Future Of Airborne Tactical Jamming
SUBJECT AREA - Electronic Warfare
TITLE: Future of Airborne Tactical Jamming
AUTHOR: LCDR Michael W. Ackerman, USN
THESIS STATEMENT: By retiring the EF-111A Raven, the Air Force will have
to rely on the Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler for airborne tactical
DISCUSSION: The Department of Defense has experienced a large cut in the
military budget since the end of the Gulf War. As a result, many very
successful weapon system programs are finding it difficult to acquire
needed funds. It is easy to justify keeping most weapon systems based
upon their performance in the Gulf, but the nation needs to be smart about
which systems it retains to ensure it is not sacrificing irreplaceable
capabilities to keep redundant ones. Without a major threat like the
Soviet Union, and because of the success of the Coalition in the Gulf War,
it is hard to justify very expensive and redundant weapon systems.
Utilizing funds to maintain redundant systems also reduces funds for the
development of the next generation of weapons. This is where the
Department of Defense is with the Air Force's EF-111A Raven tactical
Both the Navy/Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler and the Air Force EF-111
proved themselves as force multipliers during Operation DESERT STORM.
Both aircraft are now due for upgrades to ensure their electronic combat
capabilities keep pace with technology. The problem is that the nation
cannot afford to upgrade and maintain both aircraft. The Office of the
Secretary of Defense has redirected funding from the Air Force's EF-111
program to the Department of the Navy directing that Navy EA-6Bs assume
the land-based tactical jamming support missions for the Air Force. There
are concerns that the EA-6B will not be able to replace the EF-111 because
it is slower and has a shorter combat range. Proponents of the USN/USMC
EA-6B point out that the EA-6B is a more capable tactical jammer than the
EF-111, and also has communications jamming and high speed anti-radiation
missile (HARM) firing capabilities that the EF-111 does not possess. This
paper reviews the two aircrafts performance in the Gulf War and addresses
whether or not the nation will be adversely affected by having the EA-6B
Prowler as the only airborne tactical jammer when the EF-111 retires.
CONCLUSION: Because the replacement of the EF-111 with the EA-6B
represents a substantial savings for the nation while increasing the
Electronic Combat capabilities for the Air Force, the EA-6B can replace
the EF-111 if sufficiently funded.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WORKING AS A TEAM 4
Operation DESERT SHIELD 4
Operation DESERT STORM 6
EA-6A Intruder 9
EA-6B Evolution 10
Air Force EF-111A Raven 11
Systems Improvement Program (SIP) Update 14
Lethal SEAD 15
Future Interoperability Capability 17
Tanker Incompatibility 18
Compatibility Conclusion 18
Inventory of EA-6Bs 20
Supply-System Requirements 21
Intermediate Level Maintenance (I-level) 22
Maintenance Technicians 25
APPENDIX A: AIRFRAME SPECIFICATIONS 32
FUTURE OF AIRBORNE TACTICAL JAMMING
MONEY, the reason the Department of Defense is transferring funds
from the Air Force to the Navy for the tactical jamming mission is not
based on need or capability, it is purely a budgetary decision. The
Navy's EA-6B Prowler and the Air Force's EF-111 Raven, both of which
performed well in Operation DESERT STORM, were due for upgrades to keep
them viable into the next century. The Office of the Secretary of Defense
(OSD) looked at the amount of money which was to be spent on the upgrades
and decided to replace the EF-111 with EA-6Bs because it was cheaper.
Will the military be adversely affected by this decision?
Late in 1994, the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued Program
Budget Decisions (PBD) 752 and 753 deleting Air Force EF-111A "Raven"
funding after fiscal year 1997. The PBDs also transferred funding for an
additional 20 EA-6B Prowlers and 1257 personnel to the Department of the
Navy to assume all tactical jamming missions. On 21 January 1995, during
a visit to the Puget Sound Shipyard, Admiral Mike Boorda, Chief of Naval
Operations, announced the Navy EA-6B would replace the EF-111A.1 The EA-
6B is currently flown by both the Navy and Marine Corps. It is assumed
that the additional missions will be supported by the Navy since the
Marine Corps is organized in support of the Marine Air Ground Task Force
(MAGTF); however, the Marine EA-6B community is a good source for
information on how to deploy the EA-6B land-based. This paper will first
review the two aircrafts performance in the Gulf War then focus on three
areas to determine if the military is going to be adversely affected by
the EA-6B assumption of the EF-111 missions. These areas are
compatibility, supportability and manning.
The question of compatibility will be addressed by reviewing the
evolution of the two aircraft and comparing their strengths and
weaknesses. A comparison of aircraft capabilities is in Appendix A.
While both planes share a common tactical jamming system, the services
have developed different tactics concentrating on the strengths of each of
the two planes. The EF-111 is a supersonic platform which has a
tremendous combat radius because of its large internal fuel load. The EA-
6B is subsonic, with a much shorter combat radius, but it can carry high
speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM), is capable of communications jamming
and has a more capable tactical jamming system than the EF-111.2 The
question is not "can the EA-6B replace the EF-111 using current Air Force
tactics" but rather "can the EA-6B be integrated into Air Force tactics
and perform the mission of the EF-111 without reducing the overall
electronic combat capability of the Air Force?"
There are several factors which must be explored to determine
supportability. The Navy was funded for an additional 20 EA-6Bs, of which
16 are designated to replace the 24 EF-111s the Air Force currently
deploys. These are not new aircraft being manufactured for the Navy as a
result of the PBDs; instead, they are aircraft which were built when the
Navy was going to have 15 Carrier Battle Groups. These additional EA-6Bs
are not new planes which were parked and forgotten, but they are mostly
planes in a configuration that is no longer being flown. As weapon
systems are updated, aircraft with the new configuration replace aircraft
with obsolete configurations. It does not make fiscal sense to update all
aircraft if you are only going to utilize 75 percent of them. Funding to
upgrade some of the additional EA-6Bs required for the Air Force mission
has been authorized in the PBDs. Both services agree there is no way to
maintain the current capability the Air Force possesses in electronic
warfare (EW) by replacing 24 EF-111s with only 16 EA-6Bs; therefore,
funding to upgrade additional EA-6Bs is being sought.3 A review of the
inventory, or the number of EA-6Bs that are available to assume the Air
Force's missions, will determine if the Navy can support this proposal.
There are also maintainability issues associated because the Navy and Air
Force have separate supply and maintenance systems. A breakdown of the
supply and maintenance requirements needed to operate Navy EA-6Bs with the
Air Force will be provided. If the EA-6B cannot be maintained when
attached to the Air Force, then it does not matter how many are provided
for the missions.
Finally, who will man the squadrons? The Air Force, the Navy or a
combination may be the best solution. This issue needs to be determined
soon so training can begin. The Navy's EA-6B fleet replacement squadron,
VAQ-129, will be utilized to train aircrew and technicians. Manning and
training issued will be discussed to find the best solutions and help to
determine if the EA-6B community can expand quickly enough to man the
squadron(s). If the squadron(s) cannot be manned sufficiently by June of
1997, which is the month established for the EA-6B to assume all of the
EF-111s commitments, then the military will be adversely affected by this
Remember, the decision to retire the EF-111 was an economic one. Is
there an economic benefit to the nation by replacing the EF-111s with the
EA-6Bs? If the price of expanding the EA-6B force to cover the mission is
more expensive than retaining the EF-111, then the EF-111 needs to be
retained. Also, if the military is adversely affected because there are
not enough Prowlers around or if it is determined that they cannot be
maintained because of the differences in the supply and maintenance
systems, then the proposal needs to be revisited. Lastly, if the
squadrons cannot be manned sufficiently by 1997, then the proposed
turnover of missions from the EF-111 to the EA-6B needs to be revised. We
will begin with a review of the aircrafts performance during the Gulf War.
WORKING AS A TEAM
Operation DESERT SHIELD
The Navy quickly established sea superiority in the Persian Gulf
and ensured control of the sea lines of communications (SLOC). The
SLOCs were critical to the logistical build up of the Persian Gulf
region. Ninety-five percent of all cargo was delivered by sealift.
Naval forces on the scene also kept Teheran neutral by quickly
demonstrating U.S. resolve by establishing a preliminary air defense
screen between Iran and the Arabian peninsula.4 Besides allowing the
build-up of Coalition forces, the DESERT SHIELD period allowed
intelligence agencies an opportunity to learn as much as possible about
the Iraqi integrated air defense system.5 This information was relayed
to decision makers who understood its significance.
In previous campaigns, this data was used to target specific
systems or avoid exposure to attacking aircraft. In the Iraqi
assessment, intelligence was used to identify critical weaknesses
which could be exploited for the express purpose of causing
maximum damage to the Iraqi structure with the smallest
expenditure of resources. In electronic combat, this process is
known as "critical node analysis."6
A detailed knowledge of the very capable Iraqi IADS was necessary for
the Coalition's SEAD campaign planning. During the DESERT SHIELD
period, Iraqi vulnerabilities were identified as:7
The rigid top-down nature of the command and control system and
the inability of Iraqi forces to operate in autonomous modes;
An air defense system that could be surprised by stealth and
overwhelmed by massive lethal and electronic warfare air attacks;
Ground forces and logistics vulnerable to air attack in desert
A generally defensive approach to battle;
Inexperience at sustaining offensive forces over great
Despite pre-stockage, an overextended and cumbersome logistics
Faulty understanding of the full operational capabilities of
Inability to interfere with US space-based assets;
Limited air offensive capability; and
Ineffective foreign intelligence.
The theater strategy was broken down into three phases, the first
phase was to gain and maintain air superiority to permit unhindered air
operations. This included attacking the strategic air defense systems
including radar sites, air defense control centers, airfields and air
forces.8 The electronic battle plan was designed to systematically
destroy Saddam's eyes and ears.9 Plans envisioned that EA-6Bs and EF-
111s would be instrumental in this phase of the war. When the war
started the Navy had 13 EA-6Bs aboard three carriers in the Persian Gulf
and 14 aboard 3 carriers in the Red Sea. The Marine Corps had 12 EA-6Bs
at Shaikh Isa, Baharan, while the Air Force had 18 EF-111s located at
At-Taif, Saudi Arabia and six EF-111s at Incirlik, Turkey.10
OPERATION DESERT STORM
Uninterrupted and extensive use of electronic warfare was the
deciding factor in reducing the effectiveness of Iraq's air
defenses. . .gaining supremacy of the frequency spectrum determined
the success of gaining supremacy in the air.
General Mal'tsev, Soviet Air Defense Forces
The first two days of the SEAD plan consisted of 25 large-scale
strikes. On one representative strike, Air Force aircraft attacked
targets south of Baghdad, and Navy aircraft from the Red Sea attacked
targets in the vicinity of Al Taqaddum. This was a multi-axis attack
used to cause a reaction from the IADS and then destroy the radars. EF-
111s established jamming orbits in the south while BQM-74 drones were
released to stimulate the IADS. Wild Weasels tasked to destroy high-
threat mobile SAMs fired 60 HARMs on that mission. Simultaneously, EA-
6Bs established jamming orbits to the west. A-6s launched tactical air
launched decoys, while A-7s and F/A-18s fired 51 HARMS to destroy the
The Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) tasked
apportioned SEAD sorties to ensure a coordinated, effective, and
prioritized SEAD effort. SEAD conduct was not an isolated effort but
rather an integrated attack by coalition forces to destroy the entire
Iraqi integrated air defense system (IADS).12 Electronic intelligence
data for the period 16 January to 10 February showed a lot of electronic
activity which decreased dramatically 48 to 72 hours into the war.13
While only 3 percent of the tactical aircraft in the war were dedicated
SEAD platforms (EA-6B, EF-111A, F-4G, EC-130H), over 50 percent of the
force was dedicated to the SEAD effort for the initial phases of the
The real measurement of success was the extremely low loss rate of
coalition aircraft during Operation DESERT STORM. There were about 40
out of 50,000 fixed-wing sorties lost due to the enemy. This equals a
loss rate of less than 0.9 per 1,000 sorties. In comparison, the loss
rate during Vietnam was 2.7 per 1000 sorties. The high and medium-
altitude SAM threats were virtually eliminated by an effective and
unrelenting SEAD campaign.15 "After [the] first night, no medium or
high-altitude missiles were ever again fired at Allied aircraft in a
controlled launch because of the effectiveness of the suppression
campaign."16 "Once the lethal combination of jamming, high-speed anti-
radiation missiles (HARMs), decoys, Tomahawk land attack missiles
(TLAMSs), and precision-guided weapons sufficiently suppressed Iraqi air
defenses, allied aircraft were free to strike targets virtually at will
HARM missiles along with Stealth/Low Observability, Laser-Guided
Bombs, Aerial Refueling and the STU-III, a secure telephone, were
selected as the five technologies that worked the best during the Gulf
War.18 The Air Force fired 1,067 HARMs, while the Navy and Marine Corps
fired 894. While jamming was effective in reducing the enemy's
capability to acquire targets, lethal SEAD with HARMs had an important
deterrent effect. After the first days of the war, Iraqi radar
operators would only turn on their radars for brief periods for fear of
being attacked by HARMs. The operators would also turn off their radars
if they knew a HARM-carrying aircraft was in the area.19 For coalition
forces, the availability of EA-6Bs also became "go" or "no go" criterion
in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), which means that the
unavailability of electronic warfare aircraft was a reason to abort an
attack mission.20 Since jamming is only effective while it is being
transmitted, EA-6Bs were more instrumental in degrading the Iraqi IADS
and protecting coalition aircraft during the Gulf War than the EF-111s
because of their HARM threat.
Red Sea EA-6Bs generated 1.2 sorties a day per aircraft, with an
average length of five hours per sortie. Persian Gulf Prowlers
generated 1.3 sorties a day per aircraft, with an average length of
three hours per sortie. USMC Prowlers generated 1.3 sorties per day per
aircraft, with an average length of three hours per sortie.21 Air Force
EF-111s generated 1.1 sorties a day per aircraft (average length not
Prowler and Raven crews working together were sucessful in
systematically defeating the Iraqi integrated air defense system. The
Herculean SEAD effort by the Coalition forces helped establish air
superiority early in the war. The outstanding performance was the
result of the nations commitment to the Electronic Combat mission and
years of training in preparation for this type of SEAD campaign. The
EA-6Bs flew more sorties per aircraft per day than the EF-111 and
presented a greater threat to the Iraqi IADS because of their HARM
carrying capability. For these reasons, the EA-6B outperformed the EF-
111 in the Gulf War. Could the EA-6B have replaced the EF-111 during
the Gulf War? The EA-6B proved it could be used in a campaign warfare
and excel. A comparison of the two aircraft follows and will be used to
determine if the EA-6B is capable of supporting Air Force strikes
without adversly affecting the Electronic Combat capability the nation
had during the Gulf War.
A basic knowledge of both the EA-6B's and EF-111's capabilities is
required before analyzing whether or not the EA-6B is compatible with
the Air Force. One central theme to remember during the discussion of
the evolution of the two aircraft is the difference between the mindset
of the two services and how the differences effected the weapon systems.
The Air Force plans for and conducts campaign warfare.23 The designing
and purchasing of single-mission capable airplanes which combine to
conduct a more complex mission is referred to as a Federated approach to
procurement and is based upon the treat they will face. USAF designers
required the EF-111 be a tactical jammer able to transit long ranges and
support attacks for extended periods of time. The Raven thus became a
single-mission aircraft which relies upon its high speed for self-
protection from enemy attack.
The Naval services have a raid mentality with their tactical
aircraft.24 The preferred tactics are quick and decisive. The Navy
also has limited space on the carriers; therefore, multiple-mission
capable platforms are needed. The F/A-18 strike fighter is the latest
example of this evolution. The success of the multi-mission capability
requirement by the Navy was illustrated on 17 January 1991 when a
division of F/A-18s encountered 2 Mig-21s near their target. The pilots
were able to identify and destroy both MIGs, acquire their assigned
targets and successfully attack those targets with MK-84 bombs.25 The
EA-6B is also a multi-mission platform capable of jamming or destroying
enemy equipment by carrying jammer pods, communications jamming
equipment, HARM anti-radiation missiles or a combination of these. This
provides flexibility for the Carrier Battle Group or MAGTF Commander.
The use of Navy and Marine Corps EA-6Bs in support of the joint forces
air component commander (JFACC) to suppress Iraqi air defenses during
Operation DESERT STORM indicates that the EA-6B is also capable of
conducting campaign warfare.
Most dedicated electronic warfare platforms are modifications to
aircraft designed for other missions. Although the EA-6B is similar in
appearance to the A-6 and shares some minor components, it was designed
and built specifically for the EW mission. This review will highlight
the capabilities and weaknesses of the EA-6B for comparison later with
the EF-111 to determine if the military will be adversely affected by
the replacement of the EF-111 with the EA-6B.
The predecessor for the EA-6B Prowler was the EA-6A Intruder which
was a Grumman designed and modified two seat A-6 bomber to fill the EW
requirement of the Marine Corps. The EA-6A entered service in 1963. The
first combat missions flown in the EA-6A were with the Marines of VMCJ-1
deployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam, in November 1966. A
detachment of this squadron remained in Vietnam until January 1973. The
Marine EA-6A squadrons were responsible for pioneering and developing
many of the EW concepts and tactics used by EA-6B crews today. Other
than the two Navy reserve squadrons, VAQ-209 and VAQ-309, the Navy did
not employ the EA-6A until 1979, and then it was only as a supporting
and training role in VAQ-33 and VAQ-34. Only the Marines deployed
aboard carriers with this airframe.26
The Navy realized the EA-6A was a capable system but did not think
it had the capacity for future growth due to its small size and two-man
crew. In November 1965, the Navy issued a formal requirement which
Grumman designed into the four-seat EA-6B Prowler. The crew consists of
a pilot and three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs). The
first aircraft was delivered to the Navy in January 1971. Prowlers
first saw combat with VAQ-132 on 12 July 1972, supporting an Alpha
Strike with Air Wing 3 off the USS Saratoga against North Vietnam.27
The first production EA-6Bs were called the Standard version.
From the beginning, the Navy has been committed to upgrading the weapon
system to keep it at the cutting edge of electronic warfare. The next
version, Extended Capability (EXCAP), was soon accepted by the Navy.
The first EXCAP deployment occurred in January 1974. EXCAP doubled the
number of frequency bands that the Prowler could receive and influence
over the Standard version.
As the EXCAP was entering the fleet, development of the follow-on
was underway. The Improved Capability (ICAP, later known as ICAP I)
version was a major change from the EXCAP and Standard versions.
Previously, the front seat ECMO was responsible for the tactical jamming
system (TJS) as well as navigator/copilot duties. The two backseat
ECMOs assisted with the TJS and ran some communications equipment. ICAP
placed the TJS operations exclusively with the two rearseat ECMOs,
allowing ECMOI to assume more of a copilot function. ICAP also improved
the weapon system electronically by adding "digitally tuned receivers,
fully integrated computer controlled EW system, and improved
ICAP II came in January 1984. Major improvements allowed two
separate frequency band coverage from a single jammer pod, updated the
main computer and installed an Inertial Navigation System (INS). During
this time, the Prowler gained a HARM shooting capacity to offset the
loss of that capability upon the retirement of the A-7 Corsair.
The ICAP II/Block 86/89 that followed were still new production
aircraft. While the Block 86 offered some new radios, the major
improvements were in the computer software. The last production
aircraft rolled off the assembly line on 29 October 1990. "It is
generally accepted that the EA-6B's capability is superior to that of
the EF-111, even though both aircraft are equipped with the Eaton
Corporation, AIL Division AN/ALQ-99 jamming system."29
Air Force EF-111A Raven
In the late 1960's, the USAF studied a modification of the EB-66
known as the Interim Tac Warning System (ITEWS) for the EW mission. Air
Force studies determined this program was too costly and impractical.
From 1968-1970 the study concentrated on a purchase of Navy EA-6B
Prowlers to meet its tactical jamming needs but eventually rejected the
EA-6B because of its lack of speed and relatively short combat radius.30
A modified version of the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system used in the
Prowler would eventually be used by the Air Force in the EF-111A.
After rejecting the EA-6B Prowler, the Air Force continued to
search for a tactical jammer. The program gained some priority in 1973,
when the Israelis armed with U.S. weapons lost large amounts of aircraft
and equipment during the Yom Kippur War. The Egyptians and Syrians had
launched a massive offensive to crush the 25-year-old state and regain
control of the Suez Canal and Golan Heights. The Soviets had designed
and deployed a "mix-and-match, layered, integrated air defense network,
which sorely challenged the Israeli-flown, US-supplied, state-of-the-art
fighter-bombers' countermeasures equipment."31 The sheer number of
aircraft lost shook the US Department of Defense.
This event, matching U.S. made equipment against a new mix of
Soviet equipment, was instrumental in the decision to proceed with a
tactical jamming platform for the USAF. The only land-based dedicated
electronic combat aircraft the U.S. had was the aging Douglas EB-66
Destroyer which was scheduled for decommissioning in early 1974. The
USAF began an extensive research program looking for defense-
suppression, stand-off weapons-delivery and electronic combat aircraft.
These programs were collectively known as "Pave Strike."32 The Pave
Strike programs included design of the F-4G "Advanced Wild Weasel" to
provide the stand-off weapon-delivery capability as well as the search
for an advanced jammer for electronic combat to replace the aging
Destroyer. The USN/USMC EA-6B Prowler was again seriously considered,
but rejected because the Air Force demanded a high speed penetration
jammer which ruled out the subsonic Prowler.
There was much speculation that the EA-6B Prowler was rejected
because the Air Force did not want another aircraft which the Navy
helped design after what had happened with the F-111. In 1961, Defense
Secretary Robert S. McNamara had designated the F-111 program, then
known as the TFX, as the core of a joint-service design to improve
commonality between aircraft, thus reducing cost. The Navy offshoot,
TFX-N, would replace the USN and USMC F-4s and F-8s, while the Air Force
design was to replace the "Century Series" aircraft. A commonality of
85 percent and a proposed production of 3,000-plus, including foreign
military sales, promised attractive unit cost. The Navy insisted on
three features: the crew escape capsule, side-by-side seating, and the
weapons bay. These items eventually made the F-111 so large that it
could not operate off aircraft carriers as a fighter-bomber, so the Navy
was able to extricate itself from the program after spending $238
million on seven airframes. Interestingly, the AWG-9 Radar and AIM-54
Phoenix weapon system designed for the TFX-N became the basis for the F-
14 Tomcat fighter (tandem ejection seats and external wing stations for
stores) the Navy would eventually buy from Grumman.33
The Air Force's solution was to install a modified EA-6B tactical
jamming system (TJS) into the supersonic F-111. The jamming system built
by Eaton AIL and installed by Grumman became the ALQ-99E. This system
was more automated than the Navy system because the EF-111 had one
dedicated system operator compared to the EA-6B's three. In the early
1980s Grumman claimed "a force of five EF-111s could radiate enough
power to affect most of the Warsaw Pact's air-defense radars from the
Baltic to the Adriatic."34 The Air Force converted a total of 42 F-111s
from 1979 to 1983 at an average cost of about $21 million each. Putting
the ALQ-99E TJS into the EF-111 proved to be quite a challenge to the
engineers at Grumman. The system added 6,000 pounds to the basic
airframe, and test flights required 700 pounds of ballast in the nose
wheel area to balance the center of gravity changed by the addition of
the system's receivers in the "football" on top of the vertical
The EF-111 flies three principal profiles: stand-off, strike
escort, and close air support.35 Without HARM-firing capability, the
Raven is restricted to the non-lethal suppression of enemy air defense
(SEAD) role. During a "stand-off" profile, the aircraft generally
operates independently from a safe distance while strike aircraft
destroy enemy air defenses. Fewer jammers can cover a wide area to
protect several strikes. Due to the arrangement of the transmitters in
the weapons bay, the EF-111 has less airframe interference/blocking
while providing jamming off its wings. This makes it most effective in
the stand-off jamming profile. Maximum protection is provided when the
jamming aircraft has geometric alignment with the striking aircraft and
the enemy radar. This alignment is provided when the jammer and strike
aircraft are on the same relative bearing from the threat radar, which
is achieved with the strike escort profile. The jamming aircraft will
fly in formation during the strike escort role and provide close in area
jamming support in the close air support role. Airframe masking from
the fuselage makes the Raven less effective in this role, although the
close alignment allowed by flying formation with the strikers into the
threat area offers more protection to the entire strike group. In
contrast, the EA-6B has fuselage interference from the outboard jammers
when perpendicular to the threat axis because the jammers are carried on
the wing stations, and experiences no masking when jamming nose or tail-
on to the threat axis. The ability for the EA-6B to escort high speed
Air Force strike packages in this profile is one of the main contentions
between EA-6B and EF-111 supporters. While the jamming transmitters on
the EA-6B are more effective because there is no aircraft masking on the
strike escort profile, the aircraft has a combat airspeed from 420-480
knots compared to the EF-111s combat airspeed of 510-570 knots (see
Systems Improvement Program (SIP) Update
The EF-111 SIP was designed to improve the reliability,
maintainability, and flexibility of the electronic warfare suite as well
as to improve jammer effectiveness. The first fully operational EF-111
SIP aircraft was scheduled to fly in September 1993 but was delayed nine
months for software problems. The initial delay put the program in
jeopardy, causing an additional 30-month delay due to budget stretchout.
These delays resulted in a program cost increase from an initial $219
million to about $375 million. To prevent further delays, the upgrade
was divided into two phases. The phased program would result in initial
production during fiscal year 1999. The first phase upgrade would mean
100 times the tracking capability, 100 times faster processing speed and
50 percent reduction in system response time. Phase two of the upgrade
was aimed at jammer improvements. The new digital-based exciter would
have resulted in significantly more jammer spots, increased the systems
effective radiated power by "orders of magnitude" and would have been
capable of jamming coherent radars. The EF-111 SIP would also gain band
9 capabilities which the EA-6B currently possesses.36 However, the SIP
was cancelled by the Air Force to save funds for the F-22 program.
Senators D'Amato, Moynihan and other senators, in a letter to Secretary
of Defense William Perry on 17 January 1995, requested a 60-day delay
after they received a report from the Air Force detailing the USAF
"strategy for keeping the EF-111 a modern and viable platform through
2015," before action is taken on the SIP contract.37 The 60 days was to
allow the senators time to ensure the Air Force did not act prematurely
when it allowed the EF-111 SIP to be cancelled. General Fogelman, chief
of staff of the Air Force, has also expressed his doubts about the
cancellation plans.38 As a result, the SIP program is being reviewed.
Lethal SEAD physically destroys or incapacitates critical parts of
the air defense system such as radar antenna and communications links.
The Navy's desire for the EA-6B to have the ability to render a weapon
system useless goes back to its war-fighting mentality. While the Air
Force was satisfied with the single-mission capability of the EF-111,
the Navy required more capable and flexible assets on the carriers. The
EA-6B carries the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile (HARM) as
well as tactical jamming pods. This gives the Prowler greater
flexibility on missions. The evolution of the Navy's suppression of
enemy air defenses (SEAD) program during the design of the Prowler and
the HARM carrying capability of the aircraft are important to understand
when comparing the Prowler to the Raven. It is also important that we
understand where the USAF is going with their lethal SEAD program upon
the retirement of the F-4G because the Air Force will not only get a
more capable tactical jamming system with the EA-6B, but will also be
able to permanently destroy enemy weapon systems which will reduce the
need for jammers as a campaign is prosecuted.
During the Vietnam War, the Navy developed the A-6B equipped with
radar homing weapons to destroy the Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) radar
systems. Nineteen A-6's were modified to perform the "Iron Hand"
mission. This platform proved very successful temporarily. The Soviets
soon changed the frequency on which the radar operated to one the A-6B
weapon system could not target. The EA-6B was being developed during
this period, and the ability of the Soviets to alter their system to
render one of our newest EW targeting systems ineffective resulted in
the design of a tactical jamming system for the Prowler that could
quickly react to changes and had sufficient capacity for future
Meanwhile, the Air Force was using F-100F and F-105F and G "Wild
Weasel" aircraft equipped with anti-radiation missiles designed to
"home-in" on radar signals and destroy the critical nodes of weapon
systems (like the Navy A-6B). The F-4G "Advanced Wild Weasel"
eventually replaced these aircraft. The Air Force contacted McDonnell
Aircraft Company and General Dynamics in 1986 to develop a replacement
for the aging F-4G Wild Weasel. These two companies recommended putting
the F-4G's APR-47 system into the two-seat F-15E and two-seat F-16. The
Air Force concluded that the F-15E would be modified with the APR-47 to
maintain the capabilities of the F-4G. However, this proposal was
cancelled in 1989, even though the F-4G would retire in 1993. The
decision not to modify the F-15E was made to save funds for the F-22 and
B-2. USAF Air Combat Command was again tasked with developing a
replacement for the F-4G. A three phase plan was developed. Phase one
was F-16s equipped with the HARM Targeting System (HTS), which has been
accomplished, phase two was two-seat F-15Es equipped with the "radar-
hunting, Precision Direction Finder (PDF),"39 and phase three was for F-
16s equipped with a variant of the PDF system. This approach would
leave the Air Force with less lethal SEAD capability than it currently
has with the F-4G. The Air Force has since terminated the F-15E PDF
program and recommended a single-seat F-15C with a modified PDF-like
system be used for SEAD.40 The Air Force has also reduced SEAD program
funding by 50 percent through the 5-year defense plan.41
The Air Force is PAI funded for 36 F-4Gs which are being retired
and 72 HTS equipped F-16s in fiscal year 1995. This compares to 512
USN/USMC F/A-18s and 60 USN/USMC EA-6Bs funded for fiscal year 1995,
which are all capable of firing HARMs. Supporting the Air Force with
HARM capable EA-6Bs greatly enhances their dwindling lethal SEAD
posture. Having the EA-6B arrive in support of the Air Force with a
lethal as well as non-lethal SEAD capability will be a force multiplier.
Future Interoperability Capability
On 19 May 1994, a specially configured Prowler attached to VAQ-
209, a Navy reserve squadron, was successful in passing beyond-line-of-
sight off-board sensor targeting data to a HTS equipped F-16. The F-16
pilot successfully launched a HARM in the "Range Known" mode using this
targeting data.42 Targeting data was transmitted between aircraft on
the improved data modem which is an addressable protocol capable of
directing information to hundreds of receivers across the battlespace.
The A-10 and F-16 Block 50 aircraft currently have the improved data
modem which is compatible with Army aviation and artillery fire control
systems. The MH-53, MC-130, P-3C and EA-6B aircraft are being equipped
with the multi-mission advanced tactical terminal to receive off-board
targeting data. E-8C JSTARS and several tactical aircraft communities
including E-2C, F/A-18, F-15E and S-3 are pursuing capability to receive
off-board targeting data.43 The ability for the Prowler to receive off-
board targeting data and direct multiple F-16 HTS and F/A-18 HARM
shooters in the conduct of joint SEAD strikes, provides a major force
multiplier for future conflicts.
Air Force tanking was singled out as one of the five technologies
that worked best during the Gulf War.44 There is a problem of
compatibility between Navy and Air Force refueling systems, though. The
Navy, Marine Corps and most other Coalition aircraft in Operation DESERT
STORM rely upon a basket or drogue assembly45 which the pilot engages
with the refueling probe by maneuvering the plane. In contrast, on the
Air Force's system the pilot flies the receiver aircraft into position
behind the tanker and a boom operator on the tanker maneuvers a
refueling probe into a refueling receptacle on the receiver aircraft.
KC-10 tankers are equipped with both probe and drogue assemblies to
accommodate either refueling system, but KC-135s have a single boom for
refueling which must be equipped with either a probe or a drogue
assembly prior to flight. The solution to the KC-135 problem is a wing
drogue to accommodate Navy, Marine Corps and, in Operation DESERT STORM,
a majority of coalition aircraft. The KC-135 drogue system has been
funded for the last three years, but the funds have been diverted into
other Air Force programs. These funds need to be utilized for the KC-
135 drogue system if the Air Force plans to support the attached EA-6Bs.
The military is downsizing as a result of a diminished Soviet
threat. Because of the reduction, the remaining weapon systems must do
more than the systems they replace. Lt Col James R. Brungess, USAF,
refers to this as a shift from a threat-based continuum to one that is
The Navy and Marines have always tended to [the capability-based
end of the spectrum]....and the Air Force toward the threat-based
end. The Air Force is moving toward the capability-based end
for two reasons: an uncertain threat and diminishing fiscal
resources that mitigate against acquiring mission-specific
weaponry. A generalized capability-based JSEAD-though explainable
on the basis of economic pragmatism-is dangerous because it makes
American air power vulnerable to technological surprise.
...However, the move toward capability-based JSEAD provides
opportunities...in that it forces a more flexible distribution of
assets and it aids in the development of more innovative
Lt Col Brungess also makes the point that SEAD strategy is tactics-
driven. "SEAD planners must determine what can and cannot be done with:
the tools at hand....Each tool has absolute limits, but using the tools
in different combinations may reveal different synergies.48 With (1)
the KC-135 tanking compatibility problem resolved, (2) the fact that the
EA-6B has a better tactical jamming system than the EF-111,
communications jamming capability, and the ability to employ HARMs,plus
(3) the pending loss of the F-4G and the negative impact that will have
on the Air Force's lethal SEAD capability, and (4) the understanding
that SEAD strategy is tactics driven and the use of different "tools"
based upon their capabilities will lead to the development of more
innovative tactics leads to the conclusion that the EA-6B is compatible
with the Air Force and will not adversely affect the military by using
it to replace the EF-111.
A look at the number of EA-6Bs available and the configuration of
those aircraft will be the first part of our study on supportability.
As stated in the beginning, the 16 EA-6Bs now funded for the direct
support of the Air Force will replace 24 EF-111s which are currently
used for those commitments are insufficient. Funding for additional EA-
6Bs is being pursued.49 A look at the total number of Prowlers
available will give us a better feel for the true expansion capability
of the EA-6B community. A look at possible ways to support the aircraft
while deployed with the Air Force will be used to determine if the EA-6B
is supportable with current Navy or Air Force maintenance and supply
systems or if some changes are required in those areas. The solutions
outlined for the supply and maintenance systems may not be the best
solution but are "a solution" used to determine supportability. If
there are not enough EA-6Bs available, or if they cannot be properly
supported while deployed, then the proposal to replace the EF-111s with
EA-6Bs will adversely affect the military and should not be done.
Inventory of EA-6Bs
There are 130 EA-6B airframes remaining. Seventy have the ICAP II
Block 82 configuration, 57 have the ICAP II Block 86/89 configuration
and 3 are experimental. All EA-6Bs would be upgraded to a common
configuration.50 Sixty are primary aircraft inventory aircraft (PAI).51
PAI denotes aircraft authorized to combat units for performance of their
basic missions; it excludes aircraft for other purposes, such as
training, testing, attrition replacements, and reconstitution
reserves.52 These deployable Prowlers are distributed to nine Navy and
four Marine squadrons with an average of four to five aircraft each. To
put it in perspective, 27 Navy and 12 Marine EA-6Bs deployed for
Operation DESERT STORM.53 There are currently 27 additional Prowlers
available which could be updated to assume the Air Force mission.
Projected service life on the EA-6B airframes is 2015, the same as the
EF-111. The two program budget decisions (PBDs), which transferred
funds from the Air Force to the Department of the Navy for the tactical
jamming mission, authorized funding to operate and maintain twenty
additional EA-6B Prowlers. The breakdown was for 16 aircraft to assume
the Air Force mission, PAI, and for 4 additional aircraft to be assigned
to the Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS) for the training of additional
personnel to man these new squadrons.
If additional Prowlers are funded, there are a sufficient number
of EA-6Bs which can replace the EF-111s. Rework needs to begin now to
ensure properly configured aircraft are available in the near future.
While the Air Force deployed to the Persian Gulf with 100 percent of
their PAI EF-111s, the Navy had about 20 additional PAI aircraft in
reserve to respond if needed. Those 20 additional PAI aircraft does not
include the assets that will be reworked for the Air Force support
Supply System Requirements
Without an adequate supply network to support the EA-6Bs working
with the Air Force, availability of fully mission capable tactical
jammers will decline and the military will be adversely affected.
Therefore, a workable logistics tail must be established to support
those assets if the Navy EA-6Bs are to replace the EF-111.
Marine aviation forces deploy with a Fly-In Support Package (FISP)
which contains a 30 day supply packout. Each FISP is aircraft peculiar
to ensure a tailored support package is available. They may also deploy
with a larger 90 day Contingency Support Package (CSP). The FISP and
CSP, coupled with the common support organic to the MAGTF, allow Marine
EA-6Bs to operate as an expeditionary force.55 An expanded FISP could
be the solution for readily available repair parts without having to
depend on the Air Force supply system.
The Air Force supply system needs to be searched for spare parts
that are used on the EF-111 and are common to the EA-6B. Identifying
those parts may prevent the removal of them from the supply system if
the EF-111 is replaced by the EA-6B. Excess parts should then be
incorporated in the Navy supply system. The mothball status of the
Raven is also of interest to Navy logisticians. If the aircraft are not
required to be preserved intact, common parts may be removed for use in
the Prowlers. Some of the major items that the Navy needs are the
jammer transmitters located in the bomb bay and the receivers located in
the "football" on top of the tail. The identification of spare parts
for use by the EA-6B will save the Department of Defense funds and
result in a greater availability of tactical jammers.
Currently the USAF supports EF-111 detachments in Incirlik,
Turkey, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, with daily flights from Dover AFB.56
This allows the Air Force to deploy with a minimum of spare parts.
Usual turnaround is two days for parts, though it takes longer for some.
McChord AFB, south of Seattle, WA, would be the nearest supply
integration point for spares coming from NAS Whidbey Island, WA, en
route to Dover AFB.
Will the Navy supply system be capable of supporting these planes
or will the Air Force supply system need to accommodate their needs?
Spare parts are too expensive to maintain an adequate inventory in two
separate supply systems. The Air Force should supply common items, but
a supplemented packout upon deployment and a responsive Naval supply
system should meet most contingencies. A higher priority for spares
parts may be all that is required.
Intermediate Level Maintenance (I-Level)
Some spare parts replaced on the flight line by organizational
level maintenance technicians are repairable. These repairs are
accomplished by intermediate level technicians in vans uniquely equipped
to support specific aircraft systems. The Navy and Marine Corps
currently own 18 EA-6B van sets. Thirteen are assigned to carriers,
four belong to the Marines and one is stationed at NAF Washington
(Andrews AFB) with the reserve EA-6B squadron VAQ-209.57
The functional capabilities of the afloat and ashore vans are
identical. Ashore configurations differ by the type of support
equipment like air conditioners or generators that are required. There
are five major EA-6B specific vans per set. These are primarily used to
troubleshoot and repair components of the tactical jamming system. The
Marines also have vans which are a shared asset of the FSSG. These
additional shared vans support Communication, Navigation, Component
Repair, Instrumentation, Electrical and DECM systems and components.
Navy squadrons utilize aviation intermediate maintenance depots (AIMD)
repair facilities on board the carriers for these systems when deployed.
Expanded van sets which contain EA-6B specific vans and vans which
support the systems that are normally serviced by the carrier's AIMD
need to be procured. Air Force maintenance support for these non-EA-6B
specific systems needs to be identified to prevent a duplication of
capabilities. The possibility of modifying the test benches currently
used to repair EF-111's ALQ-99E components for use on the USN/USMC ALQ-
99, needs to be researched. These modified benches could then be
installed in vans for future deployments.
With additional van sets, funding for spare parts, and access to
common items from the Air Force supply system, the Navy supply system
can support EA-6Bs deployed with the Air Force. Allowing the Navy to
remove critical parts from EF-111s would reduce cost to the Department
of Defense and provide for a more supportable tactical jammer force.
The program budget decisions (PBD) which gave the tactical jamming
mission to the Department of the Navy included funding for an additional
1257 personnel. The PBDs implied the additional personnel were for the
new EA-6B mission. The Office of the Secretary of Defense has been
requested to specify that the manpower increase was for the direct
support of the transition plan. Because the military is downsizing,
there are concerns that the funding may migrate to other programs if it
is not clearly earmarked.58 Retention of EA-6B trained aircrew and
technicians will be critical to prevent a severe manpower shortage.
Aggressive retention programs aimed at the EA-6B community must start
now because specialized training of new members in this airframe needed
to begin before now. If the squadron(s) cannot be manned sufficiently
to assume the Air Force tactical jamming missions, then the military
will be adversely affected and a the rate of turnover needs to be
Aircrew training should have begun a year ago to produce the
additional pilots and flight officers (ECMOs) required for the aircraft
needed to assume the EF-111 mission upon its decommissioning in fiscal
year 1997. Working backwards from June 1997, the month the Naval
services will assume the final Air Force commitments, we will construct
a time line using averages for training. The average new pilot takes
approximately 9 months to complete the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS);
this means the pilot should finish flight training by October 1996.
Average training time for a jet pilot is 24 months, which means initial
flight training should start by October 1994. This example shows that
we are a minimum of one year behind, assuming a new pilot could be
recruited and start training by October 1995.
Closed-loop detailing, or the use of only Prowler crews to man
Prowler jobs to the exclusion of other career enhancing billets, could
be a short term solution to this shortage. Additional instructors, as
well as experienced aircrews for the Air Force support squadron(s) will
be needed. Another solution may include the cross training of EF-111
pilots and EWOs in the EA-6B. USAF crews give the squadron(s) corporate
knowledge into Air Force doctrine and will assist in the transition from
EF-111 to EA-6B support of the tactical jamming commitments. The Marine
Corps also has a pool of trained EA-6B pilots and ECMOs.
The same problem exists for maintenance technicians. The A-6
community would be a valuable resource area for technicians since that
community is being decommissioned, leaving a pool of enlisted in the
Whidbey Island area. Similarities between the A-6 and EA-6B aircraft
would save training time for some jobs, but the more technical fields
like the technicians who work on the Tactical Jamming System are
uniquely trained. The time line from recruit training to becoming a
productive troubleshooter takes several years.
Currently, Navy and Marine Corps fleet EA-6B squadrons take a team
of highly specialized technicians qualified for intermediate level (I-
level) maintenance.59 Navy I-level technicians are provided in
detachments from the Aviation Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD)
SEAOPDET section. The SEAOPDET is attached to the carrier's AIMD when
embarked. They either work in common shops with members from other
SEAOPDETs or, for EA-6B unique technicians, they work in an assortment
of "vans." These vans contain test benches equipped to repair
electronic circuitry and mechanical systems which are removed and
replaced by the organizational level (flight line) troubleshooters.
Some of the I-level maintenance performed is unique to an aircraft
type, while other procedures are common to several airframes. It is
necessary to identify common I-level maintenance available from the Air
Force as well as determining additional requirements that may have been
common to Naval aircraft but will be considered unique when operating
with the Air Force. Knowing what procedures the deploying Prowler
squadron(s) will need to be able to perform will ensure that manning is
Training the pilots and ECMOs for the new squadrons can be
accomplished if they are identified now and proceed through the
established syllabus. The Navy will have to augment the squadrons with
aircrew who are currently EA-6B qualified until replacement aircrew are
available. The real challenge for the Navy is to identify the
technicians that are required when working with the Air Force that are
not currently a member of the fleet squadrons. A squadron manning
document must be designed to include those rates. A delay in designing
the new manning document will further delay the process of recruiting
and training additional personnel in those rates. Personnel in
technical ratings must be identified and begin training now to prevent a
critical shortage later. Training of adequate numbers of new personnel
and aggressive retention programs aimed at the EA-6B community need to
start now. Manning is the critical link in the ability of the Navy to
assume the new missions. Retraining A-6 technicians and EF-111 pilots
and EWOs, as well as closed-loop detailing of EA-6B aircrew should
provide sufficient manpower for the EA-6B Air Force support squadron(s).
FACT: The EA-6B is slower than the EF-111.
FACT: The EA-6B has a shorter combat radius than the EF-111.
FACT: The EA-6B has a more capable tactical jamming system than the EF-
FACT: The EA-6B carries communications jamming equipment which the EF-
111 does not.
FACT: The EA-6B has a lethal SEAD capability with the HARM which the
EF-111 does not.
FACT: The EA-6B was designed for raid type warfare.
FACT: The EF-111 was designed for campaign warfare.
FACT: The EA-6B proved it was able to participate and excel in a
campaign type war during Operation DESERT STORM.
FACT: The EA-6B is less expensive to operate than the EF-111.
FACT: There are sufficient EA-6Bs available to replace the EF-111.
FACT: The military is in a period of downsizing.
The EA-6B is not an EF-111. The major weaknesses of the Prowler
when comparied to the Raven are the slower speed and shorter range. In
contrast, the major strengths of the Prowler when comparied to the Raven
are its superior tactical jamming system, communications jamming
capability, and HARM carrying ability. Tanking was identified as one of
the nation's strengths during Operation DESERT STORM. The EA-6B has a
greater combat radius than the F-4G Wild Weasel and tanking was provided
to ensure the Wild Weasel could be used against the Iraqi integrated air
defense system (IADS). Accommodating the EA-6B by allowing it to be
based near the battlespace and providing tanking assets would ensure
sufficient electronic combat coverage for Air Force and Coalition strike
packages. The solution to the KC-135 tanker is a wing drogue to
accommodate Navy and Marine aircraft which has been funded and needs to
be purchased if the Air Force plans to support the attached EA-6Bs. Air
Force tactics can evolve to accomodate the speed differences.
During the Gulf War, the Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B squadrons
generated more sorties per aircraft per day than the Air Force did with
its EF-111 force. The EF-111 and EA-6B jammers flew similar flight
profiles against the same Iraqi targets, which means that the systems
were similar enough that they could be intermixed. The real advantage
belonged to the EA-6B because of its deterrent effect due to its HARM
carrying capability. The EA-6B could have easily replaced the EF-111 in
Operation DESERT STORM. Since the EA-6B is compatible with the Air
Force, supportable while deployed, can be adequately manned, is less
expensive and causes no adverse affect on the military, the Prowler is a
suitable replacement for the EF-111; therefore, the EA-6B Prowler is the
future of airborne tactical jamming.
Click here to view image
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2. Wayne P. Gagner, "Black Art Electronic Systems Prove Merit in Gulf Air
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3. Paul Mann, "Washington Outlook: Jamming Upgrade," Aviation Week and
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5. Brungess, 38.
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12. Keaney, 240.
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54. Assuming these assets would be assigned to VAQ-129, the only EA-6B
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57. Information provided to Commander Electronic Combat Wing Pacific,
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