Pentagon confirmed last month that the US sent some of its High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) to Ukraine to help combat the ongoing war against the Russian Invasion. Since then, the HARM has played a significant role in the Ukrainian offensive in the south and recently in the east in Kharkiv province. Coupled with HIMARS, or the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, and other powerful weapons from the West, the war continues to favor Ukraine. Yet, at the same time, the missile poses a serious threat to Russia.

AGM-88 HARM Plays A Potent Role

HARM, commonly launched in an F-16C Fighting Falcon or F/A-18 Hornet, can home in on and destroy air-defense radar, making it one of the most effective missiles on the modern battlefield. It evolved into what it is today due to a new radar-guided surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) technology that appeared in the late 1940s and was capable of bringing down jet bombers. Bomber pilots had to maneuver low and under the radar or find a way to somehow intercept the incoming trajectory, else kaboom. Before long, the US built Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) tactics that became a game-changer during the Vietnam War. Aircraft equipped with anti-radiation missiles, also known as “Wild Weasel” aircraft, will scout ahead of a coordinated air attack and eliminate SAMs.

However, adversaries learned they could just evade the Wild Weasel by turning off their radars, so this has raised a new problem. Years of re-engineering resulted in the AGM-88 HARM, which can locate and strike radar systems even after they have been turned off. It exceeded its main purpose that instead of suppressing, HARM is capable of destroying enemy air defenses (aka DEAD). The intelligent anti-radiation missile was proven and tested in wars in Libya, Iraq, former Yugoslavia, and today—Ukraine. Nonetheless, its presence in the war was unexpected given that most of the Ukrainian Air Forces’ aircraft were Russian-made and thus incompatible with US or NATO weapons.

The Economist explained that the Ukrainian Air Force may have used “jury-rigged adapters” in attaching the anti-radiation missile to its aircraft. Meanwhile, photos and videos of an initially incompatible MiG-29 firing the AGM-88 HARM and later seen latched onto supermaneuverable Su-27S jets began circulating online last week. These two aircraft served as the Ukrainian Wild Weasel for its anti-radiation missiles.