U.S. deploys aircraft capable of disrupting ISIL’s communications

Special to WorldTribune.com

The United States has introduced an aircraft for the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) that can disrupt communications and jam detonators for roadside bombs.

A squadron of Marine EA-6B Prowlers has arrived at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey for a deployment that is expected to last through September, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said on April 14.

EA-6B Prowler
EA-6B Prowler

During the Iraq War, the U.S. military said Prowlers effectively jammed enemy cellphones and radio frequencies that terrorists used to remotely detonate roadside bombs.

The ability to jam detonators for roadside bombs is particularly important since ISIL has left behind mines and other explosive booby traps when driven from an area of control.

“Those are a real problem for U.S. forces, much less Iraqi troops, so I do think that would be a priority mission,” said former deputy assistant secretary of defense Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment think tank in Washington, D.C.

“The fact that it’s a system that can disrupt ISIL communications, disrupt their ability to command and control their forces engaged in combat operations, that’s a pretty important mission,” Gunzinger said.

The Prowlers could also 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, ISIL doesn’t have air defenses,” Harrison said.

Harrison said the U.S. could be concerned that ISIL jihadists could be armed with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, which Prowlers could also jam.

“It would basically scramble the radar systems being used against our aircraft so they can’t find and track our aircraft effectively,” Harrison said.

The Marines and aircraft deployed for the Prowler mission are from Marine Corps Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, said Air Force Lt. Col. David Westover, a spokesman for EUCOM.