The EA-6B was “born into battle” in 1972 with the Scorpions of VAQ-132 making their first deployment directly into the Vietnam War.
Over the following forty-plus years the Prowler has featured predominately in combat operations throughout the world. During Operation Desert Storm seven Navy and Marine EA-6B squadrons supported strikes throughout Iraq and Kuwait, helping subdue the enemy’s vaunted air defense system. The aircraft was subsequently designated a “Low Density/High Demand” asset by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and took over all U.S. Department of Defense tactical electronic warfare missions from 1996 as the Air Force retired its EF-111A Raven.
Since then practically every deployment by Navy and Marine Prowler squadrons have involved time in combat, including the last USN cruise, where VAQ-134 flew jamming missions as part of Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq/Syria in 2014.
The EA-6B’s mission is to use its ALQ-99 pods to project heavy electromagnetic radiation into enemy communications and radar systems; to “jam” them so that the amount of interference and confusion they generated made their gear unusable. In that role the Prowler has proven remarkably capable.
In 1988 the aircraft added the AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) to its repertoire; adding a “Hard-Kill” option to its bag of tricks. With its wide-band receiver system and highly trained crew the Prowler proved to be among the finest ARM shooters in the world, even more so after retirement of the Air Force’s F-4G Wild Weasel.
As of 2016 the Marines’ superb VMAQ community continues to provide critical Electronic Warfare support for deployed forces in both CENTCOM and PACOM. There appears to be no doubt that, as the EA-6B started its life as a valuable combat asset that it will end its epic career in the same fashion and go out on the top of its game.
EA-6B Units in Combat Operations
|Linebacker II/Vietnam||1972-1973||VAQ-131, 132|
|Prairie Fire/Libya||1986||VAQ-135, 137|
|El Dorado Canyon/Libya||1986||VAQ-135, VMAQ-2|
|Desert Shield/Iraq||1990-91||VAQ-130, 131, 132, 136, 137, 139, 140, VMAQ-2|
|Desert Storm/Iraq||1991||VAQ-130, 131, 132, 136, 137, 141; VMAQ-2|
|Provide Comfort/Iraq||1991||VAQ-133, 141|
|Southern Watch/Iraq||1991-2003||All squadrons deployed to region|
|Northern Watch/Iraq||1991-2003||All squadrons deployed to region|
|Deny Flight/Bosnia||1995||VAQ-130, 141|
|Deliberate Force/Bosnia||1995||VAQ-130, 141, 209, VMAQ-3|
|Desert Fox/Iraq||1998||VAQ-130, 135, 142|
|Allied Force/Bosnia||1999||VAQ-134, 138, 140, 141, 209, VMAQ-1, 2, 4|
|Enduring Freedom/AF||2011-2016||All squadrons deployed to region|
|Iraqi Freedom/Iraq||2003-2010||All squadrons deployed to region|
|New Dawn/Iraq||2010-on||All squadrons deployed to region|
|Odyssey Dawn/Libya||2011||VAQ-140, VMAQ-1|
|Inherent Resolve/ISIS||2014-on||VAQ-134, VMAQ-3|
In addition, many other squadrons (particularly VAQ-129) provided personnel to many of these operations. They are not listed since their squadron itself did not officially deploy.
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