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Scanning the skies: USAF transferring Compass Call to Gulfstream G550

EC-130H Compass Call aircraft serial number 73-1590, assigned to the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, takes off in support of a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, on 13 July 2021. (USAF)

The EC-130H Hercules aircraft has been in US Air Force (USAF) service since 1982. It is no ordinary C-130. The EC-130H is configured with the Compass Call electronic warfare (EW) system that employs a broad range of techniques to engage the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) to disrupt enemy command-and-control and limit an adversary's ability to manage and co-ordinate its forces.

BAE Systems said its advanced mission system manipulates enemy communications, sensors, networks, and collaboration so US and allied forces retain full usage of and access to the EMS. During the Cold War, the type's tasking was focused on jamming radio communications of the then Soviet Union-integrated air-defence networks. In the decades following the end of the Cold War, the Compass Call mission set evolved and now includes jamming tactical communications, air-surveillance radars, and jamming and detonating improvised explosive devices.

Forty years on and the USAF is now in the process of divesting its remaining EC-130H aircraft and replacing them with a derivative of the Gulfstream G550 conformal airborne early warning and control (CAEW) aircraft, designated the EC-37B.

Divesting and re-hosting

As of March 2022 the Compass Call programme of record included seven primary mission aircraft, one backup aircraft, one weapon system trainer (a flight deck simulator), and two mission crew simulators.

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