[Photo] U.S. Navy’s Last EA-6B Prowlers and F/A-18C Legacy Hornets take fuel over Iraq

U.S. Navy aircraft, launched from USS George H.W. Bush are taking part in the air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

On Aug. 8, the U.S. military launched the first targeted airstrike against ISIS terrorists. The raid involved aircraft belonging to Carrier Air Wing 8 embarked on USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier.

US Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

Two months later, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F/A-18C “Legacy” Hornet as well as EA-6B Prowler jets, launched from the flight deck of the U.S. Navy nuclear flattop sailing in the Persian Gulf, are still taking part in the air campaign against ISIS in Iraq on a daily basis.

US.Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

The images in this article show Hornets and Prowlers refueled mid-air from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueler over Iraq. With minor modifications, both KC-135 and KC-10 are able to refuel Navy aircraft that, unlike Air Force combat planes (that have a receptacle for the flying boom), are equipped with a “probe” compatible with the so-called hose-and-drogue refueling system.

US Navy EA-6B Prowlers supporting operations against ISIL

EA-6B from VAQ-134 are conducting electronic warfare missions; more or less what have been doing for several years in Afghanistan: they eavesdrop “enemy” radio signals and jam those frequencies in order to prevent terrorists from talking one another on the radio or use portable transmitters to trigger IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).

US Navy EA-6B Prowlers supporting operations against ISIL

The F/A-18Cs are instead used for bombing insurgents and wipe out their vehicles (or tanks) using JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) or AGM-65 Maverick missiles. Interestingly, the configuration of all U.S. Navy Hornets (both C/D and E/F examples) is such they don’t carry any external store on the left wing inner pylon, in order to keep the ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared) pod point-of-view free from any obstacle.

US Navy F-18E Super Hornets supporting operations against ISIL

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • Perhaps they don’t see it as a good trade-off in weight vs. need. These a/c are operating over Iraq, an ally. I’m certain a/c operating over Syria are packing heat. (carrying ‘winders and Slammers.)

      • True, but considering their mission they could be over syria one day iraq the next. I am surprised they wouldnt be carrying them in case they were redirected or something…. the weight of aim-9s is pretty low (3 people can hang them by hand on 16s), slammers weigh a lot more but still surprising.

        • Keep in mind a/c weapons in general and ones used aboard carriers in particular have a definite life cycle. X number of hours in the air, x number of controlled crashes (carrier recoveries) before the missile needs an expensive overhaul. If you know there won’t be a threat, why would you add to your maintenance downtime and budget by carrying weapons that won’t be needed?

    • CAG birds and a/c with x00 nose numbers have been painted in varying shades of color for decades. Sometimes you’ll see x01 nose numbers get a colorful paint job as well. x00 is typically the assigned bird for squadron C.O.’s, x01 usually for the Exec.

      • Bill,
        Back in the day, they were all painted up. On occasion there was a slight variation for the CAG bird.
        I might be wrong on this one, but if I recall correctly 00 was always the CAG bird and 01 was for the skipper.

    • CAG bird in each squadron is allowed to use the old schemes from the early ’80’s. And it must be early in their deployment. Very little touch-up paint visible.

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