Sailors from U.S. Navy Electronic Attack Squadron 135 (VAQ-135) deliver a unique warfighting skill set to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.
Through the use of EA-18G Growler aircraft, VAQ-135 brings electronic-based airborne attack and defense capabilities to Al Udeid’s joint environment by detecting, identifying, locating, and suppressing hostile “emitters.”
“We fly the Growler, which is a very unique platform,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Slawomir Glownia, VAQ-135 EA-18G pilot. “It has air-to-ground, air-to-air and airborne electronic attack capabilities. Our primary mission is jamming communications or enemy radar.”
While pilots execute airborne electronic attack and defense capabilities, maintainers on the ground are tasked with ensuring the Growlers are always ready to launch.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Ngedikes Benedict, VAQ-135 electrician’s mate, said she enjoys the challenge that comes with maintaining an aircraft with such diverse technological capabilities.
“Maintenance Control is in charge of all the maintenance from getting it coordinated, what needs to happen first and who does what,” she said. “I love airplanes, I love aviation. There’s an unknown problem that the pilots report and we have to find out what went wrong and dig into it. It’s like solving a puzzle. I love the idea of that.”
After flight planning, maintenance inspections, and pre-flight processes are completed, plane captains launch aircraft using hand signals to ensure safety of crew and maintainers as final operational checks are performed.
“I love launching,” said U.S. Navy Airman Shannon Barde, VAQ-135 plane captain. “If anything’s wrong, it’s going to fall on me because I’m the one who checked that jet. I’m telling the aircrew that they’re good to go to fly a mission.”
Barde went on to say that seeing aircraft launch is visual confirmation of a job well done.
“It feels really good when they take off,” said Barde. “I think to myself ‘I did it. I made sure they were safe, good to go, and able to execute their mission.’ It’s good to be part of this team, the VAQ-135. I’m just really happy to be in this squadron.”
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.