The first Baseline-2 Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call aircraft of the 55th Electronic Combat Group at Davis-Monthan AFB (Image © USAF)

USAF upgrades command & control disrupting Herc

The first Baseline-2 Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call aircraft of the 55th Electronic Combat Group at Davis-Monthan AFB (Image © USAF)
The first Baseline-2 Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call of the 55th ECG at Davis-Monthan AFB (Image © USAF)

The US Air Force is upgraded their already heavily modified Hercules aircraft that is designed to disrupt (jam) enemy command & control and radar systems. The 55th Electronic Combat Group at Arizona’s Davis-Monthan AFB has just received its first so-called Baseline-2 modified EC-130H Compass Call aircraft.

Although very little is known about the specific mission gear the 55th ECG commander, Colonel Marty Reynolds, says the latest modification marks “a significant milestone” and that it “expands the Department of Defense electronic warfare capability portfolio”. “Baseline-2 provides the DoD with the equivalent of a fifth generation electronic attack capability.” The upgrade is a joint effort between the 55th ECG, the Big Safari Program office – wonderful name isn’t it – and the USAF Material Command’s 661st Aeronautical Systems Squadron based in Waco, Texas.

The 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, according to an USAF press release. “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.” The Baseline-2 Compass Call’s capabilities now also include satellite connectivity linked to other DoD IT networks, co-ordination networks and better data-links. The upgrade also includes changes to the aircraft’s base systems to increase its performance and to its self-defence suite.

Operation Just Cause
Like the legendary F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter and the notorious AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, the EC-130H Compass Call was first deployed during the 1989 US invasion of Panama. As part of this operation Just Cause the then dictator of the Latin American country, general Manuel Noriega, was ousted despite the fact that he used to be on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency. The EC-130H denied the Panamanians of large scale co-ordinated counter attacks, while amongst the other about 300 aircraft involved were a pair of EF-111A’s, AC-130 Spectre gunships, OA-37B Dragonfly observation and light attack aircraft, C-130 Hercules airlifters as well as C-141 Starlifter and C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft.

Since Just Cause the EC-130H has been airborne during many military ops, including those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over the last dozen years the 55th ECG modified Hercs flew 10,400 combat sorties collecting 64,200 flight hours. Fourteen EC-130Hs are flying with the Davis-Monthan Electronic Combat Group, each aircraft having a base crew of four plus nine electronic warfare specialists. The aircraft can speed up to 300 mph at 20,000 feet, have a range of 2,295 miles (3,694 km) and a service ceiling of 25,000 feet.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger largely based on source information provided by the USAF’s 55th ECG