The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system using a heavily modified version of the C-130 Hercules airframe. The system disrupts enemy command and control communications and limits adversary coordination essential for enemy force management. The Compass Call system employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack (or EA) capabilities in support of U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, and special operations forces. The EC-130H, EA-6B or EA-18G, and F-16CJ, form the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) triad. Programmed upgrades have expanded its mission by procuring a secondary EA capability against early warning and acquisition radars. The EC-130H continuously tests new capabilities and tactics to respond to emerging threats and requests from combatant commanders.
All Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The EC-130H is operated by the 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) consisting of two operational squadrons (41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron (ECS)), a formal training unit (the 42nd ECS), the 755th Operations Support Squadron (OSS), and the 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS). The 55th ECG is a tenant unit of the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. Although located at Davis-Monthan, the group reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska
The Compass Call had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982, and reached initial operating capability in 1983. Over its 32 year operational life, the aircraft has demonstrated a powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in multiple military operations including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan.
The 41st ECS, via the 41st Expeditionary ECS, has been continuously deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Freedom’s Sentinel since 2002. To date, 41st EECS crews have flown over 39,000 hours during 6,800 combat sorties in these operations. Over the past 10 years the 43rd EECS has supported operations in SOUTHCOM, CENTCOM, and AFRICOM, and provided over 26,000 hours of EA to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 42nd ECS provides the 41st and 43rd well trained aviators at a rate of 200 students per year. The 755th OSS provides tactics, training, intelligence, security, and life support to keep the 41st and 43rd ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. The 755th AMXS keeps the Compass Call flying by delivering top notch maintenance and upkeep.
The EC-130H aircraft carries a combat crew of 13 people. Four members are responsible for aircraft flight and navigation (aircraft commander, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer), while nine members operate and employ the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo/mission compartment. The mission crew includes the mission crew commander (electronic warfare officer), weapon system officer (electronic warfare officer), mission crew supervisor (an experienced cryptologic linguist), four analysis operators (linguists), one acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician.
The EC-130H fleet is composed of a mix of Baseline 1 and 2 aircraft. The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours as they provided U.S. and Coalition forces and Joint Commanders a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict. COMPASS CALL’s adaptability is directly attributed to its spiral upgrade acquisition strategy guided by the Big Safari Program office and Air Force Material Command’s 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron based in Waco, Texas. Combined efforts between these agencies ensure the EC-130H can counter new, emergent communication technology.
The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to jam communication, Early Warning/Acquisition radar and navigation systems through higher effective radiated power, extended frequency range and insertion of digital signal processing versus earlier EC-130Hs. Baseline 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with adversary use of emerging technology. It is highly reconfigurable and permits incorporation of clip-ins with less crew impact. It promotes enhanced crew proficiency, maintenance and sustainment with a common fleet configuration, new operator interface, increased reliability and better fault detection.
Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to ease operator workload and improve effectiveness. Clip-in capabilities are now integrated into the operating system and, utilizing automated resource management, are able to be employed seamlessly with legacy capabilities. Improved external communications allow Compass Call crews to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.
Delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability.” A majority of the improvements found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified modifications to the mission system that enhance precision and increase attack capacity. Additionally, the system was re-designed to expand the “plug-and-play” quick reaction capability aspect, which has historically allowed the program to counter unique “one-off” high profile threats. Aircraft communication capabilities are improved with expansion of satellite communications connectivity compatible with emerging DoD architectures, increased multi-asset coordination nets and upgraded data-link terminals. Furthermore, modifications to the airframe in Baseline-2 provide improved aircraft performance and survivability.
The Compass Call integrates into tactical air operations at any level. The versatile and flexible nature of the aircraft and its crew enable the power of electronic combat to be brought to bear in virtually any combat situation.
electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and offensive counter information
BAE Systems (prime mission equipment), and L3 Communications (aircraft integration and depot maintenance)
four Allison T56-A-15 turboprops
4,910 prop shaft horsepower
132 feet, 7 inches (39.7 meters)
97 feet, 9 inches (29.3 meters)
38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)
Block 1, 107,000 pounds (48,534 kilograms); Block 2, 103,000 pounds (46,720 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight:
155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
62,000 pounds (28,182 kilograms)
300 mph (Mach 0.52) at 20,000 feet (6,060 meters)
2,295 miles (3,694 kilometers)
25,000 feet (7.6 kilometers)
non-kinetic energy waveforms
13 (two pilots, navigator, flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, mission crew supervisor, four cryptologic linguists, acquisition operator and an airborne maintenance technician)
Initial operating capability:
Inventory: active force, 14
(Current as of May 2015)
Point of Contact
Air Combat Command, Public Affairs Office; 115 Thompson St., Suite 211; Langley AFB, VA 23665-1987; DSN 574-5014 or (757) 764-5014; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org