The naked eye can only see so far and it can’t track the really fast stuff. Radar makes up for that natural shortcoming and has become a necessity in warfare. In fact, it’s arguably the main reason that the British won the Battle of Britain.
Ever since the Battle of Britain, folks who wanted — or needed — to put bombs on target in enemy territory needed to disable enemy radar first. Blowing up enemy radar is no easy task as most military forces keep them well guarded. Thankfully, you don’t need to blow up the enemy radar — you just need to make sure it can’t see. During World War II, specialized units, like No. 100 Group of the Royal Air Force, flew a variety of planes modified with jammers with the sole purpose of disrupting radar.
A U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler from the Electronic Attack Squadron-133 out of Woodby Island, Washington, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, in support of exercise Northern Edge 2002. (USAF photo)
After World War II, the United States military decided they needed two planes for the job: the EF-111 Raven and the EA-6B Prowler. The Prowler entered service in 1971, replacing the EKA-3B Skywarrior, which was better known as the “Whale.”
Although both the Raven and the Prowler were modified attack planes, the Prowler hardly resembled its original after modifications. The A-6 had a crew of two while the EA-6B Prowler had a crew of four. The Prowler carries up to five pods for the ALQ-99 electronic countermeasures system. The ALQ-99 carries out what is known as “soft kills” of enemy radars and missiles. A “soft kill” doesn’t do physical damage, but instead confuses targeted systems by sending false signals, jamming enemy systems with static, or even turning displays blank.
The EA-6B could also do the “hard-kill” work, using AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles. This plane is still in service today with the United States Marine Corps and ended a 44-years term with the United States Navy in 2015.