• A Very Rare Breed: EA-6A Intruder

    Posted on February 3rd, 2007 Administrator 19 comments

    When I was skimming through Vol. 30 of the Illustrated Guide of Weapons and Tactics (兵器戰術圖解) in a bookstore, I noticed a photo of the EA-6A taken when it visited Taiwan in the 1970s.  Because the EA-6A is such a rare breed (only 27 were built) and because I have seen only one EA-6A personally up to now, I quickly recorded its bureau number (156984) on my cellphone and hoped it was the one I had seen.

    And it turned out to be exactly the same EA-6A that I saw at Hardwood Range in Wisconsin, US, in 1997.  At that time, it was parked next to several retired aircraft.  I guessed it was going to end up as a simulated target at the range.  But obviously its life did not end up that way.  Joe Baugher’s website noted that it was sighted at a dump at Sioux City AP, IA in October 2002.  Another person, who was looking for information on 156984 in February 2005, said it was in a museum waiting for restoration.  I guess I am going to email this person to ask about its whereabout later.  Stay tuned for any update.


    The “sawtooth” at the base of the refuelling probe houses the receiver antenna of the AN/ALQ-126B multiple-band track breaker.  The large blade antenna mounted on the nose gear door is part of the AN/ALQ-55 VHF communication jammer.  Note the built-in boarding steps.


    Dubbed the “Football”, the fin-tip radome houses the AN/ALQ-86 receiver/surveillance system.  At its rear is the “beer can” for the receiver antenna of the AN/ALQ-126B deception ECM.


    This outer wing pylon is the B station.  The A station is on the other side.  The addition of these pylon resulted in the deletion of wingtip speedbrakes from the original A-6 wings.  Note the wingtip fairing housing the AN/ALR-45 countermeasure receiving set.


    20 responses to “A Very Rare Breed: EA-6A Intruder” RSS icon

    • A little extra research reveals that 156984 was accepted on July 8, 1969. Being one of the 15 purpose-built EA-6A, its A and B stations did not carry the AN/ALQ-53 pods but were used to carry chaff dispensers, Shrike missiles, or other light stores.

      156984 was also the first EA-6A to go through the RECAP upgrade program. It spent six weeks at Patuxent River in late 1985 undergoing system tests. RECAP replaced the AN/ALQ-41 and AN/ALQ-100 with the more capable AN/ALQ-126B, added the AN/ALR-45 radar warning receivers, and updated the AN/ALQ-76 and AN/ALQ-86 systems. The AN/APN-153(V) Doppler radar antenna was also eliminated.

      The tail markings suggest that 156984 had been assigned to VAQ-33 Firebirds of the US Navy before it was retired.

    • I think the A-6 is called the Intruder while the EA-6 is called the Prowler. The USMC still uses EA-6B but the USN doesn’t. These are to be replace eventually by the F/A-18G Growler (based on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet).

    • Hmm, my bad. The EA-6A is still called the ‘Intruder’ while the EA-6B is called the ‘Prowler’. Very weird indeed as most aircraft nicknames do not change with model revisions. (Example: F/A-18 A/B/C/D are all called ‘Hornet’)

    • I thought EA-6A/B were called Queer?(Shield up! Incoming fires).

      F/A-18E/F are called Super Hornet/Super Bug, while EF-18G is been called Growler….

    • Paul S (Beef Noodle)

      EA-6A was only an interim variant only used by the USMC. The ‘Electric Intruder’ was a 2-seater. Note that the ‘Prowler’ (EA-6B) is a 4-seater.

    • MCARA has many members who flew or maintained EA-6As and can answer your questions. I can confirm we did training flights with Taiwans AF in 70-72 timeframe.

    • In 1964 Syracuse University Research Corp. was awarded a contract to provide upgrades to the EA6A
      so the radar could see beyond it’s nose and the ALQ-86 could detect signals in the p,l,s,c,x,k,& ku bands. This work took place at Cherry Point, U.S.M.C.A.S.Haveloc N.C.

      It took 3 years of rework to get the system ready for deploynent to Da Nang. A New buy of 14 or so? aircraft were ordered and the revised ALQ-86 system, now built by Bunker Rame Corp. were installed.The original system was made by the Loral Corp of Brooklyn, N.Y.

      There was extensive work done on a center stores pod that housed the k and ku bands but I never knew if that flew or became part of the inventory or not.

      Our work took place at the VMCJ2 Squadron which hwas disbanded in the 80’s. the EA6A’s predecessor was the EF10B a killer of a plane to get out of -no martin baker eject seat!
      From what I’ve heard, Grumman retrofitted many EA6A’s to EA6B’s and many of the A’s you see around the the boneyards or elseware, suffer structural dammage. The A6 has gone but was a killer in it’s time.
      The feedback was that the N Vietnam Sam Missle kill ratio for our sorties was very high until the A6 came into country. The kill ratio dropped considerably thanke to the A6 revisions! Just for a sheer coincidence, I worked on the A6 program in the mid 60’s. Today, my cousins son now works on the software for the EA6B at Northrup Grumman!

    • The Navy and Marine Corps still fly the EA-6B Prowler. The EA-18G (NOT F/A-18G) Growler will start to replace Navy aging EA-6B’s in 2009 with the EA-6B retiring around 2012/2014. The first FULL Production EA-18G was just delivered to the Navy in SEP07.

    • I am not sure which freq’s were assigned, but the ALQ-86 did have a centerline pod, which was a bitch to maintain. The ALQ-76 was used on stations 1-5, ALE-32 on A and B.

    • Also, none of the EA-6A’s were converted to EA-6B’s…you would to chop the plane in 2 pieces…………

    • Sure. The info given by gibson is in error.
      But the EA-6B prototype was converted from an A-6A.

    • This EA6A IS still at Sioux City Iowa museum. Looks better now. Museum was close so I could not get close

    • John: Thank you very much for the update. Now I remember that I did a follow-up to this article. I also checked the latest Google Maps image and found that the EA-6A had been re-located to a different place at the airport. See the embedded Google Maps below:

      View Larger Map

    • For Michael:

      The EA6A is a two-seater. One pilot, one ECM operator (ECMO).

      The EA6B is a four-seater. One pilot, three ECMO’s.

      I used to work on the “A” back in the 70’s.

    • Damon Frazier

      EA-6A Intruder is a modified A-6. EA-6B Prowler was built from the ground up.

    • Damon Frazier

      ALQ-86 was a Radar Detector System working with the ALQ-76 which is a Radar jamming system. Together they were a Electronic Countermeasure System.

    • In 1964 I was attached to the Weapons systems Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center at NAS Pax River, MD. I was one of the ECM Operators (Navy Naval Flight Officer) assigned to the Board of Inspection and Survey (BIS) that tested the EA-6A “electric Intruder” and formally accepted it for USMC use. Several problems were discovered and needed to be “fixed” as soon as possible. The major problem was the ECM receiver system built by Loral. One fix that was completed before the BIS “acceptance” was a modification to the ECMO console to preclude the ECMO from loosing his feet during ejection, a thin plastic coated “cardboard” panel was added to the underside of the console to “steer” the ECMO feet on ejection. The BIS team icluded myself and two additional Navy ECMO plus 2 USMC ECMO plus pilots (Navy and USMC). Another note, the letter “Q” in the old days was “Queen”. Until late 1962 all ECM aircraft were nominclatured with a “Q”, such as the AD-5Q. Hense the name “Queen” was the nickname of all ECM aircraft. When landing on a carrier, the pilot was required to name his aircraft type as he approached the carrier, usually when he saw the reflected red light (meatball) in the landing mirror. So when we landed the AD-5Q, the pilot would say, “Queen with a ball”.

    • Also while I was a Pax River I was the project officer for the test and evaluation of the effort to place radar jammers (AN/ALQ-51) in the A-4 Skyhawk and the F-8 Crusader and F-4 Phantum II. Two civilian field engineers (Sanders and Douglas) came to Pax with an AN/ALQ-51 and antennas, etc. The engineers and the civilian metal shop installed the jammer where the 20mm ammo can was installed. The team consisted of myself (NFO), a pilot, civil servant engineer and an A-4 plane captian. The plane as stationed at the manchester NH airport and we flew the jammer equipped A-4 versus a simulated SA-2 Radar, called Flintstone. The radar site was run by the jammer manufacturer, Sanders Associates. The site also had US Army WWII “S band” AAA radar which the Soviets had copied and along with the SA-2, provided to N Vietnam in 1965. The testing lasted just shy of 3 weeks and we accepted the installation as it caused the radar operators to track the aircraft manually with a loss of accuracy. Within a month A-4 aircraft were being modified at the Phillipeans Navy Overhaul Facility and flown back to carriers in the Golf of Tonkin. The F-8 and F-4 were modified and tested at the Sanders Site.

    • I was assigned to VAQ-209 in Norfolk, Va where I worked in Shop 64C AIMD repairing the ALQ systems for the EA6A aircraft. I was also employed at the Naval Air Rework Facility. I recall having one of my aircraft from VAQ-209 come in for AFC-504 project in 1984. This involved doing a SLEP on the entire airframe and upgrading the ECM systems on board. The RADAR was changed to a color version. The ALQ-76 and ALQ-86 systems were interlinked to provide faster tuning and jamming. The prototype airframe had the ALQ-55 antenna systems installed. The Navy had quit using the ALQ-55 by that time but the contract called for it so we installed the mounts, wiring and antennas including the “luggage rack” antenna on the top. I believe 6 airframes were upgraded before the Navy dropped the EA6A in favor of the EA6B. I have heard that the prototype was transferred to the Naval Aviation Museum in Florida but have not been there to confirm it.

    • I was a corporal trained as a countermeasures tech on the ALQ 76/86 system. MAG42, 4th MAW @ Whidbey NAS.
      The Intruders got all the attention since they broke more frequently than the B model. Many missions were secret, so you had to listen for talk between the pilot and ECMO to get an idea of what happened. I had some harness repairs due to FOD- that being the label for finding rounds from a MIG punching into the harness. Hard to get to spot near the tail. The PODs were a pain. Once filled with PCB oil they are heavy.
      One equipment failure on carrier deck forced 4 of us to lift the pod manually with one more jarhead to lock it to the wing station. The chaff pods sometimes jammed in flight. A huge pain to pop open on a carrier, and that blows FOD everywhere. At base you could get the unit to the hanger, out of wind. Good times, but I am just checking around now if anyone got cancer from the PCB oil. We were not told to wear rubber gloves till the end of my hitch. That oil got everywhere when changing out horns, dries out your skin. About to retire, getting my VA benefits set just in case this comes back to haunt me.

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