Marine Prowlers have been sent to Turkey less than one month after the DOD ordered hundreds of military and civilian dependents to leave the country because of increased threats by ISIS.
Prowlers are built for electronic warfare and can monitor many electromagnetic frequencies at once.
According to a Thursday news release from U.S. European Command, a squadron of EA-6B Prowlers has arrived at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, for a deployment that is expected to last through September.
Air Force Lt. Col. David Westover, a spokesman for EUCOM said, “The Marines and aircraft are from Marine Corps Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.” For operational security reasons, Westover added, “I can’t provide details specific to this squadron.”
The Prowler specializes in blocking enemy communications. During the Iraq War they jammed enemy cell phones and radio frequencies that terrorists used to detonate roadside bombs remotely.
“The fact that it’s a system that can disrupt ISIS’ communications, disrupt their ability to command and control their forces engaged in combat operations, that’s a pretty important mission,” Mark Gunzinger told Marine Corps Times.
Gunziger is with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment think tank in Washington, D.C. He says, “The counter-roadside bomb mission is particularly important because as the Islamic State group retreats in Iraq, it leaves mines and other explosive booby traps.”
“It’s also possible that the Prowlers will be used to prevent Russian and Syrian air defense systems from tracking other U.S. and coalition aircraft,” said Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “These are the type of aircraft you could potentially use to counter air defenses, and as far as I know, ISIS doesn’t have air defenses,” he said.
Harrison added that it’s possible the U.S. is worried that Islamic State fighters may be armed with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, which Prowlers could also jam.
In the past, Prowlers have also been used in psychological warfare operations. The planes’ jammers were used to allow the U.S. to take over insurgents’ broadcasts, Navy Capt. Chris Field said in 2005.
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