For a time in American naval aviation history, the Grumman EA-6 "Prowler" served as the United States Navy's lone Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) platform, a role once relied on by the service through the United States Air Force's (USAF) General Dynamics EF-111 "Raven" land-based, swing-wing aircraft. The EA-6 originally emerged from a United States Marine Corps (USMC) requirement during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) as a support aircraft and this begat a platform born from the existing Grumman A-6 Intruder line of carrier-based strike aircraft - thus, with its specialized equipment in place, the new aircraft was able to retain all of the excellent carrier-operating traits of the original.
The USMC used the new EA-6 to replace its aged stock of Douglas F3D "Skynights" in the same EWA role and originally appeared under the designation of "A2F-1H" in following the pre-1962 USN designation convention (until later redesignated to the more familiar "EA-6A"). A prototype (two were built) first flew on April 26th, 1963 and retained the original two-man, side-by-side crew of the A-6 strike platform - the key identifying feature of the mark was the pod fitted at the vertical tail fin containing the necessary antenna equipment. Other installations included the AN/APQ-129 Fire Control Radar (FCR) and the AN/APN-153 navigation radar system. The USMC received some 28 of the aircraft of which fifteen of these were new-builds from Grumman and eleven converted from existing A-6A production models. EA-6As served throughout the Vietnam War up until their drawdown around 1970 and the mark was formally retired in 1990.
Then followed the EA-6B which became a much more specialized EW platform. Its fuselage was lengthened some to accommodate two additional EWA officers in rear, side-by-side cockpits. The vertical tail fin housed the antenna pod as usual and the FCR and navigation system were all-modern implements. Signal jammers were added as underwing pods and the canopy covered over in a gold film so as to protect the crew from any harmful emissions from their external electronic equipment. Development of this mark began in 1966 and a first flight was recorded on May 25th, 1968, leading to formal introduction in 1971 and quickly replacing old Douglas "Skywarriors" for the USN in the same EWA role. The USN/USMC procured a total of 170 EA-6B Prowlers in all, these aircraft seeing service over Vietnam, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and across the 1999 Balkans campaign. Its last recorded sorties have been over Afghanistan and Iraq following the U.S.-led invasions of both countries - used in the IED (Improvised Explosive Device) jamming role. Over its service life, some forty EA-6 airframes were lost though none to direct enemy action.
The EA-6B model variant was cleared to field the potent AGM-88 "HARM" anti-radar missile suitable for taking out signal-emitting enemy radar installations. Additionally, the 5 external hardpoints were plumbed to carry 300 gallon droppable fuel tanks for increased operational ranges. The fuel tanks could be supplanted on four of the five hardpoints with jamming pods as well for a broader tactical reach over the battlefield. An external (and static/fixed) in-flight refueling probe (retained from the A-6 design) was also provided at the center-front of the cockpit windshield, positioned exactly between the pilot and front-seated electronic warfare officer. The available hardpoints could manage stores up to 18,000lb in all - typically including 2 x AGM-88 HARM missiles.
The EA-6B was driven by 2 x Pratt & Whitney J52-P408A turbojet engines developing 10,400lb thrust each. Maximum speed was 650 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 480 miles per hour. Range was out to 2,400 miles with external fuel stores while the rate-of-climb was 12,900 feet per minute with a service ceiling up to 37,600 feet.
Service of the Prowler is now more limited than ever after the 2009 introduction of the Boeing EA-18G "Growler", an EWA platform based on the F/A-18F "Super Hornet" multirole fighter line.
February 2019 - United States Marine Corps squadron VMAQ-2 have retired the last of their EA-6B Prowlers. Deactivation occurred on March 8th, 2019 completing over 40 years of service.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 197 Units
Grumman / Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation - USA
United States (retired)
- Electronic Warfare (EW)
- Navy / Maritime
58.07 ft (17.7 m)
52.17 ft (15.9 m)
16.08 ft (4.9 m)
33,356 lb (15,130 kg)
61,509 lb (27,900 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Grumman EA-6B Prowler production model)
2 x Pratt & Whitney J52-P-408A turbojet engines developing 10,400 lb of thrust each.
652 mph (1,050 kph; 567 kts)
37,730 feet (11,500 m; 7.15 miles)
2,022 miles (3,254 km; 1,757 nm)
12,900 ft/min (3,932 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Grumman EA-6B Prowler production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
Mission-Specific. May Include:
4 x AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation air-to-surface missiles.
5 x ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System (TJS) mission pods.
5 x 300 gallon jettisonable fuel drop tanks.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Grumman EA-6B Prowler production model)
A-6 "Intruder" - Carrierbased Strike Aircraft used throughout the Vietnam War and beyond; airframe basis for the Prowler series.
EA-6A "Electric Intruder" - Conversion of two-seat A-6 Intruder strike aircraft; debuted in Vietnam Conflict; entered service in 1963.
EA-6B - Refined and dedicated electronic warfare platform; lengthened fuselage for 4-seat cockpit compartment; fitted with noticeable fin tip antenna bulb; AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile support; entered service in 1971.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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