Dodging Missiles

Thunderchief pilots faced three formidable enemies over North Vietnam: antiaircraft guns, SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and MiG-17s and -21s. On a recent visit to the National Air and Space Museum retired Air Force Generals Spence Sam Armstrong and Michael Nelson recalled what it was like to face those enemies. During the Wild Weasel missions that Nelson describes, the F-105s deliberately tried to smoke out one of these threats. Once they were targeted by enemy radar used to guide SAMs to their airplanes, the F-105 pilots would fire missiles that homed on the enemy signals and destroyed the SAM site. Armstrong also describes one technique he used to escape MiGs: leading them to the SAM ring. Knowing the dangers of flying within reach of the SAMs radar, the MiG pilots would break off their pursuit. Video: airspacemag.com (7:41)

Latest Videos

Preview thumbnail for video'The B-17 Bomber Changed the Face of Aerial Warfare
The B-17 Bomber Changed the Face of Aerial Warfare (1:59)
Preview thumbnail for video'Did a Volcano Eruption Slow the Development of Life?
Did a Volcano Eruption Slow the Development of Life? (3:00)
Preview thumbnail for video'Was Flight 821 Brought Down by a 737 Design Flaw?
Was Flight 821 Brought Down by a 737 Design Flaw? (2:47)
Preview thumbnail for video'This Pilot Was the Unsung Hero of the Battle Of Midway
This Pilot Was the Unsung Hero of the Battle Of Midway (2:30)
Preview thumbnail for video'The Loss of the Titanic Led to
The Loss of the Titanic Led to "Iceberg Patrols" in the Atlantic (2:34)
Preview thumbnail for video'U.S. Pilot Scores a Direct Hit on the Carrier Hiryu
U.S. Pilot Scores a Direct Hit on the Carrier Hiryu (2:56)
Preview thumbnail for video'The HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for the first landing of a Royal Navy helicopter on deck
The HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares for the first landing of a Royal Navy helicopter on deck (3:29)
Preview thumbnail for video'Eyewitnesses report a fire in one of Flight 101's engines
Eyewitnesses report a fire in one of Flight 101's engines (2:06)
Preview thumbnail for video'How an oil pressure alarm misled pilots
How an oil pressure alarm misled pilots (2:58)