Aircraft as a Glance
The EA-6B flew its first combat missions in Vietnam and its last supporting the Global War on Terror.
So vital was the Prowler to countering enemy anti-aircraft defenses, a report from Operation Desert Storm in 1991 concluded that if “Navy defense suppression [EA-6B] wasn’t available, the missions didn’t fly.”
The museum’s example is the first aircraft built from the beginning as a Prowler, its predecessors having been modified A-6A Intruder attack aircraft.
During the Cold War anti-aircraft defenses became increasingly sophisticated, their radars tracking attacking aircraft and guiding both antiaircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles. To counter this emerging threat, the Navy and Marine Corps adapted aircraft for the electronic countermeasures (ECM) mission, notably the AD Skyraider and F3D Skyknight, a “Q” attached to their designations noting the ECM role (i.e AD-5Q).
In 1960, as part of the development of the new A2F (later A-6) Intruder all-weather attack aircraft, Grumman engineers began evaluating an ECM version of the airplane. The result was the EA-6A Intruder, which entered service in Marine Corps squadrons in December 1965, coinciding with the intensification of the air war over North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. Concurrently, Grumman developed a Tactical Jamming System and defined the requirements for the airplane to serve as a platform for it. The result was the EA-6B Prowler, which built upon the success of the EA-6A, but differed in some respects including size to incorporate a four-man crew consisting of one pilot and three electronic counter-measures officers (ECMO). Over the course of its service life, the Prowler underwent modifications to accommodate improved equipment that enhanced its warfighting capabilities. This included provisions for launching High-speed Anti-radiation Missiles (HARM).
Three A-6As served as development aircraft for the EA-6B. The first Prowlers arrived at VAQ-129 at NAS Whidbey Island, WA, in December 1971, and the initial fleet squadrons equipped with the new airplane flew combat missions over North Vietnam as part of Operations Linebacker I and II. This began a lengthy service that lasted over four decades with the Prowler developing into the foremost electronic attack platform in the U.S. military arsenal, supporting combat missions in Grenada, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and other crises around the world. A summary of air operations in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 captured the importance of the EA-6B. “Critical to the success of all aviation missions was the role of electronic countermeasures “jamming” or “defense suppression” aircraft. Navy EA-6B Prowlers determined threat location then jammed and destroyed enemy radars. Navy defense suppression aircraft supported all U.S. and coalition forces— in fact, availability of the EA-6Bs was a go/no-go criterion for many strike missions. If Navy defense suppression wasn’t available, the missions didn’t fly.”
The museum’s EA-6B (Bureau Number 156481) was the first aircraft constructed from the beginning as a Prowler and not modified from an A-6A. Accepted by the Navy on New Year’s Eve in 1969, it flew as a weapons test platform before assignment to VAQ-129, the EA-6B fleet replacement squadron. It served at sea with VAQ-130, VAQ-140 VAQ-137, their collective service including an around-the-world cruise, deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf, and operations in Somalia and Bosnia. The airplane’s final assignment was as a test platform with VX-23. Bureau Number 156481 arrived at the museum on June 30, 2010. During its four decades of service, it logged over 6,000 flight hours and made 924 arrested landings.
Manufacturer: Grumman Aerospace Corporation
Dimensions: Length: 59 ft., 10 in.; Height: 16 ft., 3 in.; Wingspan: 53 ft.
Weights: Empty: 32,162 lb.; Gross: 65,000 lb.
Power Plant: Two 11,200 lb. static thrust Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408 turbojets
Performance: Maximum Speed: 610 M.P.H. at sea level; Service ceiling: 38,000 ft.; Range: 2,400 miles
Armament: Provision for AGM-88 HARM
Crew: One pilot and three electronic counter-measures officers