Growlers soar with B
Growlers Soar With B-1s
Around Ellsworth AFB
By Airman 1st Class Sadie Colbert,
28th Bomb Wing Public Affair.
Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota — (AFNS)
— July 20, 2016 — Navy EA-18G Growlers have joined B-1 Lancers during the past
several weeks in the skies around Ellsworth Air Force Base for electronic attack
A B-1B Lancer and EA-18G Growler bank to the left during a
training sortie near Ellsworth AFB, S.D.
This marked the first time the Navy’s Electronic Attack
Squadron 129 (VAQ-129), stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island,
Washington, traveled to Ellsworth AFB to conduct training in its local airspace.
The training was conducted in June and is also taking place from July 11-22.
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.
“We are one of two aircraft in the U.S. military inventory
that is capable of accomplishing the electronic attack role,” said Navy Lt.
Matthew Galamison, an EA-18G instructor. “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.”
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, Galamison said. During
the EA-18G’s time at Ellsworth AFB, B-1 bombers have joined the Navy aircraft to
train to these sorts of mission sets.
The lethality of worldwide anti-access and area-denial
capabilities and the need to operate in a contested electromagnetic spectrum
shows the necessity for electronic warfare missions.
“This training is unique,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Allen
Geist, the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron commander. “The Growler community is
the one community that strategically looks at using electronic warfare, an
ability that allows our aircraft to access denied environments.”
VAQ-129 has the distinct role of providing airborne
electronic attack training for both the Air Force and Navy. Its home station,
NAS Whidbey Island, also hosts the 390th ECS, the Air Force’s sole AEA unit at
NAS Whidbey Island, as part of the Joint Airborne Electronic Attack Program. The
390th ECS is a geographically separated unit of the 366th Operations Group out
of Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
Historically, the Air Force had its own dedicated electronic
warfare aircraft that flew escort for large strike packages. They would crack
open bristling networks of search-and-track radars, surface-to-air missiles, and
anti-aircraft artillery batteries, collectively known as integrated air defenses.
In 1995, after the Air Force divested its AEA aircraft, the
Office of the Secretary of Defense directed electronic warfare Airmen be
embedded with the Navy’s EA-6B Prowlers, and now EA-18G. Under a memorandum of
understanding between the Air Force and Navy, select Air Force EWOs and pilots
continue to embed on Navy electronic warfare missions through a competitive
“The Air Force has always been interested in maintaining a
knowledge of airborne electronic attack,” Galamison said. “There are more
capable threats with new tactics emerging, which is why the exchange program
between the Air Force and Navy exist so both B-1 and F-15 (Eagle) aircrew can
come to Whidbey for one to a couple of years to learn how airborne electronic
Galamison added with the exchange program, Air Force aircrews
can take the knowledge they have learned on AEA and bring it back to the Air
Force to make integration of other aircrews easier during large force exercises,
such as those held in the Powder River Training Complex.
“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,” said Geist, a former B-1 weapon systems officer. “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 defense