The Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a twin-engine, mid-wing electronic warfare aircraft manufactured by Grumman (now Northrop Grumman) as a modification of the basic A-6 Intruder airframe. The EA-6B has been in service with the U.S. Armed Forces from 1971 through the present. The EA-6B has carried out numerous missions for jamming enemy radar systems, and in gathering radio intelligence on those and other enemy air defense systems. In addition, the EA-6B is capable of carrying and firing anti-radiation missiles (ARM), such as the Shrike missile and the HARM missile. The aircrew of the EA-6B consists of one pilot and three Electronic Countermeasures Officers.
From the 1998 retirement of the U.S. Air Force EF-111 Raven electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-6B was the only dedicated electronic warfare plane available for missions by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Air Force until the fielding of the Navy's EA-18G Growler in 2009.
Since the retirement of the EF-111 Raven in 1995, the EA-6B is the only dedicated aerial radar jammer aircraft of the U.S. Armed Forces. The EA-6B has been flown in most all American combat operation since 1972, and is frequently flown in support of the U.S. Air Force missions.
About 125 Prowlers remain today, divided between twelve Navy, four Marine, and four joint Navy-Air Force "Expeditionary" squadrons. A JCS staff study recommended that the EF-111 Raven be retired to reduce Type/Model/Series aircraft dedicated to the same mission, which led to an OSD Program Decision Memorandum (PDM) to establish 4 "expeditionary" Prowler squadrons composed of Navy and USAF personnel to meet the needs of the Air Force.
Though once considered being replaced by Common Support Aircraft, the original plan failed to materialize. The EA-6B remains in active service today. In 2009 the Navy EA-6B Prowler community begin transitioning to the EA-18G Growler, a new electronic warfare derivative of the F/A-18F Super Hornet. All but one of the active duty Navy EA-6B squadrons are based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, located in the northwest corner of the state of Washington. VAQ-136 is stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, as part of Carrier Air Wing 5, the forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) air wing that embarks aboard the Japan-based USS George Washington (CVN-73). VAQ-209, the Navy Reserve's sole remaining EA-6B squadron, is stationed at Naval Air Facility Washington, Maryland. All Marine Corps EA-6B squadrons are located at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.