MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
In early 1977 the Marine Corps received its first EA-6B Prowler, tail number 160432, marked number 000 by the aircraft's original home squadron, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2, of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
After 34 years of service and more than 11,000 flight hours, aircraft 160432 made its final active duty flight June 10.
“This aircraft is a legend among my friends and me,” said ret. Lt. Col. Hal L. Baker, a former operations officer with VMAQ-2. “It was the first of many of these amazing machines, but there will never be another like it.”
The first Prowler flew to Cherry Point flanked by its predecessor, the EA-6A Intruder, which was used to train the first class of pilots and crew members.
“This aircraft was originally used to knock out the radar of the enemy and jam communications,” said ret. Col. Richard W. Bates, who was the commanding officer of VMAQ-2 in the early 1990s. “I flew about 3,000 flight hours in a Prowler and more than 300 hours in this specific aircraft. It is a part of the history and heritage of the Prowler community.”
Bates said the Prowler was a critical asset and never let the Marine Corps down.
“The electronic system in the Prowler helped the Marine Corps by allowing the aircraft to operate with little thought to a generator failing,” said ret. 1st. Sgt. James A. Zinni. “In the previous aircraft, if one generator went out, then the aircraft had to turn around and abort the mission. With the Prowler we were able to always perform our mission.”
Having flown missions in many areas of the world, the retired Prowler will now become a display at its home base of Cherry Point.
“This aircraft has been used by all the VMAQ squadrons aboard the base and finished up here with its final flight under the Q-2 logo,” said Lt. Col. Todd M. Caruso, the commanding officer of VMAQ-2 and one of the four members of the final crew to fly 160432. “We here at VMAQ-2 did everything we could to keep the history of that aircraft alive. We have used it for training and it has even been to Afghanistan.”
Caruso said 160432 has been in every conflict that has involved the Prowler, from the Cold War crisis to the Gulf War and even Iraq.
“When I was an aircraft electrician for the Prowler, I was certified to conduct low and high power checks,” said Zinni. “It is an amazing feeling when you’re sitting on more than 37,000 pounds of thrust. You feel powerful.”
Baker said the power of the Prowler will not be forgotten by those who have come in contact with it, especially ‘432.
“14 years I spent with this bird, and I would not trade a day of it,” said Zinni. “Prowler '432 is a part of Marine Corps history and a part of every Marine who has the opportunity to operate or work on it. This aircraft will never die.”