Behold the purposeful lines of the pugnacious Prowler

For decades, the Long Island-based Grumman Corporation was the US Navy’s primary aircraft supplier. They built a range of now-famous aircraft, including the Wildcat, Avenger, Hellcat, Cougar and, of course, the Tomcat. Starting in the early seventies, they also built the EA-6B Prowler; a four-seat electronic warfare aircraft for jamming enemy air defenses. I’ve had a model of one of these since 2007. In recent days I rebuilt it using new parts and techniques. Thanks to curved slopes and a lot more sideways building, I’ve been able to improve the shape.

Prowlers entered US Navy service in 1971 and, after a career of more than 40 years, the US Marines have only just retired their last examples. Their longevity is a testament to the quality of the design. Because its products were famously well engineered, Grumman was also known as the “Iron Works”. Their aircraft, however, aren’t exactly famous for their elegant looks. Even the Tomcat, arguably one of the prettiest fighters ever to grace an aircraft carrier’s deck and certainly one of the company’s prettier products, looks quite ungainly from some angles. Also known as the “flying drumstick”, the Prowler is no exception. It has a fairly large front end, which houses two separate cockpits, each with side-by-side seating for two crewmen. The large “football” on top of the vertical fin contains jamming equipment, as do wing-mounted pods. The wings fold up for use aboard aircraft carriers. For air-to-air refuelling, it has an oddly-cranked probe just in front of the windscreen. It all makes sense, but it’s not pretty. I think “purposeful” is more appropriate.

5 comments on “Behold the purposeful lines of the pugnacious Prowler

  1. Ranger Fett

    VMAQ-2 is the last squadron flying these. They just finished the last deployment and the sundown ceremony is in early March. Another aviation history chapter written. Great model and tribute to an awesomely capable aircraft!

  2. Ralph Post author

    @Ranger Fett. Thank you. The February issue of Air Forces Monthly has pictures of some of VMAQ-2’s jets being flown to the boneyard, but I didn’t realise the sundown is still more than a month away.

  3. ecmo47

    The sundown ceremony for VMAQ-2, the very last squadron of EA-6Bs, is 7-10 March at MCAS Cherry Point. On your write-up, there are a few facts that are not quite right. The “football” contains only sensors, no jammers. All the jamming came from the pods which could be mounted on any of the 5 hard-points; 2 on each wing and one center-line. There was an additional fuselage mounted jammer in the tail but I do not see it represented on your model. In my 20 years in the community I never heard it called a “flying drum-stick”. “Sky-pig” was a more common name on the Marine side of the house. The re-fueling probe up front was canted (not “cranked”) a few degrees off center towards the starboard (right) side of the A/C to aid the pilot visibility during mid-air refueling ops.

  4. Mad physicist

    Thanks for your comment. Let me clarify a few things.

    Again, I have seen pictures of some of VMAQ-2’s aircraft being ferried to AMARG, but didn’t realise that the official retirement ceremony has yet to be held.

    “Flying drumstick” is a name I’ve read in several references (also “Electric flying drumstick” to distinguish it from the Intruder). I liked it for the article because it emphasises the bulkiness of the forward fuselage. Had I known “Sky pig” before I wrote the article, I would have definitely used that.

    The “football” indeed houses the receivers associated with the AN/ALQ-99 and not the exciters and emitters, but I lumped all of it under the term jamming equipment since it’s all part of the “Tactical Jamming System”. I know a pod could go on the centreline too, but my model has external tank mounted there, so explaining that would just be confusing. It’s an article about a LEGO model and not a comprehensive explanation of which bit of the Prowler did what, after all.

    I didn’t try to recreate equipment housed hidden from view inside the fuselage, but my model does have a blade antenna under the aft fuselage “birdcage” (I think it is for the USQ-113 communications jammer), like this particular aircraft had in 2003. It’s obscured from view due to the angle of the picture.

    Finally, I used the word cranked to refer to the hook shape of the probe. It’s both cranked and canted.

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