After supporting combat operations for the Marine Corps in nearly every conflict throughout the past 40 years, the Marines’ electronic attack aircraft, the EA-6B Prowler, will fly its final flight mid-March.
A deactivation ceremony for the Corps’ final Prowler squadron, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, or VMAQ-2 is set to be held Friday.
Some retired Prowlers are making their way to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, commonly referred to as “the boneyard.”
But a few of the EA-6Bs will rest at the an air museum in Texas and the Smithsonian near our nation’s capital.
The deactivation marks an end of an era and a storied history that has seen the Prowler jamming enemy communications and systems in conflicts to include operations El Dorado Canyon, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Deny Flight, Decisive Endeavor, Deliberate Guard, Allied Force, Northern and Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Unified Protector, and most recently Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel, a command release detailed.
It’s predecessor, the EA-6A Electric Intruder, even saw action in the Vietnam War.
“Collectively, Marine Corps Prowlers have flown over 260,000 hours during its 42-year service life. Marine squadrons have deployed with the Prowler more than 70 times in support of every major combat operation in the last forty years,” the command release said.
The Corps’ last Prowler squadron, VMAQ-2, wrapped up its final deployment to the Middle East in November, where it was pivotal in jamming ISIS communications and radio-controlled IEDs. The Prowler also can suppress Syrian and Russian air defense systems.
The Corps slowly started to retire its fleet of the electronic attack aircraft in 2016 with the deactivation of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1. That deactivation was followed by VMAQ-4 deactivated in June 2017, and VMAQ-3 deactivated in May 2018.
Marine officials have previously told Marine Corps Times that the Navy’s EA-18G will serve as the Defense Department’s sole joint electronic attack platform.
While the Corps is losing its primary electronic attack platform, many of the Corps’ aircraft and even drones are being outfitted with some jamming capabilities. The Corps’ F-35 high-tech stealth aircraft has electronic warfare and jamming capabilities.
The Corps is also pushing electronic attack to its small tactical drones like the RQ-21 Blackjack. That small drone will be equipped with the Intrepid Tiger II counter radar capability payload.
This drone electronic war capability by no means replaces the Prowler, but it does afford grunts at lower echelons of the tactical level the ability to self-deploy electronic attack capabilities.
The last two official Prowler flights will be March 12 at the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas and March 14 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, said 1st Lt. Samuel Stephenson, a spokesman with 2 Marine Air Wing.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.