Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James S. Lyon
PACIFIC OCEAN – A surge of fine-tuned electromagnetic emissions streams over the horizon. Someone might imagine our adversaries waiting in confusion with a growing sense of dread and fear as their early detection systems and radars are disrupted.
Trouble is approaching in the form of EA-18G Growlers, their ALQ-99 pods actively jamming while anti-radiation missiles home in on radar sites.
“What we enable the strike group to do is get in unobserved and drop bombs,” said Lt. Erik Dippold, from Warren, Penn. “We protect people who pull triggers. Whether its guys on the ground kicking down doors in Afghanistan or … it’s the guys in these other ready rooms that have gone in to drop bombs on a bunker.”
The Wizard’s of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133 fly the EA-18G Growler as part of the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 Shogun team embarked aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) denying, degrading and disrupting the electromagnetic spectrum. They exploit radar systems by deploying both kinetic and non-kinetic weapons in battle keeping our enemies from using their electronic equipment.
“Our job is to go out there and screw up the enemies plan to detect us and shoot at us,” said Dippold, “In order to do that we’ve gotta know what weapons and radars our adversaries are going to play against us. If we don’t prepare adequately, if we don’t know what the enemy is gonna bring to the fight or we don’t train adequately to defeat it, our guys are gonna get seen and shot down before they can get to the target.”
These capabilities and systems could not reach their full potential without the Wizards’ preparation and dedication, in maintaining the systems that make the magic happen.
“Working with ALQ-99s is a lot of physically demanding labor,” said Aviation electronics Technician 2nd Class Collete Sprenger from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “We do everything by hand, and it’s intensive. Depending on how many people we have, it could range from five to 30 hours a week per pod.”
Tearing down and reassembling components is a fact of life when it comes to maintaining aircraft.
“The ALQ-99s are all hoist loads so it takes six people for every evolution,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Anthoney Prieto, from Sarasota, Fla. “There is a lot of teamwork involved. We don’t do any evolutions on this aircraft that are less than three people, so our shop is close.”
The Wizards’ tight-knit crew helps make this electronic attack squadron a high functioning unit.
“We wage electronic warfare from Stennis in the middle of the ocean, which gives us the ability to support our Shogun counterparts and our allies wherever and whenever we’re needed,” said Cmdr. Blake Tornga, commanding officer of VAQ-133, from Conrad, Mont. “This would not be possible without the dedicated professionals of the Wizard team.”
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