The US Air Force shared the new images of its EC-37B electronic warfare jet

Both EC-37B and EC-130H can handle the Compass Call's mission.
Loukia Papadopoulos
EC-37B electronic warfare jet
EC-37B electronic warfare jet

OffuttAFB 

New photos and a brief video of the next-generation EC-37B Compass Call electronic warfare jet were released by the U.S. Air Force, offering a distinct look at the jet expected to replace the EC-130H. Both aircraft handle the Compass Call's mission.

An electronic attack aircraft

For the uninitiated, the EC-130H Compass Call is an electronic attack aircraft based on the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules that has been heavily modified to disrupt enemy command and control communications, perform offensive counter-information operations, and carry out other kinds of electronic attacks. It also has the capacity to attack early warning and acquisition radars and can be deployed worldwide at short notice to support U.S. operations forces.

It is one of the three primary U.S. electronic warfare aircraft that can suppress enemy air defenses while jamming communications, radar, and command-and-control targets.

The new visuals of the aircraft were taken after arriving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, Arizona, on August 17 for a brief visit. The trip was meant to show off the plane’s progress. The aircraft was expected to be delivered for testing around this time of year, indicating that its development timeline is thus far on track.

The first ever EC-37B Compass Call aircraft made its now famous inaugural flight in the fall of last year. This event was followed by members of the U.S. House of Representatives adding $37 billion to the proposed defense budget for the Fiscal Year 2023, of which $883.7 million was put aside to acquire four more EC-37B Compass Call electronic warfare jets.

The move surprised many as it showcased an expensive turn of events from the Air Force‘s initial plan of procuring only 10 EC-37Bs. The change in plans could indicate that the Department of Defense has decided that replacing each and every older EC-130H will boost the Air Force’s electronic warfare capacity making the expensive investment worthwhile.

Time for a change

While the EC-130H has proven very beneficial to the air force in the past, several of its airplanes date all the way back to the Vietnam war. This would indicate that they desperately need a successor to take over. This process officially began in 2017 when the Air Force awarded L3Harris a contract to execute the Compass Call’s “cross deck” program while noting that as much as possible of the existing Compass Call system of the EC-130H should be directly reinstalled aboard the new EC-37Bs.

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It was crucial to keep the electronic warfare equipment that had allowed the EC-130H to achieve its successful jamming capacities and improve the aircraft on every other level. “The G550 platform has increased speed, endurance, and extended stand-off range over the legacy EC-130H aircraft – providing significantly improved survivability,” read an L3Harris brochure. “The new platform will provide combatant commanders with improved stand-off jamming capability and flexibility to counter sophisticated communications and radar threats.”

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