The Shrike was the first anti-radiation missile (ARM), entering service in 1965. It was based on the airframe of the Sparrow air-to-air missile. It was launched down the bearing of enemy SAM radars, and immediately sought the strongest point of electromagnetic emission and homed in on it.
The Shrike suffered from a number of shortcomings. The seeker could only home on one certain frequency, so mission planners had to know exactly what SAM would be encountered. As new radars became operational, entire new seekers had to be developed and built. More significantly, the Shrike lacked a memory chip so if enemy radars detected it inbound, they could simply switch off their radars and cause it to crash.
A modification added white phosphorus to the warhead, leaving a telltale “puff” after impact; this allowed follow-up attacks on support facilities surrounding SAM sites.
A total of 18,000 Shrikes were built. It was phased out of US service in 1992. It served a few years longer in the Israeli air force.
Combat usage: The Shrike was heavily used in Vietnam, beginning in 1966. Original missions were to destroy “Fan Song” radars guiding SA-2 Guideline SAMs around Hanoi, paving the way for B-52 raids. This was later expanded to tactical use by USAF and USN planes against all types of air defenses, particularly “Fire Can“ radars used to guide AA guns. North Vietnamese operators eventually learned to identify the flight profile of planes carrying Shrikes and would turn their radars on and off accordingly, causing inbound Shrikes to crash.
During the Yom Kippur War, Israeli jets used Shrikes against Arab air defenses. The weapon was extremely effective against SA-2 and SA-3 sites, but less effective against SA-6’s in the field. The Israelis again used Shrikes against Syrian radars in Lebanon in 1982.
During the Falklands War, the neutral United States quietly delivered about a dozen Shrikes to the RAF, to arm Vulcan bombers for “Black Buck” raids. These amazing missions were flown from Ascension Island and required a complex chain of multiple tankers refueling the Vulcans and each other. Until 1991 they were the longest combat missions in history. The raids were mixed, with an iron bomb attacks paired with AGM-45 strikes. The Shrikes were ineffective against their primary target, AN/TPS-43 radars of the Argentine army, but slightly more effective against Sky Guard radars used with AA guns. The "Black Buck" raids were wildly popular with the British public but in retrospect accomplished little. On one mission, a Vulcan’s refueling probe was snapped off by a tanker and the bomber had to divert to Brazil with a jammed AGM-45 still aboard. The crew threw all Shrike documents onboard out of a window, and although Brazil kept the Shrike they never managed to reverse-engineer it.
Shrikes were fired against Libyan radars in 1986 by US Navy aircraft. The bewildering variety of radars used by Libya limited their effectiveness.
About 95 Shrikes were fired during Desert Storm, most by F-4G Wild Weasels. Little was said of their performance and the Shrike was phased out of service after the conflict.