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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2021

VAQ-209 Provides SEAD Capabilities for Joint Exercise Northern Lightning

By Cmdr. Peter Scheu, VAQ-209 Public Affairs

The “Star Warriors” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209 provided Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) for Exercise Northern Lightning at Volk Reserve Air Base in Wisconsin, Aug. 9-20.

Flying EA-18G Growlers, the entire squadron provided electronic support, electronic attack, and advanced SEAD to all of the exercise’s participating units for every event during the two week exercise.

Northern Lighting integrated VAQ-109 with diverse aircraft, including Marine Corps F-35 Lightning IIs, Navy FA-18F Super Hornets, and Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons and T-38 Talons. The exercise was unique in that it allowed each squadron to study each other’s tactics, techniques, and procedures and then leverage them in the combined Large Formation Exercises (LFEs). 

Cmdr. Danial Sherman and Cmdr. Mike Farmer, Navy Reserve Officers assigned to VAQ-209, led the squadron’s exercise participation as officers in charge.

“Exercise Northern Lightning 2021 afforded the Star Warriors an outstanding opportunity to show [units with] fourth and fifth generation aircraft alike the advanced SEAD capabilities that VAQ-209 brings to the fight and how we can greatly increase their ability to strike targets well within an enemy air defense system and return home safely,” said Farmer. “This opportunity to train with fellow Reservists and active component squadrons from the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps was critical to ensuring joint readiness and maximum warfighting lethality against peer-level adversary nations.”

VAQ-209 is part of the Navy’s Airborne Electronic Attack Wing, the only U.S. military air wing that provides airborne electronic attack against enemy integrated air defenses and other targets. Combining SEAD capabilities with the kinetic suppression capabilities of F-16s and the penetration, detection and destruction of enemy air defense capabilities of F-35s allowed participants to practice joint warfighting lethality and survivability against a simulated, advanced threat.

VAQ-209 also provided integration training flights for F-16 aircrew during the exercise, giving Air Force pilots the unique opportunity to fly in the back seat of EA-18Gs to learn more about the aircraft’s capabilities firsthand.

“The Star Warriors executed flawlessly in a highly dynamic and joint environment, providing outstanding training for all involved,” said VAQ-209 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Shaun Steinbarger. “I am especially proud of the Sailors and all their hard work; bringing all five of our aircraft and all personnel on detachment is no small feat, and they performed irreproachably.”

VAQ-209’s maintenance department supported the execution of 55 sorties by the Star Warriors during 14 LFE events over the course of the detachment with a full division of five EA-18G Growlers, totaling 153 flight hours. The squadron continues to prepare to support combatant commanders worldwide, executing its workup cycle and training throughout 2021.

VAQ-209 is a Navy Reserve Squadron assigned to the Tactical Support Wing of Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve. Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve mans, trains and equips the Naval Air Force Reserve in order to provide enduring operational support and strategic depth to naval forces that win in combat.