The 6 dumbest things I thought I knew about the military before I joined



The EC-130H Compass Call is an airborne tactical weapon system whose primary mission is to disrupt enemy command and control infrastructure, limiting adversary coordination and force management.

The aircraft is a heavily modified C-130 Hercules variant, one of the largest and longest airframes in Air Force history.

From the outside, the aircraft may look like a normal Hercules, but internally, advanced electronic warfare and electronic attack computer systems allow the Air Force to locate, listen to, and scramble. enemy communications.

The effect of non-kinetic rejection is not permanent, but it provides the desired result of blocking the enemy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

The effectiveness of the compass call is to create a fog of war for enemy combatants, making them easier targets for US ground forces.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Frank Von Heiland, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron first officer, checks his oxygen mask on an EC-130H Compass Call at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, September 12, 2014.

(Photo by Evelyn Chavez)

The Air Force is the sole operator of the EC-130H, and the Compass Call has ensured airspace superiority during its 35-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.

Development and design

The EC-130H made its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982, and reached initial operational capability in 1983.

The CE identifier of the aircraft signifies the special electronic transport of the installation.

A Cold War weapon, it was originally designed to suppress enemy air defenses and spent its early years overseeing air defense systems integrated under the Warsaw Pact.

The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a range of nearly 2,300 miles.

The Airborne Tactical Weapon System has undergone changes over the years, with each update providing more powerful avionics systems, radars, and more powerful digital signal analysis computers and subsystems.

The EC-130H aircraft carries a 13-person combat team. Four members are responsible for the flight and navigation of aircraft, while nine members operate and use the EA mission equipment permanently integrated in the cargo / mission compartment.

The EC-130H fleet is made up of a mix of base 1 and 2 aircraft.

The 6 dumbest things I thought I knew about the military before I joined
Technology. Sgt. Shane Kerns, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, walks the wing of an EC-130 Compass Call aircraft while performing a pre-flight check at an air base in Southwest Asia.

(Photo by Raheem Moore)

The Block 35 Baseline 1 EC-130H provides the Air Force with additional capabilities to interfere with communication, early warning / acquisition radar and navigation systems with higher effective radiated power, at extended frequency range and the insertion of digital signal processing compared to previous EC-130Hs. Basic 1 aircraft have the flexibility to keep pace with the adversary’s use of emerging technologies.

Baseline 2 has a number of upgrades to lighten the operator’s workload and improve efficiency. Improved external communications allow Compass Call teams to maintain situational awareness and connectivity in dynamic operational and tactical environments.

The delivery of Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a “fifth generation electronic attack capability”, improving aircraft performance and survivability.

The majority of the upgrades found in the EC-130H Compass Call Baseline-2 are classified mission system modifications that improve accuracy and increase attack capabilities.

In 2017, the Air Force announced plans for a Compass Call replacement platform based on the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft. The new platform was named EC-X.

Operation and deployment

The 14 Compass Call aircraft are assigned to Air Combat Command. The 55th Electronic Combat Group made up of two operational squadrons, the 41st and 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron operate the EC-130H. The 55th ECG is a tenant unit from the 355 Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., Which reports to the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.

The 6 dumbest things I thought I knew about the military before I joined
U.S. Air Force Airmen repair an EC-130H Compass Call engine during Exercise BUSHWACKER on the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., August 26, 2014.

(Photo by Chris Massey)

The 55th ECG recently eclipsed 10,900 combat sorties and 66,500 flight hours, as it provided US and coalition forces and joint commanders with a flexible advantage across the spectrum of conflict.

Did you know

  • Since its introduction in 1954, there have been 54 modified variants of the C-130
  • The EC-130H was introduced in 1983 and began providing airborne attack capabilities in 1989 to support U.S. Army Rangers during Operation Just Cause in Panama.
  • The EC-130H is one of America’s four major electronic warfare aircraft, along with the EA-18G Growler, EA-6B Prowler, and F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, forming the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense triad ( SEAD).

EC-130H Compass Call Datasheet:

Main Features

Main function: electronic warfare, suppression of enemy air defenses and counterattack information



Power plant:

Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines


4,910 propeller shaft horsepower


132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)


97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)


38 feet, 3 inches (11.4 meters)


300 mph (Mach. 4)


355 kilometers


25,000 feet (7,576 meters)

Maximum takeoff weight:

155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)


non-kinetic energy waveforms


13 (two pilots, one navigator, one flight engineer, two electronic warfare officers, one mission crew supervisor, four cryptology linguists, one acquisition operator and one airborne maintenance technician)

Initial operating capacity:


Unit cost:

$ 165 million


Active force, 14

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.


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