One of the first steps of any aerial invasion is the destruction of the enemy's air-defense systems, as it makes for a much safer environment for the high-value aerial assets that follow, whether they be AWACS, tankers or strategic bombers.

Officially known as SEAD, or suppression of enemy air defenses, these missions are some of the most dangerous available to pilots, as it generally requires attacking the most lethal threat to an aircraft in flight – surface-to-air-missile batteries. More commonly known as Wild Weasel missions, for the US Air Force's development operation of SEAD-focused fighter variants, this duty has evolved in lockstep with air defense technology, forcing the development of more advanced fighters and weapons.

While SEAD missions started with a modified F-100 Super Sabre in Vietnam, the role quickly moved on to the F-4 Phantom and then the F-105 Thunderchief, before returning to a version of the Phantom specifically developed for the risky missions, called the F-4G (shown above left). Today, one of the most advanced versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the CJ, handles Wild Weasel missions for the Air Force.

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