EC-130H Compass Call protects, enhances regional airpower capabilities

Over the past month, the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, has flown in two multi-nation, large force employment exercises that strengthened integration capabilities with CENTCOM partners and allies.

The Compass Call, flown by the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is an airborne tactical weapon system that employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack capabilities, and has been operating persistently in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for almost 20 years.

In addition to flying combat sorties, the crews routinely participate in monthly LFE exercises as a means to exercise not only large force employment, but also multi-national integration, explained Lt. Col. Tyler Stark, Advanced Training Division Chief for the U.S. Air Forces Central Air Warfare Center, ADAB, UAE.

“These exercises provide both the 380th AEW and CENTCOM forces a unique opportunity to train with our international partners in advanced tactics in a broad spectrum of mission sets, including command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air interdiction, close air support, and everything in between,” he said.

As for the Compass Call, the 13 crewmembers onboard are eager to participate alongside a variety of other aircraft from around the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

“These exercises are important for everyone involved because our ability to coordinate and operate with our coalition partner nations will be critical to our success in any future conflicts in the region,” said Capt. Ryan Fahey, tactics officer, 41 EECS, who is also the lead planner for the EC-130H’s participation in the LFEs.

The role of the Compass Call will vary depending on the exercise, Fahey said. In one LFE they might act as “red air,” providing contested and degraded operations for all exercise participants, while in another, they will act as “blue air,” providing offensive tactics in cooperation with coalition assets.

As a non-kinetic platform, the Compass Call mission can be a challenge to incorporate, Fahey said. “It can be more difficult for some to understand things they can’t physically see, as opposed to dropping a bomb,” he said.

But much like a conventional weapon, electronic attack is a threat that can have just as much potential for damage to the mission as it can to help ensure success.

“We do our best to integrate into the exercises in the best way possible to provide valuable training and experience for everyone,” Fahey said. “Incorporating electronic attack will hopefully continue to enhance all players’ abilities to conduct operations in a contested and degraded environment.”

This ability is becoming more and more important when preparing warfighters for the next generation of combat, he said. “These exercises are beneficial for all of us, as they allow our crews to experience partner nation operations and continue to develop our tactics, techniques and procedures in the region.”

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