Veterans group pushes to save Cherry Point Prowlers

Published: Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 09:33 AM.

A veterans group took its fight to protect Marine Corps electronic warfare capabilities to Congress this week.

H. Wayne Whitten, part of the Marine Corps Aviation Reconnaissance Association, said the radar-jamming and other capabilities of the EA-6B Prowler are crucial to national defense and a vital part of the economy of Eastern North Carolina.

Four Prowler squadrons are based at Cherry Point, but those squadrons are scheduled to be deactivated starting in 2016 through 2019.

With the arrival of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters at Cherry Point delayed until possibly 2022, Whitten said that leaves a three-year gap that could leave Cherry Point vulnerable in any Base Realignment and Closure process.

Whitten, a retired colonel who was once based at Cherry Point, and other members of the organization, including John Olkowski and Rick Johnson, spearheaded efforts to include language in proposed legislation that would guarantee at least consideration for extending the use of the Prowlers until the F-35B arrives at Cherry Point.

Whitten, who wrote a book on the use of electronic warfare during the Cuban Missile Crisis, said extending the Prowlers at Cherry Point is crucial to national defense, and the area economy.

Johnson said Prowlers have been vital in the war on terror in Afghanistan. He also points out that the Cherry Point Prowler squadrons are all flying the ICAP-III version of the jet, which features the latest technology.

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