A total of 14 EC-130H have been produced so far, with an estimated cost of $165 million.

Introduce

Considered one of the most dangerous electronic attack aircraft in the world, the features of EC-130H Compass Call have always been a US secret. In June 2019, the US Air Force revealed that it had deployed EC-130H to Krzesiny base in Poland. This action is said to be one of the efforts to cope with the rising power of Russia.

In the hot September days of 2019, when relations with Iran were strained like strings, the US sent the Compass Call to the Middle East as a response to Iran. It can be said that EC-130H is an important American weapon in modern warfare today.

Basically, the Compass Call is the name of an aerial tactical weapons system that uses the C-130H Hercules airframe as the basis. The main role of Compass Call is to break the communication system, restrict or prevent the enemy from cooperating.

EC-130H can carry out electronic attacks to support the United States and its allied tactical aviation, ground forces or special forces. Compass Call underwent an upgrade program that allowed to expand its mission by adding secondary electronic warfare capabilities to counter early warning radars, which could be coordinated with EA-6B or EA-18G and F-16CJ to deploy Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses formation. EC-130H Compass Call has been continually tested for new capabilities and tactics to cope with future threats.

EC-130H Compass Call
EC-130H Compass Call

Design

The design of EC-130H is almost identical to the original C-130. It can be easily distinguished from the C-130 by the number of antenna equipment it carries with the wiring along the fuselage, roof and tail plane. The tail of the aircraft is a large vertical fins and a pair of horizontal tail plane. Like the C-130, the EC-130H has a stout, tubular fuselage.

The high-mounted monoplane wings carry four powerful turboprop engines. The aircraft still maintains the C-130’s Short Take-Off and Landing ability, giving it flexibility in harsh combat environments.

The electronic attack aircraft is 29.3m (96.1 ft) long, 11.4m (37.4 ft) high, has a wingspan of 39.7m (130.2 ft), an Empty weight of 45.8 tons and a maximum takeoff weight of 69.7 tons.

EC-130H’s crew consists of 13 people, of which 4 members are responsible for flight and navigation. The remaining 9 members will control and use electronic warfare devices integrated in the cargo compartment. During its operations, the EC-130H was not equipped with any conventional weapons, its main weapon being non-kinetic energy waveforms.

Upgrades

EC-130H Compass Call includes 2 upgrades: Baseline 1 and Baseline 2.

Block 35 Baseline 1 provides the US Air Force with the ability to jamming communications, early warning radars and enemy positioning systems through higher radiation power, widening the frequency range and digital signal processing techniques.

Baseline 2 upgraded a few features to reduce the operating workload as well as improve operational efficiency. The improved communication system allows the crew to maintain situational awareness and stay connected in an electronic warfare environment. Most of the improvements on the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline 2 are secrets for improving accuracy and increasing the effectiveness of electronic attacks. Furthermore, modifying the airframe in Baseline 2 also provides higher performance and survivability.

Operations

A total of 14 EC-130H have been produced so far, with an estimated cost of $165 million. All Compass Call aircraft are currently used by the Air Combat Command. EC-130H is operated by 55th Electronic Combat Group, consisting of three Electronic Combat Squadron No. 41st, 42nd and 43rd.

Compass Call made its first flight in 1981, officially handed over to the US Air Force in 1982 and entered combat in 1983. During her more than 30-year life cycle, the EC-130H Compass Call has been involved in many military conflicts including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan, and she has proven valuable.

In September 2017, the Air Force announced that L3 Technologies will serve as the lead systems integrator for a future Compass Call aircraft based on the Gulfstream 550 business jet. The new Compass Call platform has been designated EC-X.

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