Lt. Robert Spence is a naval flight officer with VAQ-130, a Whidbey Island-based squadron that operates the Navy’s newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-18G Growler.
Lt. Robert Spence, a graduate of Kingwood High School, is a naval flight officer with VAQ-130, a Whidbey Island-based squadron that operates the Navy’s newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-18G Growler. Each aircraft has two seats, is more than 60 feet long, may weigh up to 66,000 pounds (max gross) and can travel more than1,100 miles per hour and nearly 2,070 miles on a tank of gas.
Spence’s expertise is in naval electronic warfare and he operates the Growler’s weapons system from the back seat of the aircraft.
“I like working with such a new platform. The VAQ community is an exciting place to work right now as we’re pioneering new electronic warfare tactics that have never been done before,” said Spence.
Spence is proud of the work he is doing as part of the squadron’s 174-member military team who helped directly support Operation Enduring Freedom on their last deployment and were the first carrier- based VAQ squadron to deploy Growlers into Afghanistan.
“I flew into Afghanistan on 26 missions during our last deployment,” Spence explained. “Our electronic jamming capabilities from the sky helped support troops on the ground by interrupting the Taliban’s communication ability.”
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied with VAQ-130. Approximately 32 officers and 142 enlisted men and women make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly — this includes everything from maintaining aircraft airframes and engines to processing paperwork, handling weaponry and flying the aircraft.
“Every day I feel an extraordinary amount of pride to serve alongside our great nation’s most inspiring men and women,” said Cmdr. Eric Illston, VAQ-130’s commanding officer. “Our team is filled with hardworking and highly qualified professionals who hold uncommon levels of responsibility and accountability in support of our mission: To win in combat with trained aircrew and combat-ready aircraft whenever called upon to support and defend the Constitution of the United States through the military element of power. Their work ethic, commitment, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps are second to none!”
The EA-18G Growler is the fourth major variant of the F/A-18 family of aircraft that combines the proven F/A-18F Super Hornet platform with a sophisticated electronic warfare suite. Built to replace the EA-6B Prowler, the Growler is the first newly-designed electronic warfare aircraft produced in more than 35 years. The aircraft also retains all of the F/A-18E/F’s multi-mission capabilities with its validated design and the capability to perform a wide range of enemy defense suppression missions.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s newest electronic warfare aircraft platforms, Spence and other VAQ-130 sailors are proud to part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.
“We have a lot of great people in this squadron and it’s been fun to work with a lot of bright people,” said Spence.