USS NIMITZ, At Sea (NNS) -- Carrier Air Wing 11 employs non-kinetic force to support troops on the ground in Afghanistan, minimizing the potential for civilian casualties. Non-kinetic force is intended not to cause any physical damage.
The EA-6B Prowlers assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 135 deploy daily from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) jamming electronic signals in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).
"Our main focus of effort is to dominate the electromagnetic spectrum. That means we preserve it for coalition forces, and we deny its use to Afghan insurgents. If we can successfully do that, many times the ground commander may not need a bomb," said Lt. Cmdr. Blake Tornga, maintenance officer from VAQ-135.
The missions Prowlers fly directly support the July 2009 tactical directive issued by Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.
"We must fight the insurgents, and will use the tools at our disposal to both defeat the enemy and protect our forces," McChrystal outlined in the directive. The directive clearly states limitations on the use of force that could result in civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
"The enemy command and control network in Afghanistan is fairly dispersed and flexible. We have to constantly adapt our tactics, based on new technology in the hands of the enemy, to interdict parts of that network," Tornga said.
When the Prowlers were first received by the Navy in January of 1971 and deployed to Vietnam in 1972, the primary mission was focused on jamming enemy radar. They supported strike aircraft, ships and ground troops by degrading the enemy's early warning capability and electronic weapons systems.
The EA-6B of yesterday, outfitted with technology of today, has adapted its platform to support Operation Enduring Freedom in a way no other airframe can.
"There are very few electronic attack platforms out there," said Tornga. "We are the only tactical electronic attack platform. Mountain valleys, small turns, staying tight with a convoy, that mission right now can only be done with the EA-6B."
Tornga explained that the intentions of McChrystal's directive are what Prowlers have been doing for years. "There will certainly remain a need for kinetics in support of the ground forces - but being able to turn a kinetic situation into a non-kinetic one is pretty rewarding," said Tornga.
"Some of the real-time feedback we get from the ground troops after a successful mission makes me realize why we need to be here, and it makes this deployment very, very meaningful."
Since entering the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations Sep. 18., Nimitz has flown more than 2,058 sorties in support of OEF, providing 30 percent of the close air support to the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, commanded by Rear Adm. John W. Miller, is comprised of Nimitz, embarked CVW 11, embarked Destroyer Squadron 23, and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chosin. Ships assigned to DESRON 23 include the destroyers USS Pinckney, USS Sampson and the frigate USS Rentz.
Squadrons from CVW 11 include the "Black Aces" of Strike Fighter Squadron 41, the "Tophatters" of VFA 14, the "Warhawks" of VFA 97, the "Sidewinders" of VFA 86, the "Indians" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 6, the "Black Ravens" of Electronic Attack Squadron 135, the "Providers" of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 and the "Wallbangers" of Carrier Airborne Command and Control Squadron 117.
Helicopter detachments include the "Easy Riders" of Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron Light 37, the "Battle Cats" of HSL 43, the "Wolfpack" of HSL 45, the "Scorpions" of HSL 49 and the "Wildcards" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23. Also accompanying the Nimitz CSG are Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11 and the USNS Bridge.
For more news from USS Nimitz (CVN 68), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn68/.