The United States has deployed a squadron of tactical aircraft to be used in the efforts to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group that controls regions of Syria and Iraq, military officials announced this week. The warplanes, a squadron of Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft, were sent to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to act as tactical support for U.S. and coalition operations.
CNN reported on April 15 that the U.S. European Command announced that the Prowler squadron, part of Marine Corps Tactical Warfare Squadron 4, were deployed to attack ISIS’s ability to communicate in areas of engagement. Mission specifics were not spelled out, of course, but Prowlers not only can intercept ISIS communications but also disrupt — or jam — frequencies of communication devices and radar. Jamming capability benefits are manifold, from disrupting cell phones used in triggering Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to blocking ISIS propaganda transmissions.
Lt. Col. David Westover, Jr., spokesman for European Command, told CNN the following.
“The Prowler is a force multiplier continuing to do what it has for the last 45 years: support warfighters flying in the air and fighting on the ground by giving them the electronic communications dominance to ensure a decisive win.”
The Prowler aircraft has a long and distinguished history, dating back to its first deployment in the skies over Vietnam in 1972. Besides its more recent use in Iraq and Syria against ISIS (since 2014), the aircraft has also been instrumental in peace-keeping efforts around the world, such as when it was employed to assist in maintaining the “no-fly zone” over the war-torn area of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
The deployment of the Prowler squadron to aid in the fight against ISIS is just the latest addition to the armament being sent to combat the terrorist organization. Just last week, an untold number of B-52 Stratofortress bombers were deployed to Qatar to run missions against ISIS troop concentrations and targets of strategic value. It was the first time since Operation Desert Storm that B-52s had seen service in the Middle East, although a number of the Air Force’s oldest and most reliable aircraft had been used in the war in Afghanistan.
But Prowlers and B-52s aren’t the only weapons the U.S. military is now using to fight ISIS. It was announced earlier in the week, according to Reuters, that the U.S. and its coalition partners were also using cyber attacks as part of their military strategy against ISIS. This is done using “cyber bombs” against ISIS internet capabilities, placing increased pressure on the terrorist organization, which has been quite effective in disseminating terrorist propaganda online, not to mention its use of the internet as a recruitment tool.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the following on Tuesday from an aircraft headed to a Colorado air base.
“Those guys are under enormous pressure. Every time we have gone after one of their defended positions over the last six months, we have defeated them. They have left, they have retreated.”
After seeing their forces grow to as many as a CIA-estimated 31,500 militants in September 2014, the terrorist group’s numbers, after several months of intensified coalition military operations, have recently been reported to be on the decline. According to the Military Times, an intelligence assessment released by the Pentagon in February places the number of terrorist combatants at 19,000 and 25,000 in Iraq and Syria. However, ISIS seems to be a growing problem in Libya, where their numbers have nearly doubled (from as many as 3,000 to 6,000) over the same time period. A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that with it becoming increasingly more difficult to get into Syria to join the ISIS ranks there, it is believed that many joining the ISIS ranks are “diverting” to Libya. At the same time, the United States has been considering expanding its war against ISIS terrorists to include the north African state.
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