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Analysis : Ukraine air force starts using Vietnam era high risk strategy.

The American website Business Insider reported on May 11 that Ukrainian pilots were adopting a high-risk tactic first used by the US Air Force, thus helping to offset their numerical disadvantage against Russian air capabilities. This involves pilots flying into an area they know is covered by Russian air defense and provoking them to activate their target acquisition radars.
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A MiG-29 Fulcrum takes off from Starokostiantyniv Air Base, Ukraine, Oct. 9 as part of the Clear Sky 2018 exercise. (Picture source: U.S. Air National Guard)

As soon as a Ukrainian plane is locked on, it can quickly identify the source of the emissions and then launch a missile specifically designed to counter the air defense system. The weapons include the American-made High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) AGM-88, which the United States has been supplying to Ukraine since mid-2022.

The goal is to strike the radar associated with Moscow's surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems before they can lock on and destroy the aircraft.

This type of operation is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD). Developed during the Vietnam War, it was initially known as "Project Ferret" in reference to the small domestic mammal used to attack and kill vermin in its burrow. It was later renamed "Wild Weasel" because Ferret had already been used for a similar operation during World War II.

The OSINT technical military commentator posted a video on X (formerly Twitter) in February showing the tactic used, during the summer of 2022, by a Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 (NATO Flanker) fighter jet flying at treetop level before launching a HARM.

The HARM is a 350-kilogram American air-to-ground missile equipped with a 68-kilogram high-explosive fragmentation warhead, with a maximum speed of nearly Mach 3 and a range of between 30 and 150 kilometers depending on the altitude from which it is fired. The lower the operational height, the faster the missile but the shorter its overall range. It has been widely used successfully in recent conflicts.

Initially, Ukraine struggled to integrate the HARM into its Soviet-era aircraft, as well as other missiles provided by the West. It was revealed in April by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense William LaPlante during a speech at the annual Global Security Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that Kyiv had found a solution, according to the website War Zone: the use of iPad tablets to control the missiles.

Frederik Mertens, an analyst at The Hague's Center for Strategic Studies, said: "Ukraine is clearly adopting the experience of the Western military." He added that even though this tactic presents a high risk, in Ukraine's situation, it is worth adopting.

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