Nimitz Prowlers Contribute in Afghanistan
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD USS NIMITZ IN THE NORTH ARABIAN SEA, Jan. 5, 2010 Employing force that doesn’t use explosions or projectiles -- known in military circles as “nonkinetic force” -- Carrier Air Wing 11 supports troops on the ground in Afghanistan while minimizing the potential for civilian casualties.
An EA-6B Prowler assigned to the "Black Ravens" of Tactical Electronic Attack Squadron 135 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Phillip Wagner Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
EA-6B Prowlers assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron 135 deploy daily from the Nimitz flight deck, jamming electronic signals in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Our main focus of effort is to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum,” explained Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Tornga, Electronic Attack Squadron 135 maintenance officer. “That means we preserve it for coalition forces and we deny its use to Afghan insurgents. If we can successfully do that many times, the ground commander may not need a bomb.”
Prowler missions directly support the July 2009 tactical directive issued by Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and international forces in
Afghanistan. The directive limits the use of force that could result in civilian casualties.
"The enemy command and control network in Afghanistan is fairly dispersed and flexible,” Tornga said. “We have to constantly adapt our tactics, based on new technology in the hands of the enemy, to interdict parts of that network."
When the Navy received its first Prowlers in January 1971 and deployed them to Vietnam in 1972, their primary mission was focused on jamming enemy radar. They supported strike aircraft, ships and ground troops by degrading the enemy's early warning capability and electronic weapons systems. The EA-6B of yesterday, outfitted with today’s technology, has adapted its platform to support Operation Enduring Freedom in a way no other airframe can, Tornga said.
"There are very few electronic attack platforms out there," he noted. "We are the only tactical electronic attack platform. Mountain valleys, small turns, staying tight with a convoy -- that mission right now can only be done with the EA-6B."
Prowlers have been performing missions for years that fall in line with McChrystal's directive, Tornga said.
"There will certainly remain a need for kinetics in support of the ground forces, but being able to turn a kinetic situation into a nonkinetic one is pretty rewarding," he said. "Some of the real-time feedback we get from the ground troops after a successful mission makes me realize why we need to be here, and it makes this deployment very, very meaningful."
Since entering the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations Sept. 18, Nimitz aircraft have flown more than 2,058 sorties, providing 30 percent of the close-air support to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
(From a USS Nimitz public affairs office news release.)