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Farewell, mighty Prowler!
Whidbey News-Times ^ | 06/25/2015 | DEBRA VAUGHN

Posted on 06/25/2015 6:59:30 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki

The EA-6B Prowler isn’t the fastest aircraft or the sexiest.

A refueling probe on its nose and two bulging canopies over the cockpit give the jet the look of an overgrown metallic insect.

But the Prowler’s ability to deliver a potent crotch kick to the enemy’s air defense systems made it an indispensable asset to the military for more than four decades.

Since the aircraft was introduced at the end of the Vietnam War, it’s made significant contributions to every major conflict involving the United States. So important is the Prowler’s role in protecting other aircraft, ships and troops, no aircraft carrier deploys without them. Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has served as the home base for the aircraft and electronic attack community since its inception.

“The Prowler protected the fleet, ground units and aircraft in flight by neutralizing communications and anti-aircraft defenses,” said Dan Hagedorn, a curator at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. “It’s without peer in its capabilities.”

The Navy is saying goodbye to the Prowler at an open house this weekend at NAS Whidbey. After 45 years in service, the Navy is retiring all of its Grumman Prowlers and replacing them with the Boeing EA-18G Growlers.

VAQ-134 aviators plan to take the Prowler on its last operational flight from Whidbey at the open house.

Last month, the Museum of Flight accepted a Prowler into its collection. As part of the ceremonies, former pilots talked about their experiences flying the jet known as “Grumman Iron.”

One squadron commander remembers being poised to take off as part of a major air strike during Vietnam, Hagedorn said. Two Prowlers were supposed to lead the way, but suddenly weren’t operational. The aircraft carrier commander banged on the pilot’s fuselage to get his attention, and told him, “If you ain’t going, we ain’t going.”

“That’s how important the Prowler was,” Hagedorn said. “They wouldn’t go unless the EA-6B was suppressing defenses.”

During its service life, not a single Prowler was lost to enemy action, and that speaks to its capabilities, he said.

“It was a very dependable and very capable airplane,” he said. “It will go down in Naval aviation history as an aircraft the taxpayers absolutely got their money out of.”

In addition to keeping missiles from hitting aircraft, ships and troops, the Prowler offers electronic surveillance measures. It can track enemy aircraft and gather data on their land and sea emitters. The jet also can provide electronic countermeasures training so Navy aircraft can practice flying in the presence of enemy jamming.

The Prowler’s effectiveness was particularly evident during Operation Desert Storm. On television, it appeared as if the Iraqi defenders were shooting wildly, Hagedorn said.

“That was absolutely true,” he said. “The Prowlers were suppressing Iraqi area defensive system. We didn’t lose an airplane during that initial assault.”

The jet continued to play a role in the more recent U.S.- led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The aircraft was introduced in the midst of the Vietnam War. Soviet-made missile systems in the north were taking down more and more Navy strike aircraft. Officials realized the U.S. needed a jet to accompany fighter jets into enemy territory to jam radar controlling those systems, explained pilot “Smokey” Williams in a 1985 Crosswind story.

“Since the Navy already had the EA-6A in use and it had proven itself to be an extremely effective aircraft, it was chosen to be the new jamming platform.”

Unfortunately, all the state-of-the-art equipment wouldn’t fit, so by pulling here and stretching there, the EA-6B was born. The Prowler was a complex, state-of-the-art aircraft, the first to combine a fully-integrated electronic warfare system with long-range, all-weather capabilities.

The EA-6B rolled off Grumman’s assembly line and flew straight into combat. Navy losses from surface-to-air missiles immediately declined.

State Sen. Henry M. Jackson welcomed the first Prowlers to Whidbey in January 1971. During a ceremony, he called the aircraft “the beginning of a new era in Naval aviation,” according to a story in the Crosswind.

The U.S. military was in transition with the Vietnam War winding down. Secretary of the Navy John Chafee told officials at Whidbey at a visit in the spring of 1971 that Congress had a dim view of the war and high-priced weapons systems and was scrutinizing the Department of Defense budget. He warned that meant a slimmer budget with substantial reductions in men, ships and other equipment. The Navy still planned to invest in modernization and technology.

As years have passed, the enemy’s missile systems have grown more sophisticated and so did the Prowler — the aircraft has evolved through new versions.

Today’s Navy has transitioned to the EA-18G Growler, a next generation aircraft that’s faster and more maneuverable than the Prowler — and it uses only two crew instead of four. The Marine Corps will continue to operate the EA-6B.

For five years, Lt. Cmdr. Craig Connor flew the Prowler, an aircraft he described as “very capable” but challenging to fly and land on an aircraft carrier.

The Prowler is important because of its ability to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum, he said. The aircraft can degrade enemy defense systems allowing U.S. forces to safely complete missions.

“I am sad to see the Prowler decommissioned, but am also excited to fly the EA-18G Growler. It is an extremely capable aircraft with many advancements in technology compared to the Prowler,” he said.

The Prowler provided a remarkable electronic attack capability that supported the entire Department of Defense, said Capt. Mike Nortier, commanding officer at NAS Whidbey.

“The full measure of their success will never be fully known,” he said.

“In today’s technologically dependent lifestyle, electronic attack is even more important and the legacy of this proud community lives on as the Growler community picks up the baton and brings the next generation of electronic attack into our Navy.”

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: aerospace; ea6; prowler; usn

A Prowler lands aboard an aircraft carrier.— Image Credit: File Photo

1 posted on 06/25/2015 6:59:30 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki

My old squadron, VAQ-140 Patriots, flew them. Big, heavy aircraft that was reportedly difficult to fly.

2 posted on 06/25/2015 7:15:39 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (A free society cannot let the parameters of its speech be set by murderous Islamists.)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

I went to Whidbey island in the fall of ‘71 for A-6 Shoehorn training and started out in an A-6 squadron at Cherry Point, N.C. This was a very dangerous aircraft to work on for us ground personnel.

3 posted on 06/25/2015 7:31:03 PM PDT by OftheOhio (never could dance but always could kata - Romeo company)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

It had the highest hookpoint to pilot’s eye distance, which make several of the critical parameters harder to maintain in the landing phase.

4 posted on 06/25/2015 7:52:52 PM PDT by USNBandit (sarcasm engaged at all times)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

The Flying Drumstick. The EF-111 was superior in many ways, but the USAF quit the EW field and retired them before their time.

5 posted on 06/25/2015 7:55:25 PM PDT by Mr Rogers (Can you remember what America was like in 2004?)
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To: OftheOhio

Stay away from the intakes!

6 posted on 06/25/2015 7:56:08 PM PDT by BwanaNdege
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To: OftheOhio



7 posted on 06/25/2015 7:56:43 PM PDT by Chode (Stand UP and Be Counted, or line up and be numbered - *DTOM* -w- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: Chode

That’ll Buff Out;)

8 posted on 06/25/2015 8:15:43 PM PDT by mabarker1 (congress, The Opposite of Progress.)
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To: Chode

I’ve always had a hard time believing this guy survived. Incredible. I would have thought he would been mincemeat.

Evidently they were designed with this in mind. Amazing.

I say that from a previous viewing of this or another video, and the explanation there.

9 posted on 06/25/2015 10:42:45 PM PDT by DoughtyOne (Conservatism: Now home to liars too. And we'll support them. Yea... GOPe)
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To: DoughtyOne
yup, his helmet and goggles damaged the engine enough for a shut down, another few seconds and he'd been a dead man for sure
10 posted on 06/26/2015 4:38:55 AM PDT by Chode (Stand UP and Be Counted, or line up and be numbered - *DTOM* -w- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: mabarker1
his Guardian Angel was working OT that night
11 posted on 06/26/2015 4:39:46 AM PDT by Chode (Stand UP and Be Counted, or line up and be numbered - *DTOM* -w- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: Mr Rogers

It’s just a good thing that A.A. Cunningham isn’t here anymore to hear you say that.

12 posted on 06/26/2015 6:01:42 AM PDT by Yo-Yo
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To: sukhoi-30mki
Replacement aircraft. Boeing Growler.

13 posted on 06/28/2015 7:43:49 AM PDT by houeto (
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To: Yo-Yo

What? Did AA get zotted?

14 posted on 06/28/2015 7:53:59 AM PDT by SZonian (Throwing our allegiances to political parties in the long run gave away our liberty.)
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To: SZonian

He wrote a mini opus and just left. If you search for his posts you can read it. He was upset that JimRob banned another FReeper but I forget who.

15 posted on 06/28/2015 12:00:56 PM PDT by Yo-Yo
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To: Yo-Yo

Ok, thanks.

16 posted on 06/28/2015 1:14:29 PM PDT by SZonian (Throwing our allegiances to political parties in the long run gave away our liberty.)
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