High-end fight integration: Navy brings electronic warfare to Red Flag

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jake Carter

A Navy EA-18G from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., takes off from the Nellis flightline during a training scenario during Red Flag 16-3 July 19. During the exercise, integration of Air Force, Marines and Navy aircraft work together during Red Flag 16-3 to deter air and ground threats as well as prepare for future operations down range.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The Electronic Attack Squadron 139 from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, is taking electronic warfare to the skies during Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

For the VAQ-139 Cougars, their mission statement “provide electronic warfare in support of air and ground forces around the world,” lets them demonstrate their strength while integrating with their sister services in one of the Air Force’s premier exercises.

“It’s been an awesome experience being able to work with the Air Force as well as the Marines where we get to see how different cultures operate and see how we can work together as a team,” said Lt. Grant Parks, VAQ-139 pilot. “This training is something that we don’t get an opportunity to do very often back at our home station. While we have had our challenges, I think it has been a success so far.”

While noticing in today’s military that integration of multiple services in the battlefield is the new normal, Parks is looking to working with the Air Force and Marines and see what the positives and negatives are and how they can use this Red Flag training as a stepping stone into future operations.

“I’m hoping to go forward to take the goods from both the Air Force and Marines where we can combine them together so we can accomplish the mission,” said Parks. “In today’s battlespace, it’s a joint environment so having the exposure of working with the Air Force, Marines and Army in a training environment will help us succeed in future operations.”

With the Nevada Test and Training Range laying host to Red Flag, VAQ-139 is excited to participate in a unique and sought after opportunity.

“The Cougars of VAQ-139 have immensely enjoyed the opportunity to work with the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army,” said Lt. Kyle Vandegriff, VAQ-139 training officer. “Large joint interoperability exercises provide a unique and sought after opportunity to hone our skills tactically and to work on integrating with the capabilities of other services. Furthermore, the NTTR provides an unparalleled arena to replicate real world scenarios and to maintain proficiency in airborne electronic attack. We look forward to future participation in Red Flag.”

With Red Flag 16-3 coming to an end next week, Parks and the rest of VAQ-139 hope to come back to future Red Flags where they can continue work on their skills with their fellow services as well as other coalition partners.

“It’s been challenging where there has been a lot of long hours put into mission planning so we can execute the mission,” said Parks. “But overall, it has been extremely positive and I hope we can come back to more Red Flag exercises in the future.”

Red Flag provides realistic combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment to a variety of attack, fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, air lift support and rescue aircraft working in harmony, to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.