Operation SPACECAT: Building Joint Electromagnetic Warfare Professionals

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Anthony Surman
  • 114th Space Control Squadron

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, Fla. – Near the end of 2021, members of the 114th Space Control Squadron (SPCS) hosted the U.S. Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 139 (VAQ-139) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“The purpose of this operation was to bring two Electromagnetic Attack Squadrons together,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Anthony Surman, assistant operations officer, 114th SPCS. “We wanted to create a forum where our teams could hear directly from other tactical Electromagnetic Warfare experts about the capabilities of our systems and also learn a little bit about space missions and the many activities going on at Cape Canaveral.”

VAQ-139 operates the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack Platform or “Growler,” a specialized version of the F/A-18F Super Hornet designed to suppress enemy air defenses, while the 114th SPCS deploys with the Counter Communications System, a transportable space electromagnetic attack platform that denies adversary satellite communications.

“This was an operation in the making from our days working together in the Pentagon,” said U.S. Navy Commander Kevin Jones, VAQ-139 executive officer. “From our initial discussions, we knew there would be a close relationship and bond between attack-minded operators.”

In planning, the members quickly learned that both squadrons shared an affinity for cats. Sailors of the VAQ-139 are known as the "Cougars" and Airmen of the 114th SPCS are called the "ThunderCats.” Upon this discovery, planners appropriately named the mission Operation SPACECAT, a two-day mission from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Washington, the home of VAQ-139, to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“From my perspective, the most inspiring part of the day was sharing our respective capability briefings and getting the Growler crews on our operations floor,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Evgenie Borchers, electromagnetic warfare operator, 114th SPCS. “We speak the same language. We want to be on the attack, we share similar challenges and we each have missions that are critical to success in a high-end fight.”

Jones concluded by lauding the success of the mission.

"Thanks to some awesome planning and coordination, we were able to land our jets on the historic Shuttle Landing Facility, and also learn about the critical mission of the 5th Space Launch Squadron before regrouping at the 114th squadron spaces to collaborate on Electromagnetic Warfare,” he said. "Freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum is a precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains. I have great appreciation for the advantages space capabilities provide the nation and the military. After witnessing my aircrew interact with the operators from the 114th, it is clear that to be successful in great power competition, we need fully integrated Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations and close relationships with all spectrum participants.”