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Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), also known as "Wild Weasel" and "Iron Hand" operations in the United States, are military actions to suppress enemy surface-based air defenses, including not only surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) but also interrelated systems such as early-warning radar and command, control and communication (C3) functions. This suppression can be accomplished both by physically destroying the systems or by disrupting and deceiving them through electronic warfare.
These forces contribute to all phases of military operations. Three of their most important missions are electronic warfare and suppression of enemy air defenses, and aerial reconnaissance and surveillance. Electronic warfare and air defense suppression forces locate and neutralize enemy air defenses. The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all operate aircraft for these purposes.
Following the 1973 war, Israel developed a coherent suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) doctrine which provided the foundation for their astounding performance in the 1982 Bekaa Valley Operation. Here, following a crucial SEAD operation, the IAF won air superiority, destroying 80 to 90 Syrian aircraft during twomonths of fighting with the loss of three to six Israeli aircraft. Air superiority and this lopsided victory were made possible by a well-coordinated SEAD operation destroying SAM and AAA sites in the Bekaa Valley.
“This new offering provides unprecedented electronic warfare capability enabling remote, unmanned suppression of enemy air defenses,” said Harry Schulte, vice president of Air Warfare Systems for Raytheon Missile Systems. “Integrating MALD weaponry on remotely piloted aircraft systems is integral to maintaining air superiority in today’s and tomorrow’s conflicts.
Air Combat Command’s Carlisle is responsible for the declaration, and he is focused on three missions: CAS, air interdiction and limited suppression of enemy air defenses. He acknowledges that the F-35’s CAS abilities then will be “basic. ” Suitable munitions at IOC are limited to 500-lb. laser-guided bombs and the 2,000-lb. joint direct attack munition. Pilots will not be able to fully exploit the synthetic aperture radar modes until Block 4 software is in service, years from now, nor will a video link to the ground controllers be available at IOC.