Now the Navy is cleared to drive trucks out into the Olympic National Forest, armed with electromagnetic signaling technology. Then growler jets will take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and fly overhead, searching for the signal trucks from the air. It’s essentially a military training game of hide-and-go-seek. The trucks simulate cell towers and other communications behind enemy lines that the Navy wants to scramble.
“It’s a critical warfighting capability,” said Captain Scott Farr, who heads the U.S. Navy growler fleet out of Whidbey Island. “Everybody is dependent upon the electromagnetic spectrum as an operational environment and we disrupt that.”
The jets have also disrupted residents of the Olympic Peninsula and the surrounding islands, who say they are noisy enough to rattle windows and interrupt conversation.
“I don’t think they should be testing where people live and we do live here,” said Mary Kay Leitka, an elder of the Hoh Tribe, whose reservation is on the outer coast of the peninsula along the Hoh River. “To them [the Navy] it’s a remote area. To us, we live here and it needs to stop.”
With the permits from the Forest Service approved Wednesday, the Navy will be able to fly over the Olympic Peninsula up to 16 hours a day, 260 days out of the year.
The Navy says the noise levels will not be harmful to wildlife. However, some research suggests that electromagnetic radiation can disrupt bird migration and chronic noise can disrupt bird feeding patterns.