air support missions and the fast but slow turning F-104 allegedly deterred attacks and despite losses scored no victories in air combat but in the USAF was also replaced by the F-4 by 1967. Especially under the rules of engagement imposed on them the 'Century Series" aircraft initially specifically designed for intercepting heavy nuclear bombers or delivering tactical nuclear weapons were found to be wanting when they were engaged by the very agile fighters Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 and Shenyang J-6 provided to the VPAF by the USSR and PRC; the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 while less agile was formidable against the F-4 and traded range for very high performance. This imbalance lead to the USAF ordering variants of the F-4 with an internal 20mm gun, and both the USAF and USN sometimes flying with centerline gun pods on aircraft not equipped with an internal gun.

In the 1960s, the limited agility of American fighters in dogfights over Vietnam led to a revival of dedicated air superiority fighters, which led the development of the "Teen Series" F-14, F-15, F-16 and F/A-18. All of them made close-combat manoeuvrability a top priority, and were equipped with guns absent from early Phantoms.[12] The heavy F-14 and F-15 were assigned the primary air superiority mission, because of their longer range radars and capability to carry more missiles of longer range than lightweight fighters.

Arab–Israeli wars

From 1948, when Israel reestablished independence from a protective League of Nations mandatory regime managed by the UK, the neighbouring countries have, to varying degrees, disputed the legitimacy of a Jewish state in a majority Arab region. Some neighbouring states have in the last few decades recognized and signed peace treaties; all have ceased large scale conventional warfare to overrun Israel in large part due to an increasing ability to impose Israeli air supremacy over the region's airspace when required.

1948 war

The Israeli Air Force formed in 1948 with the formation of the modern State of Israel. Israel was involved in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War immediately after the end of the British administration and occupation. The air force initially consisted of mainly donated civil aircraft, a variety of obsolete and surplus ex-World War II combat-aircraft were quickly sourced by various means to supplement this fleet. Creativity and resourcefulness were the early foundations of Israeli military success in the air, rather than technology which, at the inception of the IAF, was generally inferior to that used by Israel's adversaries. In light of the complete Arab theater air supremacy, and the bombing and shelling of existing airbases, the first Israeli military-grade fighters operated from a hastily constructed makeshift airbase around the current Herzliya Airport, with fighters dispersed between the trees of an orange orchard.[13][14] As the war progressed, more and more Czech, US, and British surplus WW-II aircraft were procured, leading to a shift in the balance of power.

1956 war

In 1956, Israel, France, and the UK invaded the Sinai after Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships in the Suez Crisis. Israel's new French-made Dassault Mystere IV jet fighters provided air cover for the paratroop transport aircraft. The Egyptian tactic was to use their new Soviet-made MiG-15 jets as fighter escorts, while their older jets conducted strikes against Israeli troops and vehicles.[15] In air combat, Israeli aircraft shot down between seven and nine Egyptian jets[15] with the loss of one plane,[16] but Egyptian strikes against the ground forces continued through to 1 November.[17] With the attack by the British and French air forces, President Nasser ordered his pilots to disengage to bases in Southern Egypt. The Israeli Air Force was then free to strike Egyptian ground forces at will.

1967 war

6dayswar1
Israeli Air Force officers next to a destroyed Egyptian MiG-21 at Bir Gifgafa

In 1967, the Straits of Tiran were again closed and international peacekeepers were ejected by Egypt. Israel then initiated Operation Focus. Israel sent nearly every capable combat aircraft out against the vastly larger Egyptian Air Force, holding only four for protection. Egyptian airfields were destroyed with anti-runway penetration bombs and the aircraft were mostly destroyed on the ground; Syria and Jordan also had their air forces destroyed when they entered the conflict. This is one of the preeminent examples of a smaller force seizing air supremacy where Israel had complete control of the skies above the entire conflict area.

War of Attrition

Following the Six-Day War, from 1967 to 1970, there were small scale incursions into the Israeli-held Sinai desert as Egypt rearmed. This evolved into large-scale artillery and air incursions in 1969, with Soviet pilots and SAM crews arriving to assist in January 1970. The strategy was to engage Israeli aircraft in surprise fighter encounters near the Suez Canal where Egyptian SAMs could be used to assist fighters. Syrian, North Korean, and Cuban pilots assisting also suffered losses in this period. In August 1970, a cease-fire was agreed on.

1973 war

The first few days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War saw major Arab ground breakthroughs, surprising Israel who, after its lopsided 1967 victory, considered its air supremacy sufficient to blunt or dissuade any conventional attack. Despite Egypt and Syria having rebuilt their air forces since 1967, Israel continued to deny them the airspace over the battle area; however, these Arab forces were able to control losses and shoot down Israeli air support aircraft by employing mobile surface to air weaponry which travelled along with invading units. Most of Israel's air power in the first few days was directed to reinforce the badly mismatched garrison overlooking the besieged Golan Heights which was under attack by Syria. After weakening the Arab SAM cover with airstrikes, commando raids, and armored cavalry, the Arab armored units outran their mobile SAM cover and Israeli aircraft began to take greater control of Egyptian skies, permitting Israeli landings and establishing a beachhead on the west bank of the Suez canal. When Egyptian fighter aircraft were sent into the area of the Israeli bridgehead, SAM sites were offlined which allowed Israeli air power to more safely engage and destroy many Egyptian fighters though taking some losses.

1978 Lebanon conflict

The 1978 South Lebanon conflict was an invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River, carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in 1978 in response to the Coastal Road massacre. Israel had complete air supremacy.

1982 Lebanon invasion

In the 1982 Lebanon War where Israel invaded up to Beirut, Syria intervened on the side of Lebanon and the PLO forces residing there. Israeli jets shot down between 82[18] and 86 Syrian aircraft in aerial combat, without losses.[19][20] A single Israeli A-4 Skyhawk and two helicopters were shot down by anti-aircraft fire and SAM missiles.[18][19][20] This was the largest aerial combat battle of the jet age with over 150 fighters from both sides engaged. Syrian claims of aerial victories were met with skepticism even from their Soviet allies.[21] The Soviets were so shaken by the staggering losses sustained by their allies that they dispatched the deputy head of their air defense force to Syria to examine how the Israelis had been so dominant.[22]

The Israelis have upheld substantial air superiority for most of this time with Israel able to operate almost unopposed; Israel held near air supremacy against targets anywhere within range in the Middle East and North Africa until today. Regarding aircraft procurement, Israel started with British and French designs, then transitioning to indigenous production and then also design before moving again to purchasing to American designs. The Arabs directly participating in these battles against Israel except for Jordan and, to some extent, Iraq have commonly used Soviet designs.

Syrian Civil War

Israel has upheld air superiority through the Syrian Civil War.[23] However, the deployment of a Russian S-400 missile battery into Syria has brought Israeli dominance into question.[24] During the February 2018 Israel–Syria incident, despite the loss of an aircraft, Israel has demonstrated their capability to operate without effective interference within the Syrian theater.[25]

1980s to present

F-35A flight (cropped)
A United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation stealth-fighter aircraft

In the 1980s, the United States opted for a newer fighter capable of gaining air superiority without being detected by an opposing force. The US government approved the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, resulting in the United States Air Force receiving new aircraft to replace their aging F-15 fleet. The YF-23 and the YF-22 were chosen as the finalists in the competition. The F-22, the subsequent result of the program, became operational in 2005, and has been dubbed the "fifth generation" of fighter aircraft.

In the Falklands War (2 April–20 June 1982),[26][27] the British deployed Harrier jets as air superiority fighters against Argentina's Mach-capable Dassault Mirage IIIEA fighters and subsonic Douglas A-4 Skyhawk jets.[28]

The Iraqi Air Force suffered almost complete obliteration in the opening stages of the Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991). It lost most of its aircraft, as well as command-and-control capability, to precise Coalition strikes or when Iraqi personnel flew their aircraft to Iran. The Iraqis shot down relatively small numbers of opposing Coalition aircraft.

Anthony Cordesman wrote of NATO's theater air supremacy during its 1999 intervention in the Kosovo War of 1998–1999.[29] According to several reports, including reports by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that quote Russian sources, the Russian Federation has in recent decades formulated explicit strategies for utilizing tactical nuclear weapons. These new strategies have in part resulted from the assumption of obtaining air supremacy and use by the U.S. Air Force of precision munitions with little collateral damage in the Kosovo conflict in what amounted to quick mass destruction of military assets once only possible with nuclear weapons or massive bombing against fellow Slavic Serbians; it also assumed that Russia and its allies do not have the strategic economic capacity of current NATO and allied nations to meet this threat with conventional weapons. In response Vladimir Putin, then secretary of the Security Council of Russian Federation, developed a concept of using both tactical and strategic nuclear threats and strikes to de-escalate or cause an enemy to disengage from a conventional conflict threatening what Russia considered a strategic interest. This concept was formalized when Putin took power in Russia in the following year.[30][31][32]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "The conduct of the air campaign", North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) official website (Retrieved 26 July 2013)
  2. ^ "Chapter 13: Air Power Definitions and Terms" (PDF). AP 3000: British Air and Space Power Doctrine. Royal Air Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  3. ^ a b "AAP-06 Edition 2013: NATO Glossary of Terms and Definitions" (PDF). NATO. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  4. ^ "air supremacy". Joint Publication 1-02, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms 08 November 2010 (amended through 15 April 2013). Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 21 September 2012. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  5. ^ Timperlake, Ed (21 September 2012). "Tribute To Camp Bastion Fallen; Taliban Targeted Harriers, Their 'Biggest Threat'". AOL Defense. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  6. ^ Franks et al. 1997, pp. 111–113.
  7. ^ "No. 33104". The London Gazette (Supplement). 20 November 1925. p. 7595.
  8. ^ Colonel Meilinger, Phillip S. (USAF). "Billy Mitchell". Maxwell AFB. American Airpower Biography. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  9. ^ Clodfelter, Mark A. (1997). "Molding Air Power Convictions: Development and Legacy of William Mitchell's Strategic Thought". In Melinger, Phillip S. (ed.). The Paths of Heaven: The Evolution of Air Power Theory (PDF). Alabama: Air University Press. pp. 79–114.
  10. ^ Lawrence, John S.; Jewett, Robert (2002). The Myth of the American Superhero. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 190–191. ISBN 0-8028-4911-3.
  11. ^ "WWII US Aircraft Victories". Warbirds and Airshows. 11 June 1944. Archived from the original on 14 November 2013. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  12. ^ Flight International Magazine described the F-14 in 1969 as an "air superiority fighter".
  13. ^ "המרכז הבינתחומי – הבסיס שעשה היסטוריה – וואלה! חדשות". 15 March 2017. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  14. ^ "How Nazi Fighter Planes Saved Israel War Is Boring, 2016-15-08". Archived from the original on 7 September 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  15. ^ a b Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars, p. 138 Random House, (1982)
  16. ^ Nordeen, Lon Fighters Over Israel London 1991, p. 198
  17. ^ Bishop, Chris ed. The Aerospace Encyclopedia of Air Warfare Volume Two: 1945 to the present Aerospace Publishing London 1997, pp. 148–153, ISBN 1-874023-88-3
  18. ^ a b Rabinovich, p. 510
  19. ^ a b Herzog & Gazit, pp. 347–348
  20. ^ a b Walker, pp. 162–63
  21. ^ Hurley, Matthew M. "The Bekaa Valley Air Battle". Airpower Journal (Winter 1989). Archived from the original on 23 September 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  22. ^ Rabinovich, p. 510–511
  23. ^ "IDF may need to alter its Syrian air strategy, but not because of a downed F-16". Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  24. ^ "Israel's air superiority clouded by new Russian missiles in Syria". Times of Israel. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  25. ^ David M. Halbfinger (11 February 2018). "Israel's Clash With Iran and Syria: 5 Takeaways". New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  26. ^ "UK | Falklands war timeline". BBC News. 27 March 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  27. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 14 | 1982: Ceasefire agreed in Falklands". BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  28. ^ "Shropshire – Shropshire TV – Shawbury's farewell to Sea Harriers". BBC. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  29. ^ Cordesman, Anthony H. (2001). The Lessons and Non-lessons of the Air and Missile Campaign in Kosovo. Praeger Security International. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 203. ISBN 9780275972301. Retrieved 18 June 2018. NATO forces rapidly achieved air supremacy in the theater by destroying Serb interceptor aircraft in the air and on the ground and by destroying or damaging their airbases.
  30. ^ "Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike "de-escalation"". 13 March 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  31. ^ Colby, Elbridge. "The Role of Nuclear Weapons in the U.S.-Russian Relationship". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  32. ^ Russia's Nonstrategic Nuclear Weapons, by Dr. Jacob W. Kipp, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth; published in Military Review May–June 2001

References

  • Franks, Norman; Guest, Russell; Alegi, Gregory. Above the War Fronts: The British Two-seater Bomber Pilot and Observer Aces, the British Two-seater Fighter Observer Aces, and the Belgian, Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Russian Fighter Aces, 1914–1918: Volume 4 of Fighting Airmen of WWI Series: Volume 4 of Air Aces of WWI. Grub Street, 1997. ISBN 1-898697-56-6, ISBN 978-1-898697-56-5.

External links

9th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment

The 9th "Odessa" Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment was a "regiment of aces" unit in the Soviet Air Forces created to assist the USSR in gaining air supremacy over the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

Air Battle of South Korea

The Air Battle of South Korea was an air campaign early in the Korean War occurring roughly from June 25 to July 20, 1950, over South Korea between the air forces of North Korea and the United Nations, including the countries of South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom. The month-long fight for air supremacy over the country saw several small engagements over airfields in Seoul and Taejon and ultimately ended in victory for the UN air force, which was able to destroy the small North Korean People's Air Force.

Air warfare of World War II

The air warfare of World War II was a major component in all theaters and, together with anti-aircraft warfare, consumed a large fraction of the industrial output of the major powers. Germany and Japan depended on air forces that were closely integrated with land and naval forces; the Axis powers downplayed the advantage of fleets of strategic bombers, and were late in appreciating the need to defend against Allied strategic bombing. By contrast, Britain and the United States took an approach that greatly emphasised strategic bombing, and (to a lesser degree) tactical control of the battlefield by air, as well as adequate air defences. Both Britain and the U.S. built a strategic force of large, long-range bombers that could carry the air war to the enemy's homeland. Simultaneously, they built tactical air forces that could win air superiority over the battlefields, thereby giving vital assistance to ground troops. The U.S. and Royal Navy also built a powerful naval-air component based on aircraft carriers, as did Japan; these played the central role in the war at sea.

Airpower

Airpower or air power consists of the application of military aviation, military strategy and strategic theory to the realm of aerial warfare and close air support. Airpower began with the advent of powered flight early in the 20th century. Airpower represents a "complex operating environment that has been subjected to considerable debate". British doctrine defines airpower as "the ability to project power from the air and space to influence the behaviour of people or the course of events." The Australian Experience of Air Power defines Airpower as being composed of Control of the Air, Strike, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and Air Mobility roles.

Anti-runway penetration bomb

Anti-runway penetration bombs are systems involving bombs or bomblets designed to disrupt the surface of an airfield runway and make it unusable for flight operations.

Perhaps the most strategically decisive, best known, and first wartime use of specialized cratering anti-runway weapons was by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. The dibber bombs played a major part in the near complete destruction of the large Egyptian Air Force, mostly on the ground, in a preemptive strike on the first morning of the war by the commitment of the whole of the far smaller Israeli Air Force to the strike. The surprising elimination of the Egyptian air force and resulting Israeli air supremacy contributed significantly to the outcome of the war on all fronts. The IMI 'Runway Piercing Bomb' was a prototype Israeli-French anti-runway weapon. It used rocket braking over the target and a second rocket burst to plunge through the runway surface and explode.One system available from 1977 diverging from the French/Israeli runway piercing bomb development used in 1967 was the Matra Durandal, a single 450 lb bomb with parachute braking, rocket booster, and two warheads. The device worked after being dropped by an aircraft flying at low level braking by parachute, then when at the correct angle firing a rocket to impact the runway, first igniting a large warhead to create a crater and then subsequently using a smaller charge that had penetrated the crater to displace adjacent concrete slabs. The slabs, once displaced, are far harder to deal with than a simple hole that could be patched with asphalt. The Durandal has been widely exported. The Durandal was used by the USAF in the initial stages of the 1991 operation Desert Storm against Iraqi airfields, delivered by F-111s.Another, now withdrawn from service, was the JP233, a submunitions system in which an aircraft would fly over the target runway and a mixture of penetrating and anti-personnel submunitions would be dispensed to both crater the runway and impede repair work. The submunitions could be armed with delayed-fuses, meaning that workcrews run the risk of death or bodily injury as they worked on runway repair. After the UK signed an international accord banning cluster mines, the JP233 was retired.

Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima (19 February – 26 March 1945) was a major battle in which the United States Marine Corps and Navy landed on and eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II. The American invasion, designated Operation Detachment, had the goal of capturing the entire island, including the three Japanese-controlled airfields (including the South Field and the Central Field), to provide a staging area for attacks on the Japanese main islands. This five-week battle comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the Pacific War of World War II.

After the heavy losses incurred in the battle, the strategic value of the island became controversial. It was useless to the U.S. Army as a staging base and useless to the U.S. Navy as a fleet base. However, Navy Seabees rebuilt the landing strips, which were used as emergency landing strips for USAAF B-29s.The IJA positions on the island were heavily fortified, with a dense network of bunkers, hidden artillery positions, and 18 km (11 mi) of tunnels. The American ground forces were supported by extensive naval artillery, and had complete air supremacy provided by U.S. Navy and Marine Corps aviators throughout the entire battle.Japanese combat deaths numbered three times the number of American deaths although, uniquely among Pacific War Marine battles, American total casualties (dead and wounded) exceeded those of the Japanese. Of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima at the beginning of the battle, only 216 were taken prisoner, some of whom were captured because they had been knocked unconscious or otherwise disabled. The majority of the remainder were killed in action, although it has been estimated that as many as 3,000 continued to resist within the various cave systems for many days afterwards, eventually succumbing to their injuries or surrendering weeks later.Despite the bloody fighting and severe casualties on both sides, the American victory was assured from the start. Overwhelming American superiority in numbers and arms as well as complete air supremacy—coupled with the impossibility of Japanese retreat or reinforcement, along with sparse food and supplies—permitted no plausible circumstance in which the Americans could have lost the battle.Joe Rosenthal's Associated Press photograph of the raising of the U.S. flag on top of the 169 m (554 ft) Mount Suribachi by six U.S. Marines became an iconic image of the battle and the American war effort in the Pacific.

Bloody April

Bloody April was the (largely successful) British air support operation during the Battle of Arras in April 1917, during which particularly heavy casualties were suffered by the Royal Flying Corps at the hands of the German Luftstreitkräfte.

The tactical, technological, and training differences between the two sides ensured the British suffered a casualty rate nearly four times as great as their opponents. The losses were so disastrous that it threatened to undermine the morale of entire squadrons. Nevertheless, the RFC contributed to the success, limited as it finally proved, of the British Army during the five-week campaign.

Campaign Z

Campaign Z (17 December 1971 – 30 January 1972) was a military offensive by the People's Army of Vietnam; it was a combined arms thrust designed to defeat the last Royal Lao Army troops defending the Kingdom of Laos. The Communist assault took Skyline Ridge overlooking the vital Royalist base of Long Tieng and forced restationing of Royalist aviation assets and civilian refugees. However, Communist forces eventually receded back onto their lines of communication without capturing the base.

Campaign Z was notable for escalations of the Laotian Civil War conflict. The Vietnamese Communists brought 130 mm field guns and T-34 tanks into action in Laos for the first time. The Vietnamese People's Air Force also launched MiG 21 attacks into Lao air space to challenge the Royalist side's air supremacy. On its side, the Royal Lao Government and its Central Intelligence Agency backers imported copious numbers of mercenaries from the Kingdom of Thailand as reinforcements, and depended on American air power support, including Arc Light strikes by B-52 Stratofortresses. An independent Laos would narrowly survive Campaign Z.

Combat box

The combat box was a tactical formation used by heavy (strategic) bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. The combat box was also referred to as a "staggered formation". Its defensive purpose was in massing the firepower of the bombers' guns, while offensively it concentrated the release of bombs on a target.Initially formations were created in keeping with the pre-war Air Corps doctrine that massed bombers could attack and destroy targets in daylight without fighter escort, relying on interlocking fire from their defensive machine guns, almost exclusively the "light barrel" Browning AN/M2 .50-calibre (12.7 mm) gun. However the use of high altitudes by USAAF bombers resulted in factors that demanded a tighter bomb pattern and the combat box continued in use even after the advent of fighter escort – and especially starting in the spring of 1944 over Europe, with USAAF fighters flying far ahead of the combat boxes in air supremacy mode instead against the Luftwaffe's fighters – largely mitigated the threat of fighter interception.Creation of the concept is credited to Colonel Curtis E. LeMay, commander of the 305th Bombardment Group in England. However the Eighth Air Force had been experimenting with different tactical formations since its first bombing mission on 17 August 1942, several of which were also known as "boxes." LeMay's group did create the "Javelin Down" combat box in December 1942, and that formation became the basis for the numerous variations of combat boxes that followed.The practice of referring to a concentrated formation as a "box" was the result of diagramming formations in plan, profile and front elevation views, positioning each individual bomber in an invisible boxlike area.

Command of the sea

Command of the sea (also called control of the sea or sea control) is a naval military concept regarding the strength of a particular navy to a specific naval area it controlled. A navy has command of the sea when it is so strong that its rivals cannot attack it directly. This dominance may apply to its surrounding waters (i.e., the littoral) or may extend far into the oceans, meaning the country has a blue-water navy. It is the naval equivalent of air supremacy.

With command of the sea, a country (or alliance) can ensure that its own military and merchant ships can move around at will, while its rivals are forced either to stay in port or to try to evade it. It also enables free use of amphibious operations that can expand ground-based strategic options. Most famously, the British Royal Navy held command of the sea for long periods from the 18th to the early 20th century, allowing Britain and its allies to trade and to move troops and supplies easily in wartime while its enemies could not (the importance of which is reflected in the famous British patriotic song, "Rule, Britannia!," which contains the exhortation, "Rule Britannia! Britannia rule the waves," even if this was not the poem's original subject). For example, Britain was able to blockade France during the Napoleonic Wars, the United States during the War of 1812, and Germany during World War I. In the post-World War II period, the United States has had command of the sea.

Few navies can operate as blue-water navies, but "many States are converting green-water navies to blue-water navies and this will increase military use of foreign Exclusive Economic Zones [littoral zone to 200 nautical miles (370 km)] with possible repercussions for the EEZ regime."

Israeli Air Force

The Israeli Air Force (IAF; Hebrew: זְרוֹעַ הָאֲוִיר וְהֶחָלָל, Zroa HaAvir VeHahalal, "Air and Space Arm", commonly known as חֵיל הָאֲוִיר, Kheil HaAvir, "Air Corps") operates as the aerial warfare branch of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence. As of August 2017 Aluf Amikam Norkin serves as the Air Force Commander.

The Israeli Air Force was established using commandeered or donated civilian aircraft and obsolete and surplus World War II combat aircraft. Eventually, more aircraft were procured, including Boeing B-17s, Bristol Beaufighters, de Havilland Mosquitoes and P-51D Mustangs. The Israeli Air Force played an important part in Operation Kadesh, Israel's part in the 1956 Suez Crisis, dropping paratroopers at the Mitla Pass. On June 5, 1967, the first day of the Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force performed Operation Focus, debilitating the opposing Arab air forces and attaining air supremacy for the remainder of the war. Shortly after the end of the Six-Day War, Egypt initiated the War of Attrition, and the Israeli Air Force performed repeated bombings of strategic targets deep within enemy territory. When the Yom Kippur War broke out on October 6, 1973, Egyptian and Syrian advances forced the IAF to abandon detailed plans for the destruction of enemy air defences. Forced to operate under the missile and anti-aircraft artillery threats, the close air support it provided allowed Israeli troops on the ground to stem the tide and eventually go on the offensive.

Since that war most of Israel's military aircraft have been obtained from the United States. Among these are the F-4 Phantom II, A-4 Skyhawk, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Israeli Air Force has also operated a number of domestically produced types such as the IAI Nesher, and later, the more advanced IAI Kfir. On June 7, 1981, eight IAF F-16A fighters covered by six F-15A jets carried out Operation Opera to destroy the Iraqi nuclear facilities at Osiraq. On June 9, 1982, the Israeli Air Force carried out Operation Mole Cricket 19, crippling the Syrian air defence array. The IAF continued to mount attacks on Hezbollah and PLO positions in south Lebanon. On October 1, 1985, In response to a PLO terrorist attack which murdered three Israeli civilians in Cyprus, the Israeli air force carried out Operation Wooden Leg. The strike involved the bombing of PLO Headquarters in Tunis, by F-15 Eagles. In 1991, the IAF carried out Operation Solomon which brought Ethiopian Jews to Israel. In 1993 and 1996, the IAF participated in Operation Accountability and Operation Grapes of Wrath, respectively. It took part in many missions since, including during the 2006 Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Cloud and Operation Protective Edge. On September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force successfully bombed an alleged Syrian nuclear reactor in Operation Orchard.

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915, to undertake, promote, and institutionalize aeronautical research. On October 1, 1958, the agency was dissolved, and its assets and personnel transferred to the newly created National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NACA was an initialism, i.e. it was pronounced as individual letters, rather than as a whole word (as was NASA during the early years after being established).Among other advancements, NACA research and development produced the NACA duct, a type of air intake used in modern automotive applications, the NACA cowling, and several series of NACA airfoils which are still used in aircraft manufacturing.

During World War II, NACA was described as "The Force Behind Our Air Supremacy" due to its key role in producing working superchargers for high altitude bombers, and for producing the laminar wing profiles for the North American P-51 Mustang. NACA was also key in developing the area rule that is used on all modern supersonic aircraft, and conducted the key compressibility research that enabled the Bell X-1 to break the sound barrier.

Operation Abstention

Operation Abstention was a code name given to a British invasion of the Italian island of Kastelorizo (Castellorizo) off the Turkish Aegean coast, during the Second World War, in late February 1941. The goal was to establish a torpedo-boat base to challenge Italian naval and air supremacy on the Greek Dodecanese islands. The British landings were challenged by Italian land, air and naval forces, which forced the British troops to re-embark amidst some confusion and led to recriminations between the British commanders for underestimating the Italians.

Operation Paula

Unternehmen Paula (Undertaking or Operation Paula) is the German codename given for the Second World War Luftwaffe offensive operation to destroy the remaining units of the Armée de l'Air (ALA), or French Air Force during the Battle of France in 1940. On 10 May the German armed forces (Wehrmacht) began their invasion of Western Europe. By 3 June, the British Army had withdrawn from Dunkirk and the continent in Operation Dynamo, the Netherlands and Belgium had surrendered and most of the formations of the French Army were disbanded or destroyed. To complete the defeat of France, the Germans undertook a second phase operation, Fall Rot (Case Red), to conquer the remaining regions. In order to do this, air supremacy was required. The Luftwaffe was ordered to destroy the French Air Forces, while still providing support to the German Army.

For the operation, the Germans committed five Air Corps to the attack, comprising 1,100 aircraft. The operation was launched on 3 June 1940. British intelligence had warned the French of the impending attack, and the operation failed to achieve the strategic results desired by the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force). However, the plight of the French ground and air forces at this stage meant that the failure of the operation would not impede the defeat of France.

Sky Gamblers

Sky Gamblers is a series of flight simulation games released on iOS and OS X. Sky Gamblers: Rise Of Glory (2011) and Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy (2012) were developed by Namco Networks America and Revo Solutions (recently renamed to Atypical Games), while Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders (2012) and Sky Gamblers: Cold War (2013) were developed independently by Atypical Games. In 2015, both "Rise of Glory" and "Air Supremacy" were handed over to Atypical Games as publishing contracts expired.

The series has been described as a "pioneer in the genre."

Sukhoi Su-30

The Sukhoi Su-30 (Russian: Сухой Су-30; NATO reporting name: Flanker-C) is a twin-engine, two-seat supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed in the Soviet Union by Russia's Sukhoi Aviation Corporation. It is a multirole fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions.

The Su-30 started out as an internal development project in the Sukhoi Su-27 family by Sukhoi. The design plan was revamped and the name was made official by the Russian Defense Ministry in 1996. Of the Flanker family, the Su-27, Su-30, Su-33, Su-34 and Su-35 have been ordered into limited or serial production by the Defense Ministry. The Su-30 has two distinct version branches, manufactured by competing organisations: KnAAPO and the Irkut Corporation, both of which come under the Sukhoi group's umbrella.

KnAAPO manufactures the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which were designed for and sold to China, and later Indonesia, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Due to KnAAPO's involvement from the early stages of developing Su-35, these are basically a two-seat version of the mid-1990s Su-35. The Chinese chose an older but lighter radar so the canards could be omitted in return for increased payload. It is a fighter with both air supremacy and attack capabilities, generally similar to the U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle.Irkut traditionally served the Soviet Air Defense and, in the early years of Flanker development, was given the responsibility of manufacturing the Su-27UB, the two-seat trainer version. When India showed interests in the Su-30, Irkut offered the multirole Su-30MKI, which originated as the Su-27UB modified with avionics appropriate for fighters. Along with its ground-attack capabilities, the series adds features for the air-superiority role, such as canards, thrust-vectoring, and a long-range phased-array radar. Its derivatives include the Su-30MKM, MKA, and SM for Malaysia, Algeria, and Russia, respectively. The Russian Air Force operates several Su-30s and has ordered the Su-30SM version.

Tactical air force

The term Tactical Air Force was used by the air forces of the British Commonwealth during the later stages of World War II, for formations of more than one fighter group. A tactical air force was intended to achieve air supremacy and perform ground attack missions.

Unlike the numbered air forces of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the Tactical Air Forces did not include strategic bombing/heavy bomber capability. The USAAF situation changed in late 1943 when the 12th Air Force transferred its heavy bombers to the newly formed 15th Air Force. Later, when the Allied air forces in the MTO were reorganized into the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), the US 12th Air Force and the RAF Desert Air Force became part of the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force and the US 15th Air Force and No. 205 Group RAF became part of the Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force. A Mediterranean Allied Coastal Air Force was also part of MAAF.

Operating strategic, tactical, and coastal air forces together throughout the latter stages of the Second World War was based on the successful practice primarily of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder and Air Vice Marshal Arthur Coningham during the Western Desert Campaign of WWII. This original 'tri-force' consisted of No. 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group, Air Headquarters Western Desert, and No. 201 (Naval Cooperation) Group as the strategic, tactical, and coastal components, respectively. Coningham commanded Air Headquarters Western Desert. To support Allied ground forces, he and Tedder developed some of the key features of Close air support still practiced in the 21st century.

The first tactical air force to be so named was the RAF Second Tactical Air Force, which was inaugurated within RAF Fighter Command on June 1, 1943, with the title "tactical air force" superseding the original title of "expeditionary air force".

The four tactical air forces were:

Australian First Tactical Air Force

Desert Air Force (later known as the First Tactical Air Force) - North Africa and later Italy

RAF Second Tactical Air Force - Northern Europe

RAF Third Tactical Air Force - South AsiaAlso there was a U.S./French TAF, the 1st Tactical Air Force (Provisional), supporting 6th Army Group, consisting of XII Tactical Air Command and the French 1er Corps Aerien Francais. (Zaloga, Nordwind) 1 TAF (P) became operational early in November 1944 with Major General Ralph Royce in command. The 1er CAF was formed on 1 December 1944.

Trenchardism

Trenchardism describes the domestic and foreign policies associated in Britain with Air Marshal Hugh Trenchard in successive roles as Chief of the Air Staff from 1919–30 and Head of the Metropolitan Police from 1931–35.

Wild Weasel

Wild Weasel is a code name given by the United States Armed Forces, specifically the US Air Force, to an aircraft, of any type, equipped with radar-seeking missiles and tasked with the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses: destroying the radar and Surface-to-Air Missile installations of enemy air defense systems.

"The first Wild Weasel success came soon after the first Wild Weasel mission 20 December 1965 when Captains Al Lamb and Jack Donovan took out a site during a Rolling Thunder strike on the railyard at Yen Bai, some 75 miles northwest of Hanoi."The Wild Weasel concept was developed by the United States Air Force in 1965, after the introduction of Soviet SAMs and their downing of U.S. strike aircraft over the skies of North Vietnam. The program was headed by General Kenneth Dempster.

Wild Weasel tactics and techniques began their development in 1965 following the commencement of Operation Rolling Thunder during the Vietnam War, and were later adapted by other nations during following conflicts, as well as being integrated into the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), a plan used by U.S. air forces to establish immediate air supremacy prior to possible full-scale conflict. Initially known by the operational code "Iron Hand" when first authorized on 12 August 1965, the term "Wild Weasel" derives from Project Wild Weasel, the USAF development program for a dedicated SAM-detection and suppression aircraft. The technique was also called an "Iron Hand" mission, though technically this term referred only to the suppression attack before the main strike.) Originally named "Project Ferret", denoting a predatory animal that goes into its prey's den to kill it (hence: "to ferret out"), the name was changed to differentiate it from the code-name "Ferret" that had been used during World War II for radar counter-measures bombers.

In brief, the task of a Wild Weasel aircraft is to bait enemy anti-aircraft defenses into targeting it with their radars, whereupon the radar waves are traced back to their source, allowing the Weasel or its teammates to precisely target it for destruction. A simple analogy is playing the game of "flashlight tag" in the dark; a flashlight is usually the only reliable means of identifying someone in order to "tag" (destroy) them, but the light immediately renders the bearer able to be identified and attacked as well. The result is a hectic game of cat-and-mouse in which the radar "flashlights" are rapidly cycled on and off in an attempt to identify and kill the target before the target is able to home in on the emitted radar "light" and destroy the site.

The modern term used in the U.S. Armed Forces for this mission profile is "Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses", or SEAD.

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