USMC marks the beginning of the end at Cherry Point. The US Marine Corps has marked the last time EA-6B Prowlers from its four squadrons will fly together as the fleet begins its sundown in service.
On March 1, the US Marine Corps flew four EA-6Bs together as it prepared to disband the training unit VMAQT-1 ‘Banshees’ in the coming months.
Operational squadrons VMAQ-2 ‘Death Jesters’, VMAQ-3 ‘Moondogs’ and VMAQ-4 ‘Seahawks’ will all disband by 2019 as the Marine Corps moves towards the F-35 and unmanned aerial vehicles for its electronic warfare missions.
According to the 2016 Marine Corps TACAIR roadmap: ‘The USMC currently has three operational and one FRS EA-6B squadrons, each operating the Improved Capabilities (ICAP) III version of the EA-6B Prowler. This variant will support Marine and joint operational requirements through 2019.
Planned ICAP III Block 7 upgrades to software and hardware will improve EW performance and interoperability through the end of service life.’
The sundown of Marine Prowlers, starting with the FRS (VMAQT-1), will begin at the end of FY16, with one squadron decommissioning each year until complete at the end of FY19.
The plan adds: ‘The Marine Corps is building an organic and distributed electronic warfare system of systems known as MAGTF EW. MAGTF EW transitions the Marine Corps from a focus on the low density/high-demand EA-6B, to a distributed, platform-agnostic strategy – where every platform contributes/ functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer – to include EW. Under MAGTF EW the Marine Corps is leveraging emerging technologies and integrating multiple aviation platforms (unmanned, fixed wing, and rotary wing assets); payloads; ground-based EW nodes; and cyber capabilities to provide commanders with an organic and persistent EW capability – for every MAGTF – large and small. ‘
‘This integration of manned and unmanned airborne and ground EW capabilities will provide the MAGTF commander with greater flexibility and control of the electromagnetic spectrum – and in many cases giving that MAGTF commander a capability where previously they had none. MAGTF EW assets will be modular, scalable, and networked, utilizing an open architecture that is rapidly adaptable and remotely re-programmable at the tactical level to support future Marine Corps war fighting requirements.’
‘UAS are a planned critical component of the MAGTF EW concept. As such, EW expertise normally resident within the VMAQ community began to transition to the VMU community in 2015.
Airborne electronic attack (AEA) capabilities post-2019 will be provided by EW payloads such as the Intrepid Tiger II EW Pod, UAS EW payloads, and the EW capabilities inherent to F-35.