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US Air Force takes delivery of first EC-37B electronic warfare aircraft

The first EC-37B ‘Compass Call' (right) next to one of the EC-130Hs (left) it is intended to replace. (BAE Systems)

The US Air Force (USAF) has taken delivery of the first EC-37B ‘Compass Call' electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, missions systems integrators L3Harris and BAE Systems announced on 12 September.

The aircraft is the first of 10 for the USAF, replacing the Lockheed Martin EC-130H ‘Compass Call' aircraft. The aircraft is based on the Gulfstream G550 business jet and was constructed at Gulfstream's factory in Savannah, Georgia. The aircraft was then flown to L3Harris' facility in Waco, Texas, for integration with its missions systems.

“What we need the EC-37 to do is pretty straightforward,” General Mark Kelly, commander of the USAF's Air Combat Command, told reporters on 12 September. “The bottom line is we need it to enable our ships and aircraft to get closer via electromagnetic protection and electronic attack, [and] make it more difficult for an adversary's ships and aircraft to operate across the [battlespace].”

“I would see the EC-37 capability [as] complementary to the F-35 Block 4 EW [and] F-15EX [Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System] EW, so it's all got to merge together,” Gen Kelly continued.

Since the G550 airframe's airworthiness has effectively been proven out on other programmes, initial testing is to focus on the aircraft's electronic warfare (EW) systems integration, Gen Kelly said.

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