The VAQ-140 “Patriots” squadron has just returned from an eight-month deployment in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf, where they flew some of the Navy’s newest aircraft built for “electronic attack” against ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria. They came back with some breathtaking video footage, too.
Now I feel obligated to say; in the case that this video makes you join up, your results in the Navy may vary. The actual life of a pilot, or anyone else in the service, is a lot more challenging than this very-chill video might suggest. That said, there’s no doubt it has rewards you won’t get in any other line of work.
The Patriots fly EA-18G Growler jets, which replace the EA-6B Prowler in Navy’s the “electronic attack” role. The Growler is based off the FA-18 Super Hornet and looks almost identical, but has a few key differences as explained by one of the pilots who asked to remain anonymous:
“Our wingtips house the ALQ-218 as opposed to the AIM-9X Sidewinder. The ALQ-218 is a complex series of antennae’s that help to detect and geo-locate emitters and signals. These devices on our wingtips, combined with a myriad of other antennae’s added to our aircraft make up our Electronic Surveillance (ES) suite.”
“We carry the ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming Pod underneath our wings as opposed to the bombs carried by a conventional fighter. These jamming pods delay, degrade, and deny the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum. If we can control the spectrum, we can control some very interesting aspects of a modern day war.”
“Because we are the newest variant of the Hornet series of aircraft, we have a lot of new toys as well. For example, the APG-79 AESA radar, which is a great piece of tech.”
“We do not carry conventional ‘kinetic’ bombs, as we deal mainly in the ‘non-kinetic’ regime. But we do carry AIM-120 AMRAAM as our means of self defense in the air-air regime.”
“We are also capable of carrying HARM (High speed Anti Radiation Missile) and AARGM (Advanced Anti Radiation Guided Missile). These missiles are designed to seek out threat weapon systems and emitters, hone in on their energy, and destroy them.”
Naval-Technology has even more specs if you’re not done nerding out.
The Patriots are based out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington, but spent this last deployment aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman.
The Truman is a Nimitz-class carrier, first launched in 1996 and commissioned for Navy service in 1998 according to Navy.mil. It set out for its first deployment in 2000 and is currently supporting Operation Inherent Resolve– “targeted airstrikes of Iraq and Syria as part of the comprehensive strategy to degrade and defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.”
The U.S. Navy has permitted these three beautiful videos of the Patriots and their colleagues in action on this Operation which is broken up into three chapters. You can pretty much guess the content of each by its title. Spoiler alert: the jet-flying is mostly in the third video, but it’s all pretty fun to watch.
For an even deeper look into the life of EA-18G Growler pilots and their mission, be sure to check out Foxtrot Alpha’s “Confessions Of A US Navy EA-18 Growler Electronic Warfare Officer.” Besides the personal anecdotes there’s a lot of insight as to how electronic war has changed, and what it’s like to be a part of.