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F-105F Thud Wild Weasels and Rolling Thunder

DAYTON, Ohio - In the First in, Last Out: Wild Weasels vs. SAMS exhibit: 1) Survival vest worn by Maj. Edward White while flying F-105F WIld Weasel missions in 1968. White was heavily involved in the Wild Weasel program. He deployed with the first group of F-100F Wild Weasels in 1965, flew F-105F missions in 1967 and 1968 and trained Wild Weasel aircrews in the U.S. 2) Capt. Larry Huggins' "boonie hat." Huggins served as a Wild Weasel pilot with th 44th TFS at Korat in 1968 and retired from the USAF as a brigadier general in 1989. In addition to the 113 mission marks on the hat, is his name spelled out in Cyrillic (Russian) letters. It was written by the "Russian exchanged pilot," a fellow airman and naturalized American whose family had escaped from Russia in the 1930s. 3) Capt. Huggins' F-105 patch, which was commonly worn by F-105 aircrews in Southeast Asia. 4) Capt. Huggins' 100 mission patch. This patch was a badge of honor for pilots and EWOs. Technically, they could return to the U.S. after 80 missions over North Vietnam, but most chose to stay until they completed 100. 5) Capt. Billy Sparks' flight jacket. In addition to his service as a Wild Weasel pilot from March to October 1967, he also flew F-105Ds. All together, he flew more than 140 missions over North Vietnam. 6) The entire family could be proud of Wild Weasel service. This apron belonged to Sparks' wife, Dell, and it was signed by all the wives of the Wild Weasel school at Nellis AFB. 7) Many Wild Weasels made the ultimate sacrifice. POW/MIA bracelets were worn to remember prisoners and the missing until they returned. This POW/MIA bracelet was for Donald Singer, a 354th TFS EWO who went missing in action on Aug. 17, 1966 (along with his pilot, Maj. Joseph Brand). Both of their remains were recovered and returned to the U.S. in October 1977. 8) Each CBU-24 carried 665 of these BLU-26/B 1.2-lb. bomblets. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - In the First in, Last Out: Wild Weasels vs. SAMS exhibit: 1) Survival vest worn by Maj. Edward White while flying F-105F WIld Weasel missions in 1968. White was heavily involved in the Wild Weasel program. He deployed with the first group of F-100F Wild Weasels in 1965, flew F-105F missions in 1967 and 1968 and trained Wild Weasel aircrews in the U.S. 2) Capt. Larry Huggins' "boonie hat." Huggins served as a Wild Weasel pilot with th 44th TFS at Korat in 1968 and retired from the USAF as a brigadier general in 1989. In addition to the 113 mission marks on the hat, is his name spelled out in Cyrillic (Russian) letters. It was written by the "Russian exchanged pilot," a fellow airman and naturalized American whose family had escaped from Russia in the 1930s. 3) Capt. Huggins' F-105 patch, which was commonly worn by F-105 aircrews in Southeast Asia. 4) Capt. Huggins' 100 mission patch. This patch was a badge of honor for pilots and EWOs. Technically, they could return to the U.S. after 80 missions over North Vietnam, but most chose to stay until they completed 100. 5) Capt. Billy Sparks' flight jacket. In addition to his service as a Wild Weasel pilot from March to October 1967, he also flew F-105Ds. All together, he flew more than 140 missions over North Vietnam. 6) The entire family could be proud of Wild Weasel service. This apron belonged to Sparks' wife, Dell, and it was signed by all the wives of the Wild Weasel school at Nellis AFB. 7) Many Wild Weasels made the ultimate sacrifice. POW/MIA bracelets were worn to remember prisoners and the missing until they returned. This POW/MIA bracelet was for Donald Singer, a 354th TFS EWO who went missing in action on Aug. 17, 1966 (along with his pilot, Maj. Joseph Brand). Both of their remains were recovered and returned to the U.S. in October 1977. 8) Each CBU-24 carried 665 of these BLU-26/B 1.2-lb. bomblets. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - In the First in, Last Out: Wild Weasels vs. SAMs exhibit 1) Capt. Robert Dorrough's K-2B flight suit and "boonie hat" from his service as a Wild Weasel pilot at Korat from June 1967 to January 1968. On his hat are hash marks showing each mission, with the red marks denoting missions in Route Pack 6. Although new aircrews were supposed to have low-threat orientation missions to start their tours, Dorrough's first mission was near Hanoi. 2) Maj. Arthur Oken's K-2B flight suit from his service with the 354th TFS of the 355th TFW at Takhli in 1969-1970. Oken flew as a Wild Weasel EWO in F-100Fs, F-105Fs and F-105Gs. In his three tours, he flew over one hundred Wild Weasel combat missions (including about 20 F-100F missions in Route Pack 6. 3) Knife and machete carried by Dorrough on all his missions. He bought the handmade machete while in survival school in the Philippines. 4) Patches, the F-105 Wild Weasels in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat were in one squadron. It was first designated the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron and later the 44th TFS. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio - In the First in, Last Out: Wild Weasels vs. SAMs exhibit 1) Capt. Robert Dorrough's K-2B flight suit and "boonie hat" from his service as a Wild Weasel pilot at Korat from June 1967 to January 1968. On his hat are hash marks showing each mission, with the red marks denoting missions in Route Pack 6. Although new aircrews were supposed to have low-threat orientation missions to start their tours, Dorrough's first mission was near Hanoi. 2) Maj. Arthur Oken's K-2B flight suit from his service with the 354th TFS of the 355th TFW at Takhli in 1969-1970. Oken flew as a Wild Weasel EWO in F-100Fs, F-105Fs and F-105Gs. In his three tours, he flew over one hundred Wild Weasel combat missions (including about 20 F-100F missions in Route Pack 6. 3) Knife and machete carried by Dorrough on all his missions. He bought the handmade machete while in survival school in the Philippines. 4) Patches, the F-105 Wild Weasels in the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat were in one squadron. It was first designated the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron and later the 44th TFS. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A weasel, nicknamed Willie, figures prominently in many official and unofficial Wild Weasel patches and logos. (U.S. Air Force)

A weasel, nicknamed Willie, figures prominently in many official and unofficial Wild Weasel patches and logos. (U.S. Air Force)

Of the 143 F-105F trainers built, 86 were converted into Wild Weasels like the one pictured here. Because of the high losses attributed to such a dangerous mission, though, there were typically fewer than a dozen aircraft available for missions at any one time. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Of the 143 F-105F trainers built, 86 were converted into Wild Weasels like the one pictured here. Because of the high losses attributed to such a dangerous mission, though, there were typically fewer than a dozen aircraft available for missions at any one time. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The elements of a “hunter-killer” team: F-105F Wild Weasel with Shrikes and F-105D with bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The elements of a “hunter-killer” team: F-105F Wild Weasel with Shrikes and F-105D with bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Single seat F-105Ds occasionally carried Shrikes, but needed Wild Weasels to find the radars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Single seat F-105Ds occasionally carried Shrikes, but needed Wild Weasels to find the radars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Some North Vietnamese antiaircraft guns were aimed using “Fire Can” radar, like those at this site. Wild Weasels sometimes hunted and destroyed these radars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Some North Vietnamese antiaircraft guns were aimed using “Fire Can” radar, like those at this site. Wild Weasels sometimes hunted and destroyed these radars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Individual crews had their pictures taken when they arrived in theater, like this one taken at Korat in 1968. Capt. George Connolly (l) and Capt. Larry LeMieux (r) are both wearing the commonly worn, locally-made “boonie hat.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Individual crews had their pictures taken when they arrived in theater, like this one taken at Korat in 1968. Capt. George Connolly (l) and Capt. Larry LeMieux (r) are both wearing the commonly worn, locally-made “boonie hat.” (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. William Robinson, pilot (l), and Maj. Peter Tsouprake, EWO (r), celebrate their 100th mission. Earlier, on July 5, 1966, they flew lead on a large strike mission north of Hanoi. Disregarding their own safety, they braved intense ground fire and several SAMs to attack four SA-2 sites. Three were knocked out and the fourth was heavily damaged. For their valor, they were both awarded the Air Force Cross. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. William Robinson, pilot (l), and Maj. Peter Tsouprake, EWO (r), celebrate their 100th mission. Earlier, on July 5, 1966, they flew lead on a large strike mission north of Hanoi. Disregarding their own safety, they braved intense ground fire and several SAMs to attack four SA-2 sites. Three were knocked out and the fourth was heavily damaged. For their valor, they were both awarded the Air Force Cross. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SAM site being destroyed. After initial attack by a Wild Weasel, it was struck with bombs that set off secondary explosions. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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SAM site being destroyed. After initial attack by a Wild Weasel, it was struck with bombs that set off secondary explosions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

One half of an SA-2 site being blanketed by cluster bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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One half of an SA-2 site being blanketed by cluster bombs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On April 23, 1967, Capt. Jerry Hoblit (l), pilot, and Capt. Tom Wilson (r), EWO, flew No. 3 in a four aircraft Wild Weasel formation on a strike against the heavily-defended area around Thai Nguyen, North Vietnam. Dodging three SA-2s, Hoblit and Wilson bombed one SAM site and fired their Shrikes against another. When an SA-2 missile damaged the lead aircraft, Hoblit and Wilson kept the SAM crew’s attention by engaging it, dodging yet another SA-2. Hoblit and Wilson then remained behind to cover the crew of an RF-4C that had been shot down before the strike.  None of the strike aircraft were lost. For their valor and daring, Capt. Hoblit was awarded the Air Force Cross, and Capt. Wilson was awarded the Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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On April 23, 1967, Capt. Jerry Hoblit (l), pilot, and Capt. Tom Wilson (r), EWO, flew No. 3 in a four aircraft Wild Weasel formation on a strike against the heavily-defended area around Thai Nguyen, North Vietnam. Dodging three SA-2s, Hoblit and Wilson bombed one SAM site and fired their Shrikes against another. When an SA-2 missile damaged the lead aircraft, Hoblit and Wilson kept the SAM crew’s attention by engaging it, dodging yet another SA-2. Hoblit and Wilson then remained behind to cover the crew of an RF-4C that had been shot down before the strike. None of the strike aircraft were lost. For their valor and daring, Capt. Hoblit was awarded the Air Force Cross, and Capt. Wilson was awarded the Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Front of the knee-board map used by Wilson on his last fifty missions over North Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Front of the knee-board map used by Wilson on his last fifty missions over North Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Back of the knee-board map used by Wilson on his last fifty missions over North Vietnam. On the back are names and coordinates of frequently visited targets (above) and the location of radio navigation beacons (below). (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Back of the knee-board map used by Wilson on his last fifty missions over North Vietnam. On the back are names and coordinates of frequently visited targets (above) and the location of radio navigation beacons (below). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. Ben Fuller and Capt. Norm Frith returning from their 100th mission. Fuller and Frith flew wing on Hoblit and Wilson on the April 23, 1967 mission. Note the three SAM kills painted in yellow between the cockpits. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Maj. Ben Fuller and Capt. Norm Frith returning from their 100th mission. Fuller and Frith flew wing on Hoblit and Wilson on the April 23, 1967 mission. Note the three SAM kills painted in yellow between the cockpits. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Billy Sparks (left), pilot, and Maj. Carlo Lombardo (right), electronic warfare officer, with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli, in 1967. Lombardo, also known as "Grouchy Bear," often said to Sparks, "All of the brains are in the back seat and all of the decisions are in the front seat!" (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Capt. Billy Sparks (left), pilot, and Maj. Carlo Lombardo (right), electronic warfare officer, with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli, in 1967. Lombardo, also known as "Grouchy Bear," often said to Sparks, "All of the brains are in the back seat and all of the decisions are in the front seat!" (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Larry Huggins. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Capt. Larry Huggins. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Maj. White wearing the survival vest on display in the museum. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Maj. White wearing the survival vest on display in the museum. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Dorrough (l) and his EWO, Maj. Clarence “Bud” Summers, celebrating the completion of 100 missions over North Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Capt. Dorrough (l) and his EWO, Maj. Clarence “Bud” Summers, celebrating the completion of 100 missions over North Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo)

CBU-24 cluster bombs loaded on an F-105. This weapon was particularly useful for finishing off SAM sites. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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CBU-24 cluster bombs loaded on an F-105. This weapon was particularly useful for finishing off SAM sites. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The two-seat Wild Weasel III F-105F Thunderchief or "Thud" formed the backbone of USAF SAM suppression during Operation Rolling Thunder. The F-105 Wild Weasels continued to develop tactics, flying two types of missions -- strike support, by far the more common of the two, and "hunter-killer" search and destroy attacks. As North Vietnamese defenses strengthened, the "Thud" Wild Weasels became essential for high-threat strikes "up North."

In May and June 1966, 11 F-105F Wild Weasel aircraft arrived in Thailand. More arrived, flying with the 335th TFW at Takhli and the 388th TFW at Korat, Thailand. Even so, the number of Wild Weasel aircraft and aircrews remained small -- and in high demand -- throughout the Southeast Asia War.

The first Wild Weasel F-105Fs carried the same basic electronic equipment as F-100Fs, but additional sensors were added over time. The F-105F Wild Weasel typically carried two Shrike anti-radar missiles, along with a heavy load of bombs or rockets. Although the Shrike missile was not ideal (the range of the Shrike was well within the lethal range of the SA-2), it finally gave the Wild Weasels the capacity to mark and damage a site from afar. Like their predecessors, the F-105F Wild Weasels often led conventional F-105s that helped finish off SAM sites.

Despite the periodic bombing halts, the Rolling Thunder campaign intensified through 1966 and 1967. Meanwhile, enemy SAM and AAA defenses strengthened, making the Wild Weasels crucial to the success of strikes deep into North Vietnam. In October 1965, U.S. intelligence estimated North Vietnam had about six SA-2 batteries. By the end of Rolling Thunder in November 1968, there were about 30 SA-2 batteries.

Though they remained a threat, North Vietnamese SA-2s became less effective due to the Wild Weasels and other anti-SAM measures. In 1965 the North Vietnamese fired about 15 SA-2s for every aircraft shot down. By the end of Rolling Thunder, they had to fire an average of 48 missiles to down one aircraft.

Success, however, came at a high price for the Wild Weasels. Of the eight crews (16 airmen) who initially flew out of Takhli, four had been killed, two were POWs and two had been wounded in action. Only four of these airmen finished their 100 mission tours.

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