Pretty much all my life, there have been Navy EA-6B Prowlers. While technically entering service after I was born, I really have no memory of a time without them. I grew up where, for a long time, all the Prowlers in the world were stationed. The kids I went to school with had parents in the squadrons. My Cub Scout den mother was the wife of a Prowler guy.
But much as the A-6 Intruder it was based on was retired in favor of the F/A-18 Hornet, so to has the time come for the EA-6B to shuffle off to Davis-Monthan AFB, like so many retirees moving to the Sun Belt and the warmer winters, escaping from the damp cold of Whidbey Island.
Starting this spring, the nuclear-powered flattop held station in the Indian Ocean in order to launch air strikes into Afghanistan. Pairs of Prowlers would take off then split up—individual EA-6Bs flying alone over landlocked Afghanistan to jam Taliban communications.
Then in June, Islamic State militants rapidly advanced across northwestern Iraq, routing the Iraqi army, capturing the city of Mosul—including a vital dam—and forcing hundreds of thousands of refugees to run for their lives.
Bush sailed into the Persian Gulf to begin reconnoitering the battle zone. And on Aug. 8, as the militants encircled 100,000 Yezidi refugees on Mount Sinjar, Bush’s air wing starting dropping bombs and firing missiles.
Originally intended solely to jam air defense radars, the Prowler now can also kill using the AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). And the relative lack of sophisticated air defenses in Iraq and Afghanistan wars has meant the Electronic Attack community has spent a lot of time devising ways to both support friendly forces on the ground and bedevil enemy forces. For operational reasons, we’re leery of getting into much detail there, but suffice to say that they have been so capable that the standard VAQ squadron has expanded from 4 aircraft to 5, and consideration is being given to expanding them to as many as 7 0r 8 aircraft. They’re simply in that high a demand while on deployment.
As the Prowler heads for the sunset of its service, maybe it’s nice to let it close out with a little cloud dancing.
Thanks to reader Daniel for the heads up on the War is Boring post.