In this article, we will share with you the story of U.S. Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel that blew apart a B-52 Bomber Tail in a Friendly Fire Incident
In the early 1990s During Operation Desert Storm, One of America’s B-52Gs, serial number 58-0248 was conducting a nighttime raid deep into Iraqi territory.
High above the B-52Gs were a flight of F-4G Wild Weasels tasked with protecting the strike package from enemy air defences via “suppressing” any enemy emitter that popped up near their path.
This is done by firing AGM-88 Hight-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs) at those emitters. The HARM will then home in on the unique electronic emissions characteristics of the radar targeted, and blow it to pieces.
The B-52Gs, even with their low-altitude penetration capabilities and electronic warfare suites, were still vulnerable to multiple types of enemy attack—including by roving fighters that could fall in behind the big bombers and open up on them with cannons and short-range missiles.
Just one lucky Iraqi MiG or Mirage, also flying low to counter coalition fighter and airborne early warning and control aircraft radars, that stumbled upon the bombers could be devastating.
So to counter this situation B-52 bomber was equipped with tail guns. In the B-52G and H, the tail gunners were in the main cabin, using a remotely operated turret. Earlier models instead had the tail gunners sitting in a shooters seat in the rear of the plane, providing the BUFF an extra set of eyes to detect SAM launches.
Those tail guns even saw some action: in fact during the Vietnam War, B-52Ds used their tail guns to score kills. against North Vietnamese MiG-21 Fishbeds.
Related Article: How B-52 TAIL GUNNERS Managed To Shoot Down two MiG-21 Fighter jets during the Vietnam War
The B-52s up to the G model ultimately used the MD-9 fire-control system for the tail guns. The B-52G used the AN/ASG-15 for its remotely operated quad .50 caliber turret while the B-52H used the AN/ASG-21 to guide its M61 Vulcan.
As the bombers roared across the dark desert floor, B-52 “gunners” intensely monitored their scopes for marauding enemy aircraft while electronic warfare officers watched for missile launches. At just a couple hundred feet off the ground, crews would have little time or space to react if their aircraft were pounced.
Suddenly a F-4G crew picked up the radar of an anti-aircraft artillery battery in the B-52s’ path and fired off a HARM from on high.
What happened next is the most opaque part of the story, some people claims that BUFF tail gunner thought an Iraqi plane was closing in. The plane was actually an Air Force F-4G Wild Weasel. The crew of the U.S. jet mistook the B-52G’s AN/ASG-15 for an enemy air-defence system. The Weasel crew fired an AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile), which damaged the BUFF.
However what seems to have occurred is that the F-4G fired the missile “in the blind,” without a specific threat radar being classified before launch.
The missile’s 146-pound warhead detonated just behind the big bomber, ripping off various pieces of the aircraft’s empennage, including pretty much everything behind the vertical stabilizer and blasting other surfaces, including the horizontal stabilizers, with shrapnel. The aircraft’s tail gun system and missile warning system were totally obliterated.
The badly damaged aircraft skewed about in the darkness low over the desert, the crew struggled to regain control of the stricken bomber, dropping to just feet above the ground in the process.
Amazingly they were able to limp the stricken jet back to Prince Abdullah Air Base in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, landing without a drag chute—it was streamed out the back of the B-52 as a result of the explosion, and immediately collapsed as the jet was going hundreds of knots above its maximum deployment speed.
The jet was patched together crudely and ferried thousands of miles to Andersen AFB in Guam where it would receive much more comprehensive set of fixes.
Eventually, it was returned to the fleet with new nose art and a new nickname: “In HARM’s Way.”
What is Wild Weasel in the United States Armed Forces?
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 destroying the radar and SAM installations of enemy air defense systems.