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May 1, 2024

NAWCWD joins RAAF partners in Anzac Day service at Point Mugu

On April 23, a breezy, overcast Tuesday, military and civilian members of the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force gathered on the beach at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu in Southern California, to jointly commemorate Anzac Day.

Anzac Day, officially recognized on April 25, marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed on the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, for what should have been a swift strike and instead became an 8-month battle in which 8,000 Anzacs died. Anzac Day is now a day of national remembrance.

“Anzac Day is one of Australia’s most important national occasions,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Jones, Australian Operations Foreign Liaison Officer and Officer-in-Charge of RAAF Mission Data Support at Point Mugu. “On Anzac Day, we Australians mark the landings in Gallipoli … and commemorate all Australian personnel who have served and died in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s Airborne Electronic Attack Integrated Product Team joined Jones and his contingent on the sand to honor the fallen. AEA IPT has been collaborating with their RAAF counterparts at Point Mugu since 2009, and for the last 10 years, RAAF uniformed service members have been stationed full-time at Point Mugu.

“Our long history of close collaboration strengthens the bond between our nations, advancing our joint commitment to safeguarding liberty and defending the shared values that define our way of life,” said David Mohler, AEA IPT’s International Programs lead. This year was his first Anzac Day commemoration, and the similarities to Memorial Day drove home just how close the two nations are.

“Experiencing Anzac Day for the first time underscored the profound reverence Australians hold for their service members and the sacrifices they make. For me, it emphasized the deep-rooted sense of duty and remembrance that binds our forces together, fostering a deeper appreciation for the enduring mateship between us,” he explained.

Jones noted that as someone who gets to experience the freedoms and opportunities offered him, it’s important to remember that freedom comes at a cost. Anzac Day is a time to reflect on that price, and to honor the courageous and generous people who paid it. Sharing that moment of reflection, and that sense of indebtedness, with RAAF and U.S. Navy partners is important, he said.

“What a great pleasure it is to commemorate Anzac Day here at Point Mugu. It is important for us to acknowledge and embrace each other’s cultures, and I am very grateful for the support provided by the AEA IPT in joining with us to honor the service and sacrifice of those that have fought for our collective freedom.”

Calling the Australia-United States Alliance “Australia’s single most important defense relationship,” Jones stressed how cultural exchanges like the Anzac Day service can help both nations better understand one another, strengthening partnerships.

“Australia and the U.S. have genuine cultural affinity and a spirit of collaboration. We share values and ideals, and our alliance is underpinned by mutual respect for each other’s sovereignty and national interests,” he said.

“Through our collaborative work at Point Mugu, we are making greater contributions to collective deterrence, as well as to regional and global stability.”

 

 

Apr 26, 2024

Symphony in motion: PTMO marks milestone 200th BQM-177 launch

In April, a BQM-177 subscale, high subsonic aerial target launched in support of operations at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division’s China Lake Range, but it wasn’t just any launch. It was number 200 for the Pacific Target and Marine Operations team.

It was also a massive endeavor requiring a huge cross-site, cross-functional coordination challenge. A symphony working together in harmony.

And if this test event was a symphony, the test managers were the conductors.

“Test managers at the China Lake Range orchestrated the integration of multiple complex resources into a unified event execution,” said Laura Paganucci, CLR’s chief operating officer. She noted that it took meticulous planning and seamless collaboration among teams from across NAWCWD at both China Lake and Point Mugu.

“In intricate test scenarios like those involving BQMs, teamwork is essential in ensuring a smooth and successful event,” she explained.

The event itself – presenting BQM-177 targets for a live-fire event – resulted in an 11-minute flight, but it took weeks to plan. And continuing the symphony metaphor, there are several “first chair” experts making the music.

Experts like Operations Conductor Abby White, who explained that coordinating range dates, equipment inspections and logistical considerations – the targets involved “live” in Point Mugu, California, nearly 200 miles away from CLR – as well as mission planning and range safety reviews are all critical.

“As an OC you are responsible for the success of the operation, but first and foremost is the safety in the execution,” White said. Flight planning, hazard analysis, mitigation controls, and close, constant communication are just the starting point.

And when it’s time to perform, the whole orchestra must be on the beat.

The remote control operator is sending commands from a control room, and will fly the target during the exercise, but the BQM-177 on the launch pad requires on-site preparation and operational checks. The Direct Control Officer and pad crew on site verify that the commands are received and loads any ordnance – in this case rocket-assisted take-offs.

Once the target is launched and flying, if any anomalies arise, it is up to the operations conductor to make split-second decisions on how to overcome them. That sort of responsibility requires a lot of training. White, with a full two years of experience as an operations conductor, is still considered to be “under instruction,” working with her trainer Nick Yniguez every step of the way.

The 200th flight went smoothly, without a sour note. That’s unsurprising, noted Kevin Gross, the Threat Target Systems Department head.

“This is a great, knowledgeable team, all operating toward a single goal: supporting the warfighter and delivering capabilities to the fleet,” he said. They exemplify the open communication, collaboration, and trust in one another that we know makes teams better, more effective, and ultimately successful in everything they do.”

 

 

Apr 19, 2024

EA-6B Prowler Honored at Point Mugu

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division held a dedication ceremony April 17 at Point Mugu, California, to commemorate the EA-6B Prowler's nearly five decades of service as the premier electronic attack platform for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Nearly 100 people gathered to honor the iconic Prowler at Missile Park. Veteran and current aviators in their flight jackets shared stories with civilians whose expertise forged the aircraft's legacy. The ceremony featured the unveiling of a bronze plaque — a lasting tribute to the aircraft and the Point Mugu personnel who ensured its long and storied service from 1971 to 2019.

For some, this dedication was a long-awaited dream, finally coming to fruition.

Dr. Ron Smiley, who retired in 2020 after years heading up electronic warfare efforts for NAWCWD and Naval Air Systems Command, began working at Point Mugu in the early 1970s, coinciding with the Prowler's initial operational deployment. Over the years, he witnessed the aircraft's evolution and the tireless efforts of the Point Mugu team to keep the Prowler at the forefront of electronic attack.

'I have waited many years for this dedication,' Smiley said. 'As I stand here before you today with this beautiful aircraft behind me, four words come to my mind: venerable, iconic, symbolic, and a legacy.'

Between 1966 and 1991, a total of 170 EA-6B Prowlers rolled off the assembly line at Grumman's Calverton, New York, facility on Long Island. These versatile aircraft quickly transitioned to active duty, with the first arriving at Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, in December 1971. The Prowler's baptism by fire came quickly in Vietnam. They flew combat missions as part of Operations End Sweep and Linebacker II in 1972. The Prowler's legacy continued throughout the decades, proving its worth in conflicts like the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror.

Fun fact: No EA-6B Prowler was ever shot down in combat. The Prowler's ability to suppress enemy defenses made it a linchpin for ensuring the safety of U.S. and coalition forces. When it came to strike missions, you never wanted to leave the carrier, or 'mom,' as the aviators dubbed it, without an EA-6B or two to protect you.

'There are several types of combat strike missions against enemies with effective air defenses, particularly early in combat like the first few days or weeks, that EA-6B support was required or the mission would not happen,' said Michael Szczerbinski, a former EA-6B pilot. 'Some missions actually required multiple EA-6Bs, or the mission was a 'no-go.''

The Prowler's electronic warfare capabilities were so crucial that strike operations often would only launch with its support. The Navy and Marine Corps relied heavily on the EA-6B, affectionately nicknamed the 'flying drumstick' or 'family truckster,' to shield their aircraft from enemy fire.

'Fighter pilots always wanted EA-6Bs there to protect them. We were like their good luck charm of electronic attack Armageddon,' Szczerbinski continued. 'We joke now that the cool kids needed the 'flying drumstick.''

But why dedicate an EA-6B Prowler at Point Mugu?

This dedication celebrates the deep connection between Point Mugu and the legendary Prowler. The base played a pivotal role in the aircraft's development, upgrades, and enduring success throughout its decades of service.

After countless missions flown from iconic carriers like the USS Lincoln, USS Nimitz, USS Vinson, and USS George H.W. Bush, this particular Prowler made its final journey in June 2015, landing at Point Mugu, which sustained its extraordinary career. Now, in Missile Park, it represents the remarkable partnership between the aircraft and the skilled personnel of Point Mugu.

'The EA-6B depended on the experts here, whose work was enabled and supported by Point Mugu's resources and infrastructure,' said Rear Adm. Keith Hash, NAWCWD commander.

The relationship between Point Mugu and the Prowler dates back to 1973 when the base became the designated EA-6B Aircraft Computer Systems Software Support Activity.

Protection. Deception. Disruption. These were the tools in the Prowler's bag of electronic tricks. By blinding enemy radar with electronic interference, the Prowler suppressed air defenses. Its actions also allowed for gathering critical intelligence, ensuring the survivability of U.S. and coalition forces in combat.

'Point Mugu was critical to the Prowler's effectiveness over the years, actually improving capability as the plane aged,' said Szczerbinski. 'Professionals at Point Mugu pioneered several series of electronic upgrades that improved sensor systems and their integration with jamming capabilities and pilot interface.'

This expertise was vital, especially after the Air Force retired the EF-111A Raven in 1998. The Prowler was the only dedicated electronic warfare aircraft until the U.S. Navy introduced the EA-18G Growler in 2008.

'In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Prowler was one of the most effective platforms against modern telecommunications and cell phones,' said Szczerbinski

The Prowler's adaptability was especially evident in Iraq and Afghanistan, where it evolved to meet new threats. One example of this was the aircraft's ability to disrupt improvised explosive devices by jamming the communication signals used to detonate them remotely. This crucial capability, developed in response to the growing IED threat, made the Prowler one of the most effective platforms for protecting ground troops in these conflicts.

'The 'flying drumstick' with a 'ground-seeking nose' holds a special place in my heart, especially as it has gotten me home safely many times, hundreds of miles from anything resembling 'safe,' over Afghanistan getting shot at,' said Szczerbinski.

During the ceremony, one EA-6B alum retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Chism shared his own journey with the Prowler, from a young kid inspired by the aircraft at an air show to a seasoned pilot who flew the EA-6B in combat. His heartfelt thanks highlighted the deep bond between the Prowler and those who flew it. For Chism and many others, the Prowler was more than just an aircraft — it was a trusted partner that protected them and their fellow service members in the face of danger.

'Thank you for the countless lives you saved through your black magic of electronic warfare, dominating the electromagnetic spectrum, and the number of sailors that allowed you to grace, caress, and maintain you,' he said.

The EA-6B Prowler displayed at Missile Park also represents Pont Mugu’s continuing excellence in electronic warfare support. Innovations pioneered here for the Prowler laid the foundation for the Growler, ensuring a seamless transition and continued excellence in electronic warfare.

'The EA-18G Growler was effective on day one because of the legacy that was carried over from the Prowler,' said Harlan Kooima, NAWCWD’s director of Research and Development.

A bronze plaque, unveiled during the dedication ceremony, pays a fitting tribute to an extraordinary aircraft and the dedicated professionals who kept it at the forefront of electronic warfare for nearly half a century. Its place in history is now cemented at Point Mugu for generations to come, a reminder of its vital role in protecting U.S. forces and ensuring mission success.

'I say to you who are here and have been part of the EA-6B e-warfare workforce, thank you for all you have done. Thank you for helping the Prowler become the machine that changed the world of e-warfare,' Smiley concluded.

 

 

Mar 29, 2024

Collaborative EW Symposium draws crowd to Point Mugu

Nearly 600 industry and government leaders in electronic warfare gathered for the 51st Collaborative Electronic Warfare Symposium at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California, March 12-14.

The annual symposium, jointly hosted by Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division and the Association of Old Crows under a co-sponsorship agreement, focuses on collaboration and innovation in the world of electronic warfare and brings together government and industry partners from across the country.

This year’s symposium theme was “EW at Scale – EW Capabilities for Near Peer Force-on-Force Warfighting.” Symposium Chair Thomas Bluhm, NAWCWD’s Jammer Technique Optimization Group site lead and lead event planner for the symposium, challenged presenters to tackle how to scale up and get the most out of existing electronic warfare capabilities while simultaneously getting ahead of the curve in new system development.

Cross-service and industry collaboration support the National Defense Strategy’s integrated deterrence concept, which weaves together cutting-edge capabilities, operational concepts, and the comparative advantage of our partnerships to dissuade and deter aggression in any domain. That drive to collaborate was clear in the symposium’s agenda.

EW and acquisition leaders from the U.S. Navy, Army, industry and academia addressed the changing character of war and warfighting needs and what industry and service leaders can do to partner. Presentations and discussions covered topics that ranged from artificial intelligence applications to swarming technology and modular design concepts. Technology and technique, redesign and reimagining the future were the name of the game.

Holding the symposium at Point Mugu is especially meaningful to the Navy’s planners and contributors; the service’s electronic warfare capability was born at Point Mugu in 1951.

“For more than 70 years, we have been working to maintain a decisive warfighting advantage in the electromagnetic spectrum for our nation’s armed forces,” said Gerardo Garcia, NAWCWD’s Spectrum Warfare Department director. “Current conflicts are demonstrating just how important spectrum dominance is as technology continues to advance at an incredible pace. Figuring out how to share across services, maximizing interoperability, and leveraging skillsets and assets across the board is critical to our success as a nation.”