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Prowlers Return Home From Patrolling Northern Iraq

By Staff Sgt. Les Waters, USAF
National Guard Bureau

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey, Jan. 8, 2003 – After completing their 90-day deployment here in support of Operation Northern Watch, members of Electronic Attack Squadron 133 returned home after New Year's to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.

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An EA-6B Prowler aircraft from Electronic Attack Squadron 133 takes off on a Operation Northern Watch patrol from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The unit recently spent 90 days as part of a coalition of more than 1,400 U.K., Turkish and U.S. troops that enforces the no-fly zone in northern Iraq. The squadron is based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Gamble, USAF.

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Flying the EA-6B Prowler, the sailors were part of more than 1,400 United Kingdom, Turkish and U.S. troops enforcing the Northern No-fly Zone over Iraq and monitoring Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"The EA-6B Prowler is the only tactical electronic jamming platform in the U.S. inventory," said Lt. j.g. Buck Herdegen, a VAQ-133 electronic countermeasures officer. "We can detect radar transmissions from radar sites from both friendly and enemy countries, but focus on the enemy."

As they departed Jan. 2-4, many of the sailors had mixed emotions about the end of the deployment.

"This is my last deployment with the VAQ-133, so in some ways it is kind of sad, to know that I'll be leaving some good friend behind when we get home," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Price.

"I found out we are going to have a new baby soon, so I'm really excited about that," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Pepper.

"I've really had to learn a lot about running the parachute rigging shop during this deployment," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Laura TejadaRamos. "Our shop's leading petty officer is leaving the squadron after this deployment, so I will be the new leading petty officer."

The squadron maintainers do a lot of work to keep the aircraft flying. Prowlers are older aircraft -- the first was built in 1968 -- but they continue to be valuable thanks to many upgrades over the years as technology has improved.

"The fact that we have been able to support every Operation Northern Watch mission we have been tasked with is really a testament to our outstanding maintainers," said Herdegen. "They do an incredible job keeping the jets ready and able."

The Prowler is a long-range, all-weather electronic-warfare aircraft based on the Navy A-6 Intruder bomber. It operates from both aircraft carriers and land bases.

About 60 feet long and 17 feet high at the tail, a Prowler carries a pilot and three electronic countermeasures officers at speeds over 575 mph. Its advanced electronic countermeasures support strike aircraft, ground troops and ships by jamming enemy radar and other electronic activity and by obtaining tactical electronic intelligence. Its 53-foot wingspan can be studded with AGM-88 High-speed Anti-radiation Missiles to destroy active enemy radar sites.

Operation Northern Watch since Jan. 1, 1997, has enforced the no-fly zone north of the 36th parallel in Iraq and monitored Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. A U.S. European Command effort, Northern Watch is organized as a combined task force with an American general and a Turkish general sharing command. The United States, United Kingdom and Turkey provide the aircraft and personnel that support the operation.

As part of a coalition task force of more than 50 U.K. and U.S. aircraft, the Prowlers lead missions into Iraq, protecting coalition patrols.

"We go in and cover any strike package and deny the enemy their radar capabilities so they can't see us coming," said Herdegen. "We put out more energy than they are putting out."

As VAQ-133 sailors departed, the "Garudas" of Electronic Attack Squadron 134, also from Whidbey Island, rolled in to take their turn in Operation Northern Watch.

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Related Sites:
Electronic Attack Squadron 133, NAS Whidbey Island, Wash.
Operation Northern Watch
Navy EA-6 Prowler Fact File
Marine Corps EA-6 Prowler Fact File
AGM-88 HARM Fact File

Click photo for screen-resolution imageReturning to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, an EA-6B Prowler aircraft from Electronic Attack Squadron 133 completes another Operation Northern Watch patrol. The unit, based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., recently served a 90- day tour with the coalition of U.K., Turkish and U.S. forces that enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq and monitor Iraqi compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Gamble, USAF.  
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