News: Yuma hosts first flight for new electronic warfare system
Story by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
YUMA, Ariz. - MCAS Yuma witnessed another milestone in Corps aviation history when Marine Attack Squadron 214 flew a new electronic warfare system, March 27.
Intrepid Tiger II, a government-built system whose ground work began in 2008, is meant to expand the circumference of electronic warfare capabilities.
The pod will provide AV-8B Harriers with an electronic attack capability, expanding their utility on the modern battlefield and paving the way for the Marine Air-Ground Task Force electronic warfare concept that will replace the Prowlers.
The Prowler is the Corps’ primary weapon in aviation electronic warfare.
“The Marine Corps needed another electronic asset to take pressure of the VMAQ assets,” said John Johnson, an operational adviser for the joint electronic attack compatibility office, Naval Air Warfare Center, Point Mugu, Calif.
The new pod’s strength lies in its versatility, being controlled by either airborne pilots or ground radio operators. First Radio Battalion, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif., is the first ground-based unit trained to use Intrepid Tiger II.
Johnson, a former chief warrant officer three in the signals and intelligence electronic warfare field, and other Point Mugu personnel worked with Marines from 1st Radio Battalion in their first training operation controlling the pod at Auxiliary Airfield II, March 29.
“This is the first in a series of paradigm shifts from pilot-platform control capabilities to ground-based control,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dean Calhoon, Marine Aviation Detachment, Point Mugu, ground signals intelligence electronic warfare liaison officer and a native of Lincoln, Neb. “It’s the first time the Marine Corps will use a ground unit to real-time task an airborne sensor on an air platform.”
Radio operators can assume control of the pod depending on ground activity if the situation does not cover pilots’ mission preplanning.
“This is our first foray into a network centric, system of systems with electronic warfare capabilities,” said Maj. William Maples, the Headquarters Marine Corps Harrier weapons system requirement officer and a native of Murfreesboro, Tenn. “We’re excited to see the effect it will have to unify combatant commanders in Operation Enduring Freedom.”
Those involved in Intrepid Tiger II’s test run noted the main impetus was supply and demand.
Johnson described Prowlers as low density, high demand assets: there are not enough of them to comfortably field requests for electronic warfare.
“There are more requests for electronic warfare than Prowlers can fulfill today,” added Maples.
Calhoon also explained though Prowlers do fall under MAGTF assets, they are more called upon to fulfill joint-service requests, creating a hole in Corps resources where Intrepid Tiger II is meant to fill.
As Harriers are used primarily for providing close-air support to ground troops, the Harrier community already has an established rapport with their land-based brethren.
“Radio Battalion never had a solid doctrine-based relationship with the VMAQ,” said Johnson, noting much of Intrepid Tiger II’s future comes from past lessons learned during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Harriers also already deploy with Marine Expeditionary Units, making them ideal for the first platform to use the pod. Plans are in the works to bestow Intrepid Tiger II on other platforms, including F/A-18 Hornets, rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The variety of platforms is important, as the Prowlers, Hornets and Harriers slowly make way for the Joint Strike Fighter program.
“We need to ability to operate in the electromagnetic spectrum when Prowlers sundown,” said Maples.
“The most important part of this asset is it’s organic to the Corps,” added 1st Lt. David Miller, a 1st Radio Battalion and a native of Chilliocothe, Ohio, noting that ground troops now have a Corps-exclusive electronic warfare capability.
VMA-211 will be the first Harrier squadron to use Intrepid Tiger II in a forward environment when they deploy to Afghanistan later this year, working in tandem with 1st Radio Battalion Marines who are already deployed.