The Prowler is derived from the two-seater A-6 Intruder attack aircraft. The basic airframe was stretched and strengthened to accommodate a four-seat cockpit. The major external differences between the EA-6B and the two-seat A-6E are a 54-in. fuselage extension for two additional crew stations, a large pod on the vertical tail to house electronic countermeasures equipment, and a canted refueling probe. Although the fuselage was stretched to permit space for four crew members, the wing area is the same as that used on the A-6E. The basic mission, external stores, and electronic suites of the Prowler are considerably different from those of the A-6E. The EA-6B is more than 10,000 lb heavier than the A-6E, and carries large pods for electronics on wing pylons. Since the EA-6B is considerably heavier than the A-6, this results in a significant reduction in maneuvering capability.
The EA-6B wing span is 53 feet or 26 feet folded. The aircraft length is 60 feet with a height of 17 feet or 22 feet folded. The Prowler can carry over 20,000 lbs. of jet fuel (about 3000 gallons) and has a maximum takeoff weight of 61,500 lbs. The aircraft is powered by two J52-P408A Pratt and Whitney turbojet engines which can each produce 10,400 lbs. of thrust for a maximum speed of .86 mach or 630 mph at sea level. At maximum power the EA-6B engines burn over 20,000 lbs. (almost 3000 gallons) of fuel per hour. At cruise power it burns 6000 (880 gallons) per hour.
Combining a fully integrated electronic warfare system with long range, all-weather capability, the EA-6B has the ability to intercept, analyze and effectively neutralize hostile radars. Built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation, it is designed for carrier and advanced base operations. It has the basic airframe of the A-6 series with the addition of a forward cockpit, increasing the crew complement to four: one pilot and three electronic counter-measures officers (ECMO's). The pilot and ECMO in the front cockpit are responsible for flying the aircraft, radio communication, navigation, operating the air-to-ground radar, and firing the HARM. The ECMO in the right front seat is responsible for navigation, communications, and defensive electronic countermeasures. The two ECMOs seated in the aft cockpit are responsible for operating the ALQ-99 tactical jamming system and electronic surveillance.
The heart of the EA-6B is the AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System. The Prowler can carry up to five pods (one belly mounted and two on each wing). Each pod is integrally powered and houses two jamming transmitters that cover one of seven frequency bands. The EA-6B can carry any mix of pods, fuel tanks and/or HARM anti-radiation missiles depending on mission requirements.
The EA-6B's tail fin pod houses sensitive surveillance receivers, capable of detecting hostile radar emissions at long range. Emitter information is processed by the central mission computer. Detection, identification, direction-finding, and jammer-set-on-sequence may be performed automatically or by the crew.
The EA-6B is operated by a crew of four, comprised of one pilot and three Electronic Countermeasures Officers (ECMOs). The EA-6B is designed for carrier and advanced base operation, day and night, in all weather conditions. It uses the AN/TQS-142 Tactical EA-6B Mission Planning System (TEAMS) for mission planning. TEAMS uses a computer stored electronic order of battle for the applicable geographic area. It provides the ECMO with software associated with the planned aircraft flight route. The software is carried to the aircraft and is used to initiate the AN/ALQ-99 TJS. It then ensures the most efficient and effective use of the AN/ALQ-99. During the mission, other software records the scenario and is then used for postflight updating of the TEAMS.
The Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler provides Airborne Command and Control (C2W) support to Fleet Marine Forces to include electronic attack (EA), tactical electronic support (ES), electronic protection (EP) and high speed anti-radiation missile (HARM).
The EA-6B's ALQ-99 OBS is used to collect tactical electronic order of battle (EOB) data which can be disseminated through the command and control system while airborne, and which can be recorded and processed after missions to provide updates to various orders of battle. The ALQ-00 TJS is used to provide active radar jamming support to assault support and attack aircrtaft, as well as ground units. Additional suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) capability is available with the employment of HARM.
The Prowler is not optimized to provide a safe haven by virtue of an "umbrella of electrons". However, if used efficiently and effectively, this limited asset can provide the JFC with a decisive tactical advantage. The EA-6B is a multi-mission capable platform, that couples human interface with a sophisticated electronic warfare package. Whether the crew of four is assigned to a carrier-based Navy VAQ squadron, Marine Corps VMAQ squadron, or a newly formed, jointly manned Navy land-based squadron (also VAQ), they come to the "battlefield" as a highly standardized crew that completed centralized training at NAS Whidbey Island, WA.
Marine Prowlers may be land-based from prepared airfields, or they can operate from expeditionary airfields (EAF). They may also be sea-based, operating from aircraft carriers. Marine Prowlers are unique in their integration with the Tactical Electronic Processing and Evaluation System (TERPES). TERPES provides post-mission analysis of EA-6B ES data for reporting and updating orders of battle. It also provides post-mission analysis of jamming and HARM employment for reporting, assessing and storing mission data.
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