Cold War Era

“Wild Weasel sighted SAM site—Destroyed same.” The story of Wild Weasel’s First Kill

The F-100F Wild Weasel

After the single-seat, supersonic F-100 fighter entered service in 1954, it developed a high accident rate, in part due to pilot inexperience with the Super Sabre. In response North American built a two-seat training version — the F-100F — to train new Super Sabre pilots.

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The F-100F retained the basic combat capabilities of the F-100D, including six wing hardpoints to carry external stores, but reduced the number of 20mm cannon from four to two. North American delivered the last of 339 F-100Fs in 1959.

When F-100 units deployed to Southeast Asia, they included a mix of one- and two-seat F-100s, and both types participated in traditional bombing missions in support of ground forces. As tactics developed, the two-seat F-100F became an important aircraft in the Wild Weasel mission aimed to suppress North Vietnamese surface to air missiles (SAMs).

As told by Richard P. Hallion in his book Rolling Thunder 1965-68, on Dec. 22, 1965, pilot Captain Al Lamb and EWO Capt Jack Donovan of the 6234th TFW (Wild Weasel Detachment) led the first successful Wild Weasel hunter-killer mission to destroy a SA-2 site. Flying F-100F Super Sabre SN 58-1226, they led Spruce Flight – four 388th TFW F-105Ds piloted by flight lead Captain Don Langwell (Spruce 1), Van Heywood (Spruce 2), Bob Bush (Spruce 3), and Art Brattkus (Spruce 4).

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-100F Super Sabre – Wild Weasel 50th Anniversary, 2015 – 50 Years of YGBSM! 58-1226, 35th TFW, 614th TFS

Wild Weasel’s First Kill

The mission took off from Korat RTAFB at 0900 local time, to support a Rolling Thunder strike on Yen Bai, and air-refueled over Laos before proceeding NNE and turning E after crossing into the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV). The flight descended from 16,000ft to 300ft. The F-100 led, with the four F-105s, flying as two pairs, weaving behind so as not to overrun the slower F-100F. The pairs were separated From each other by 2,000 to 4,000ft, trailing the F-100F by about the same distance.

Donovan detected the characteristic Fan Song signal 100 miles away from the site, and as the F-100F got closer, the signal grew in strength. The flight descended over the DRV down to 300ft AGL, the F-100F and F-105Ds using terrain masking to shield themselves, popping up from 300 to 1,300ft to get direction-finding cuts, and using those updates to edge closer. In the last portion of the flight, the Vector radar warning scope was showing strong strobes reaching 21/2 rings, indicating the Far Song was at high pulse repetition frequency (PRF) and tracking the flight. Then, in the last seconds, it hit 3 rings, and the strobes started to curl at their ends, indicating extremely close proximity.

“Wild Weasel sighted SAM site—Destroyed same.”

Lamb and Donovan climbed to 2,500ft, rolled inverted, and Lamb spotted the Fan Song fire control van camouflaged to look like a village hut, as well as “three long, white missiles under a thatched hut.” He rolled upright and fired two pods of 2.75in rockets which landed short, but then strafed as well with the F-100F’s 20mm cannon, exploding one missile. The yellow-orange blast marked the site for the F-105Cs which launched their own attacks with 2.75in rockets and strafing, destroying it utterly.

The flight detected a second Fan Song signal, but, being out of weapons, turned for Korat, still at low altitude. They climbed to 5,000ft over western North Vietnam, then back to 16,000ft over Laos before again tanking prior to the return back to Korat. After landing, a historic signal was sent to the Pentagon: “Wild Weasel sighted SAM site—Destroyed same.”

Rolling Thunder 1965-68 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Photograph of Capt. Allen Lamb (l) and Capt. Jack Donovan (r) snapped just before they took off on the first kill mission.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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