Retired from the Navy in 2014, the EA-6B Prowler – one of the United States’ oldest warplanes – is finding new life in the fight against The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by scrambling enemy radios and cell phones.
“We were the first USMC aircraft in Syria on the first wave of strikes, and have continued to support strike packages, air drops, and other electronic warfare requirements as directed by the Combined Force Air Component Commander, ” said Lt. Col. David Mueller, VMAQ’-4’s commanding officer in an interview with Marine Times.
The mission against ISIL may be the military’s final use for the Prowler, since it’s scheduled for retirement from the Marine Corps in 2019.
“It is capable, but the platform itself is aging,” Dakota Wood, a retired Marine officer, told Marine Times. “It’s capabilities are still relevant … but the airplane itself can only have so many flight hours on the airframe.”
Introduced in 1971, the Prowler was made to protect friendly assets from enemy detection by providing an electronic cloak. It’s instruments jam enemy radar signals necessary for launching attacks while allowing friendly signals to pass through. It also detects the location of enemy radar, which it could use to hone in and destroy. Put simply, the Prowler blinds the enemy.
Apart from scrambling ISIL radio and cell phone signals, the Prowler can also block anti-aircraft weapons and devices used to set off roadside bombs. It can even block propaganda broadcasts used to recruit more followers by jamming the Internet and radio airwaves.
This 1970’s video shows the Prowler’s capabilities, minus its current technology: