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"Take It Down": SAM Breaks

1. When the SA-2 launch warning light and buzzer alerted, the flight commander called out "take it down." Both looked at the ground for the tell-tale smoke and dust from the SA-2 launch to see where the missile was coming from. At the same time, the pilot rolled the aircraft over, accelerated the throttle, and dove the aircraft down to pick up speed, turning towards the SA-2.

2. Continuing to dive, the pilot rolled the aircraft upright. The SA-2 climbed and accelerated during its six-second boost stage, then dropped the booster section, fired its sustaining rocket, and began guiding.

3. The pilot continued to dive, keeping the missile ahead and slightly to one side. Both crewmen carefully kept sight of the SA-2 as it approached. By now, the missile would be pointing its nose down as it guided.

4. At the precise moment, the pilot pulled the aircraft into a very hard climb. The SA-2, traveling nearly twice as fast could not turn as quickly, causing it to miss (the SA-2 could not make a second attack). If the pilot pulled the maneuver a few moments too early or too late, the missile's 288-pound warhead would find its target.

Cat and Mouse
As the Wild Weasels steadily acquired better equipment and honed their tactics, the enemy SAM crews constantly made changes to counter them. For instance, to avoid being tracked by Wild Weasels, they launched SAMs without guidance radar at American aircraft, only turning on the guidance when the missile neared a formation. They began firing SA-2s in salvoes of three, making the missiles more difficult to avoid. Another tactic was to electronically simulate launches, which turned on the launch warning light in the Weasel aircraft, forcing them to make a "SAM break."

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