Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135, the “Black Ravens,” returned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Thursday after successfully completing a six-month deployment in the Middle East.
The squadron began combat operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in May, the day after its five jets arrived at the airfield. Their last combat mission was flown in early September. Sailors were on the ground in Afghanistan from the end of April until mid-September.
This was a historic venture — the first EA-18G Growler expeditionary deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The EA-6B Prowlers have had a constant presence in the operation since its opening days in 2001.
The mission of both the Growler and the Prowler are the same: to support ground troops with airborne electronic attack.
VAQ-135 last supported Operation Enduring Freedom from September 2009 to January 2010, but aircrew flew their missions in Prowlers launched from the USS Nimitz.
The squadron has since transitioned from the Prowler to the Growler – and from carrier-based to expeditionary (land-based) missions.
The squadron was designated “safe for flight” in the Growler in June 2011.
While many of the Black Ravens have already returned home, the last members of the squadron, which consists of over 150 sailors, will arrive home next week.
Returning with the squadron are 16 members of the Van Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest that provide technical support to keep the jets in top condition.