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VAQ-135 arrives at Al Udeid

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 135 (VAQ-135) “Black Ravens” replaced the U.S. Marine Corps’ Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 (VMAQ-2) at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Oct. 30, 2018, providing electronic attack, jamming, satellite communication and communication countermeasures to aerial operations in the area.

VAQ-135’s EA-18G Growler aircraft replaces VMAQ-2’s EA-6B Prowler aircraft.

With 22,000 pounds of static thrust per engine, a ceiling of 50,000 feet, and an aptitude for electronic warfare, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Steve Shauberger, VAQ-135 commander, said the Growler’s capabilities are perfectly aligned with the squadron’s mission to execute aerial electronic attack capabilities. 

“The EA-18G is an ideal aircraft because we’re essentially the only tactical airborne electronic attack platform in the Department of Defense,” he said. “What that brings is a non-kinetic aspect to the conflict we’re in. The collateral damage is not as severe as a kinetic weapon. It’s [disrupting] as opposed to something with a more permanent and destructive nature.”

U.S. Navy Lt. Tom Cruz, VAQ-135 Growler pilot, said the versatility of the aircraft provides different combat options than the Prowler did.

“We have a multi-role which is great,” he said. “If needed, we can manage an air-to-air picture which is different from the Prowler. We have the ability to detect and use non-kinetic effects to diffuse situations.”

The electronic warfare aircraft is the newest aircraft of its kind designed in the past 35 years, and provides unique possibilities to warfighters while in combat.

“If there is a situation where there may not be 100-percent certainty whether to drop a weapon or not, there are capabilities with the Growler that you can use,” said Shauberger. “It enables [allies] to either egress or gain the advantage, and incite confusion into the enemy. It can buy time for forces to figure out what they might need.”

Along with executing the squadron’s mission, Shauberger also hopes the Sailors under his command grow both personally and as a team during their time at Al Udeid.

“There’s no better place to build a bond in a squadron than a deployment,” he said. “After numerous deployments the squadron becomes tighter. I think I’m in command of the greatest squadron in the Navy. For all of the Sailors and aircrew, I just want to see them get to a new level and come out of this deployment having earned something and working hard to get it.”

“I plan on getting a lot of qualifications,” added U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Christine McNally, VAQ-135 logistics specialist. “This is my second deployment as part of VAQ-135 and I hope to learn a lot out here and bring it back to [home station] so we can keep improving.”

As members of VAQ-135 settle in at Al Udeid, Shauberger and his “Black Ravens” aim to establish a legacy during the squadron’s time here.

“The big thing is making things better than the way we found it,” said Shauberger. “Since this is the first time the Growlers have come here in a long time and been in U.S. Central Command, we can try to leverage the aspect of where we are, build relationships and create (tactics, techniques, and procedures) for the future that everyone else can use.”

VAQ-135 is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.