Vipers, Growlers integrate, enhance joint SEAD readiness

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Five U.S. Navy EA-18G Growlers, accompanied by more than 200 personnel, traveled across the Pacific Ocean from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, to Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 4, as part of a six-month Theater Support Package within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

During their tenure at Misawa AB, the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 134 is working to develop their integration tactics, techniques and procedures with 35th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcons.

"We are using Misawa AB as our primary location, while being deployed to the Pacific Command's area of responsibility for approximately six months," said U.S. Navy Lt. Richard Delk, the VAQ-134 training officer. "While we are here, we have the capabilities to detach anywhere within the AOR if needed."

The VAQ-134 recently transitioned into a shore-based expeditionary squadron, versus a ship-based one, and is one of four Growler units capable of deploying within PACOM.

While this is the first time the VAQ-134 has conducted training at Misawa AB, they are no stranger to the 35th FW mission.

"We've trained quite a bit with F-16s during exercises such as Red Flag and Northern Edge, but this is the first time flying with F-16s in Japan for the VAQ-134," said Delk. "We've had a lot of success flying with the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons because our mission sets are very similar--both focusing on the suppression of enemy air defenses."

With the 35th FW's Viper block-50 configurations, pilots integrate heavily with Growler pilots during real-world scenarios, depending on their specialized equipment to ensure mission success.

"The EA-18G Growler flies an electronic attack mission using a suite of jamming pods to confuse enemy radars, greatly aiding in our block 50's ability to conduct SEAD operations," explained Capt. Karl Wilson, the 14th Fighter Squadron C-flight commander.

Although working with sister services can be difficult, this valuable training gives both sets of personnel the skills and practice to identify and overcome issues they wouldn't normally be able to assess, whether at Misawa AB or NAS Whidbey Island.

The VAQ-134 plans to train with Misawa's Vipers at least once a day for the remainder of their deployment.