Air Force Electronic Warfare Officer instructs Navy pilots

A tow tractor maneuvers an EA-6B Prowler across the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Sept. 13, 2011, while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. Specific aircraft, like this Prowler, were painted to commemorate the Centennial of Naval Aviation Celebration marking 100 years of Naval flight and celebrating the hard work and dedication of men and women who are willing to continually challenge themselves and, if necessary, sacrifice their lives for their country. (Courtesy photo)

A tow tractor maneuvers an EA-6B Prowler across the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Sept. 13, 2011, while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. Specific aircraft, like this Prowler, were painted to commemorate the Centennial of Naval Aviation Celebration marking 100 years of Naval flight and celebrating the hard work and dedication of men and women who are willing to continually challenge themselves and, if necessary, sacrifice their lives for their country. (Courtesy photo)

An EA-6B Prowler comes in for a landing aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) July 10, 2011, during carrier qualifications while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout carrier qualifications pilots are tested on their ability to land in both day and night situations. (Courtesy photo)

An EA-6B Prowler comes in for a landing aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) July 10, 2011, during carrier qualifications while underway in the Atlantic Ocean. Throughout carrier qualifications pilots are tested on their ability to land in both day and night situations. (Courtesy photo)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- An Air Force electronic warfare officer recently became the first EWO to upgrade and become a fully qualified instructor teaching Navy pilots flight maneuvers in the EA-6B Prowler.

Maj. Martin Rann, EA-6B Prowler instructor, Fixed Wing Electronic Attack Squadron 129 is attached to the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron, "Wild Boars." The Wild Boars are attached to the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

"It is such an honor to be an instructor teaching these young lieutenants how to fly and land the Prowler on carriers," said Maj. Martin Rann, EA-6B Prowler instructor, Fixed Wing Electronic Attack Squadron 129. "This is something I have wanted to do for a long time and one of the main reasons I made the decision to return to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and be a part of the boat program."

Rann arrived at NAS Whidbey Island in July 2010, after earning his bachelor's degree while enlisted in the Marine Corps. In 1999, he submitted a package for Air Force officer training school and was approved. He then left for flight school at Pensacola, Fla. in September 1999. He began his instructor upgrade training in November 2010.

"Usually during training a more senior officer who has more flight hours and boat experience flies with the junior officer to assist and instruct," said Rann. "The ranking officers have usually done a few fleet tours and have a lot of boat experience."

The Prowler has two cockpits and seats up to four people. Trainers sit in the front passenger seat while training the pilots on the specifics of takeoff and landing.

"We practice landing 'traps' where we fly with the hook down and catch the wire to land quickly and safely," said Rann. "Also, there is a 'cat' which is short for catapult, the Prowlers basically slingshot off the ships. We train the pilots to cat and trap in both day and nighttime situations."

According to Rann, there are significant differences between being an F-15E Strike Eagle and an EA-6B Prowler pilot. For example, the Prowler is a tactical jammer used in more of a support role. By jamming enemy radar and communications they confuse the enemy and provide support to assault fighters like the F-15E Strike Eagle.
However, both aircraft do have one distinct similarity.

"The F-15E Strike Eagles at MHAFB also have a hook but it is mainly for emergency landings," said Rann. "If someone loses their hydraulics and doesn't have any brakes they can drop the hook, catch the wire and still land relatively safely. However, the traps on the ships will really stop you quickly, a lot quicker than the ones on the ground."

During landing specific training sorties an area of land is painted "carrier box style" which means it is painted to the specific ship landing area dimensions. The training pilots who have enough gas after a sortie or mission will practice landing a few times there. Later, students practice landing on a ship with a landing signals officer who actually talks the pilots down.

"It is a completely different sensation when you land on a ship," said Rann. "There isn't a lot of braking and driving around, you basically hit the deck, the hook grabs the wire and you snap to a stop real quick. If students miss the wire they are taught to land at near full power so they can take back off and circle around for another try. It's a lot of fun."

Senior leaders are also very impressed with Rann's ability to provide excellent training to his students.

"In our squadron's history we have never had anyone like Major Rann who could do this kind of thing," said Lt. Col. Carlton Keen, 390th ECS director of operations. "The Navy is phasing the Prowler out by 2015 and replacing it with the EA-18G Growler. Major Rann is pretty much the last of his kind."