Posts Tagged ‘Electronic Combat’

E/A-6B Prowler

December 1, 2008

The E/A-6B Prowler is the electronic combat aircraft of the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. The Navy is currently replacing its Prowlers with the new E/A-18G “Growler”, an electronic warfare variant of the USN’s F/A-18 Hornet. The USMC will continue to fly the EA-6B growler for their electronic combat missions.

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Stennis Puts New Growlers to the Test

October 8, 2008
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The EA-18G Growler and the advantages it brings are being tested for the first time in an integrated operational environment aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 9 as part of Operation Evaluation (OPEVAL).

The Growler is an electronic attack aircraft, using the same airframe as the F/A-18F Super Hornet. It’s scheduled to replace the EA-6B Prowler in spring 2009 and continue the electronic attack mission in carrier strike groups.

“This carrier test is part of a large test matrix that we have for the airplane. Basically, it’s the final exam for the aircraft,” said VX-9 Electronic Warfare Branch Head Cmdr. Al Bradford.

Squadron pilots will fly during night carrier operations for the first time as they test the Growler’s overall practical operability on the flight deck.

“During the tests, VX-9 will evaluate how the aircraft and its electronic attack components hold up during carrier landings,” said Mike Dobelman, Boeing field service representative.

Stennis’ flight deck crew is providing feedback as they work with the new aircraft to help VX-9 evaluate handling the Growler.

One concern the squadron is seeking feedback on is the difficulty of identifying similar aircraft.

Air Department Mini Boss Brice Lund noted that the jamming pods located on the wings of the Growler is one way to prevent miss-identification from arising during flight deck operations.

However, using the same airframe as the F/A-18F gives the Growler many advantages over its predecessor.
Growlers fly with a two-man crew where the Prowler needs a crew of four.

“The Growler crew is able to do the same mission with half as many people because the airplane has a lot of automated features that the Prowler does not,” said Bradford. “Navigation, communications and the entire crew-vehicle interface is much more automated.”

Replacing the aging Prowlers will also cut down on the amount of maintenance squadron Sailors must perform.
Changing the engine on an EA-6B Prowler requires about two days of work. Changing the engine on the EA-18G Growler only takes about two to three hours.
Growlers also reduce the work load on the flight deck.

“The Prowlers can’t start on their own,” said Aircraft Handling Officer Lt. Eric Harrington. “They need to get assisted power, so that means more ground support up here. Having the Growlers up here does away with that, because now they can start on their own. That’ll minimize the amount of equipment and personnel that have to support that aircraft.”

Having the Super Hornet’s airframe not only makes improvements in operability, but adds new tactical elements, such as self-defense to the electronic attack mission.

While not intended for strike operations, the Growler can fire advanced medium-range, air-to-air missiles to defend itself.

Performing carrier landings on Stennis gives VX-9 a better sense of the Growler’s tactical capacities and functionality as they conduct OPEVAL.

Testing new aircraft in an operational environment ensures that the Navy has access to the most technically advanced and operationally ready military assets to carry out America’s Maritime Strategy.

E.J. Fabrizio (NNS)

EC-130H Compass Call Exceeds 2,500 Iraq Sorties

August 21, 2008

The 43rd Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, in combination with the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s Silver Aircraft Maintenance Unit, reached a significant milestone in August when they completed their 2,500th Operation Iraqi Freedom combat sortie.

The 43rd EECS “Bats,” deployed to an undisclosed forward operating location in Southwest Asia from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., fly the EC-130H Compass Call, an airborne tactical weapon system which prevents successful enemy command and control communications and limits adversary coordination. The system also supports tactical air operations, and provides conventional and special operations support to friendly forces.

Since the squadron’s first OIF deployment in March 2004, the 43rd EECS has flown more than 17,500 mishap free combat hours, providing electronic combat coverage to coalition troops operating in the OIF theater of operations. What makes this squadron’s combat accomplishments even more impressive is the fact that the unit has never possessed more than three aircraft in theater at any one time.

Lt. Col. Robert Stonemark, 43rd EECS commander, said this milestone was one of many accomplishments achieved during the longest deployment in unit history.

“The Bats’ 2,500th sortie is a result of more than four years of outstanding dedication, hard work and selflessness on the part of maintainers, aircrew and support troops,” said Colonel Stonemark. “The key to the unit’s success has been the synergistic teamwork between the maintenance and operations professionals deployed from the 55th Electronic Combat Group and the 355th Maintenance Group from Davis-Monthan AFB.”

Tech. Sgt. Anthony Mobilian, a 43rd EECS aircraft propulsion craftsman, is on his thirteenth deployment to the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in his 13-year career. He has worked both the tactical airlift portion (Blue AMU) and the electronic attack side (Silver AMU) of the 386th AEW mission.

“This is the most unique deployment I have been on,” Sergeant Mobilian said. “Both AMUs are satisfying, but the job fulfillment of putting aircraft in the air to capture bad guys and save troops is beyond anything I have ever experienced.”

Sergeant Mobilian also noted that the fact everyone here is from the same unit back home gives the added benefit of everyone knowing each other personally.

“With this added luxury, we are confident in each others abilities,” said Sergeant Mobilian. “This leads to extremely efficient communication to get the job done.”

Despite the extreme weather conditions of the area, which can make maintaining the EC-130 aircraft a difficult challenge, the men and women of the Silver AMU get the job done with limited resources, personnel and varying mission requirements. Capt. Mike Shirley, a 43rd EECS aircraft navigator deployed from Davis-Monthan AFB, and 1st Lieutenant David Marques, Silver AMU officer in charge, are two of those Airmen who, despite their varied levels of deployment experience, are ready and eager to perform their duties in the face of a variety of circumstances.

“We provide the best support we can to the troops on the ground, and as their focus changes, we change,” said Captain Shirley. He is on his fourth deployment.

Lieutenant Marques commented on the value of the mission, which remains constant despite its variation in objectives.

“The mission is highly rewarding because every sortie we launch has the potential to save our troops lives,” said Lieutenant Marques. “I am honored to be part of the war on terrorism and 55th Electronic Group history.” The lieutenant is on his first deployment.

The 43rd EECS is unique in that the entire squadron is made up of Airmen from Davis-Monthan AFB. The C-130 Compass Call and its technicians are the only one of their kind in the Air Force.

Max Rippel