When the EA-6B Prowler electronic-warfare plane first entered service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps starting in 1971, its main job was to scramble enemy radars and radios with its powerful jammers.
But with the Marines and the other U.S. armed services facing severe shortages of various planes, the few remaining Prowlers are now filling in — as flying spies over Iraq.
In May 2016, the main Pentagon’s task force in charge of the war on Islamic State posted a series of pictures of different aircraft on Facebook — and at least one included a Prowler. The photograph was notable, since the jet from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron Four was carrying a targeting pod instead of its normal jamming gear.
n January 2015, the Marine Corps told War Is Boring that its Prowlers were helping fight Islamic State, but had declined to provide any specifics. The jets were likely flying missions from the Marines’ main air hub at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base in Kuwait. In April, more Marine EA-6Bs arrived at Incirlik air base in Turkey.
“Prowlers … provide an umbrella of protection to coalition aircraft and ground troops in the fight against Da’esh by degrading Da’esh communications,” Air Force major Omar Villarreal, the media operations chief at the flying branch’s top command for the Middle East, told War Is Boring via email, using another common name for Islamic State.
Thankfully, terrorists in Iraq don’t have any long-range, radar-guided surface-to-air missiles for the Prowlers to jam. But with Islamic State proving to be both highly organized and especially propaganda savvy, there have been more than enough opportunities to shut down the group’s communications networks, radio broadcasts and more.
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