Prowler, Go Long

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					Prowler, Go Long
By Cdr. Bruce W. Hay

                ovember 2002 was month four of eventu-
                ally what became a 10-month deployment
                onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).
                After a couple weeks flying Operation
                Enduring Freedom missions over Afghani-
stan, the battle group had transited the Straits of Hormuz
                                                                                                      Photo courtesy of VAQ-133 public affairs.
to support Operation Southern Watch. The rhetoric
machine was turned up to 11, and the missions that had
been exceedingly boring in past deployments had turned        the first times I remember doing deliberate, operational-
to almost daily prosecution of Iraqi air-defense targets      risk management (ORM) for a flight. We decided our
below the 32nd parallel.                                      configuration would be midnight for the external lights,
     Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, combat operations        both front-seaters on NVDs, and the backs-seaters
against Al Qaeda leadership continued. Momentum was           unaided (not on NVDs).
building for the two theaters, and it quickly became appar-        The flight was uneventful, and we had a dedicated
ent we didn’t have enough EA-6Bs to go around. Prowler        tanker. The mission was familiar because we had oper-
support was requested for a series of missions to support     ated there just a few months earlier. After six hours en
high-level, joint-counterinsurgency operations in the far     route, it was time to land. We started the checklists and
northeast corner of Afghanistan. If you look on a chart,      commenced the approach with the Bagram controllers. It
the Northern Arabian Gulf is a long way from that part of     became progressively obvious the controllers were not used
Afghanistan. Our strike-group commander argued we were        to providing radar services, and we got ever further behind
needed to support the rest of the strike group and the        a salvageable approach. We soon found ourselves too high
operations in Iraq. After a game of rock, paper and rank      and too fast to land in the dark on the 9,852-foot, sec-
with CentCom, it was decided one Prowler could be sent        tional-concrete runway, built by the former Soviet Union
to support the Afghan missions.                               nearly 20 years earlier. So, despite the threat of manpads
     Such short notice left no t
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Description: After a couple weeks flying Operation Enduring Freedom missions over Afghanistan, the battle group had transited the Straits of Hormuz to support Operation Southern Watch. [...] short notice left no time to arrange diplomatic clearance, which limited the options for ending the airborne portion of the mission. In all of our planning efforts, we focused on the new and unusual aspects of the flight but neglected to spend much, if any, time on the approach itself.
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