NAVAL AIR STATION WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. – The “Garudas” of Electronic Attack Squadron 134 (VAQ-134), the last U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowler squadron, is returning home this week to Whidbey Island after completing a nine-month deployment to multiple regions of the world. The Garudas along with Carrier Air Wing Eight (CVW-8) embarked on the newest aircraft carrier in the fleet, the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77), on Feb. 16, 2014 to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the first few months of deployment, the Garudas flew 104 combat missions over Afghanistan, equating to 696 combat flying hours. Four months into deployment, USS George H.W. Bush was called upon to support Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria. While supporting operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Garudas flew 109 combat missions and 637 combat hours. In total, the squadron flew 579 flights for 1,848 flight hours, amassing 579 traps on board CVN 77.
In addition to completing a highly successful combat deployment, the Garudas earned significant achievement awards. On board an aircraft carrier, deployment is broken up into “line periods,” usually lasting several weeks, during which each squadron in the air wing is graded on pilot landings; the squadron with the highest grade point average earns that line period’s “Top Hook” award.
For the majority of deployment, VAQ-134 achieved the Top Hook, taking top honors for three of the five line periods and the overall award. Considering the competition’s relatively technologically advanced aircraft, this is a remarkable accomplishment for the squadron as a whole, and a testament to the effort of the maintenance crew to keep the aging aircraft operational and airborne.
Throughout the deployment, no group has worked harder than the Garuda maintenance team. Despite the squadron being manned to maintain four jets, the maintenance team provided the squadron with all five jets throughout nine months of deployment.
Squadrons are expected to have a certain number of aircraft available to fly at any given time, known as the Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA) rate, and the Garudas consistently averaged 20 percent over their required RBA rate, despite an aging airframe that dates back to the Vietnam War. As remarkable as that achievement is, nothing demonstrates how well the maintenance team performed more than the squadron’s 100 percent combat sortie completion rate. Because the maintenance team did such an impressive job during the Navy’s last combat flight ever for the EA-6B, the squadron flew three Prowlers into combat simultaneously.
The EA-6B Prowler will officially retire from naval service once VAQ-134 transitions to the EA-18G Growler later next year. This will mark the end of an era for the Prowler dating back to the early 1970s.
Returning with the squadron are 15 members of the Sea Operational Detachment from Fleet Readiness Center Northwest that provide technical support to keep the jets in top condition.
MEDIA NOTE: Media are invited to attend the fly-in at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 14 and airlifts on Saturday, Nov. 15 at about 7:30 p.m. Please note times are subject to change. If you wish to attend, call or email name, date of birth and driver’s licence number using the phone number or email address listed above by 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13 in order to notify Base Security and provide escort to hangar.