News

Prowler's future decided soon

Capt. Doug Swoish - Christine Smith
Capt. Doug Swoish
— image credit: Christine Smith

Whidbey Island is a great place to fly Prowlers, and the man in charge of them all is taking steps to make sure that electronic attack has a future here.

Capt. Doug Swoish, Commander of Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, gave a briefing Tuesday on the status of the wing at the naval air station, recent operations involving Prowler squadrons and an update on the follow-on aircraft to the aging Prowler fleet.

Speaking to a roomful of members of the Association of Naval Aviation at its monthly luncheon meeting at the Officers’ Club, Swoish emphasized the positive conditions for the electronic attack training available at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

And, Swoish said he is looking forward to a decision being made about the future of the Prowler as soon as this coming June. The Pentagon is expected to decide on which platform, or type of aircraft, will replace the EA-6B, and where it will be based.

“The Secretary of the Navy reiterated it … that in June the all-service secretaries will brief out to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs what they view as their vision for electronic attack in the years 2010 and 2020,” Swoish said.

Swoish said he projects that the electronic attack community will experience aircraft inventory shortfalls in 2008, so decisions need to be made now on the future of aircraft.

“I need your help, so what’s going to be your plan, CNO,” Swoish said, as if directing the question to the Chief of Naval Operations.

Last week Swoish had the opportunity to brief the Secretary of the Navy on the current status and the future demands on keeping the EA-6B mission capable.

“Bottom line to him was that no decision in June is a decision. In other words, indecision was as bad as anything else,” Swoish said.

While Department of Defense officials are mulling over which kind of aircraft should replace the EA-6B, Swoish is making a case for keeping electronic attack based here.

There are only two places in the continental United States, Swoish said, that he can think of that provide a “pristine electromagnetic spectrum.” One is the “wheat fields in the dead center of the U.S.,” and the other is in the Pacific Northwest.

Aside from the “great airspace” available here, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is close to two aircraft carrier ports, has good runways, has “oldies but goldies” for hangars, and is in a cooperative civilian community.

While facing challenges maintaining the EA-6B, which fleetwide has an average age of 24 years, the wing has experienced significantly increased demand since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 prompted the war on terrorism, focusing for now on Afghanistan. From the very first U.S. attacks on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets, Prowler squadrons from Whidbey Island have actively participated in Operation Enduring Freedom.

The number of Prowler squadrons in “work-ups,” or getting ready to deploy, have doubled since Sept. 11, and one squadron stands ready to deploy with only 96 hours’ notice.

“The sun never sets on the Prowler community,” Swoish said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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