US NAVY EA-18G Growlers have been training this summer for the first time with US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. After initial training in June, the electronic attack aircraft returned to the base for a further deployment between July 11-22.
This marked the first time the US Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) ‘Vikings’, stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, had travelled to Ellsworth to conduct training in its local airspace. US Navy pilots and electronic warfare officers utilized the unique components of the Powder River Training Complex airspace to help accomplish its role as the fleet replenishment squadron for the EA-18G.
Navy Lt Matthew Galamison, an EA-18G Growler instructor, said: “We are one of two aircraft in the US military inventory that is capable of accomplishing the electronic attack role. It’s very important that our aircrew get the training and range that they need with the proper emitters in order to practice against threats that are out there.”
Galamison noted that part of the Growler’s mission in combat is to deny, degrade or delay the enemies’ ability to acquire and engage friendly air forces and also give bombers or fighters access to those targeted areas. During the EA-18G’s time at Ellsworth, B-1s were able to join the Navy aircraft to train in these sorts of mission sets.
VAQ-129 has the distinct role of providing airborne electronic attack (AEA) training for both the Air Force and Navy. Its home station, NAS Whidbey Island, also hosts the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron (ECS), the US Air Force’s sole AEA unit at NASWI, as part of the Joint Airborne Electronic Attack Program. The 390th ECS is a geographically separated unit of the 366th Operations Group based at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
USAF Lt Col Allen Geist, 390 th ECS commander and a former B-1 weapon systems officer himself, said: “The great thing about coming out to Ellsworth to use the Powder River Training Complex is its size and threat emitters that we can utilize. It gives us a great training opportunity and definitely builds the foundation for the electronic weapons officers to have the expertise to take down enemy integrated air defence systems.” AFM