A Closer Look At The EC-37B Compass Call, U.S. Air Force’s Future Tactical Electronic Attack Platform

Compass Call


Compass Call
The EC-37B takes off for the primary take a look at flight within the absolutely missionized configuration. (Picture: L3Harris)

Underneath the Compass Name Rehost program, the digital assault mission is transitioning from the EC-130H to the EC-37B, with deliveries slated to start later this yr.

The U.S. Air Drive is constant the works to get its digital assault capabilities into the long run, upgrading and transitioning the Compass Name airborne tactical digital assault weapon system from the 40 years outdated EC-130H to the brand new EC-37B. The plane carried out its first take a look at flight within the absolutely missionized configuration and USAF livery on Might 4, 2023, from L3Harris’ integration and modification heart in Waco, Texas.

L3Harris launched a press assertion to confirm this first four-hour test flight, earlier than later eradicating it from its web site. The few images obtainable from the flight and after the plane acquired its new livery have been additionally cleaned of the USAF and unit markings, leaving solely the roundels seen. In actual fact, uncredited sources additionally posted on-line the unedited images, which present additionally the DM tail flash of the plane and it provisional FAA registration, which will likely be later changed by the army serial.

Compass Name disrupts enemy command and control communications, radars, and navigation methods and limits adversary coordination, as a part of the Counter-Command, Management, Computer systems, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Focusing on (Counter-C5ISRT) mission. Limiting an adversary’s battlespace coordination and drive administration, in addition to suppressing the air defenses, is crucial in at the moment’s operational situations to enhance the probabilities of missions’ success.

The Compass Name system is likely one of the busiest belongings of your complete US stock, which took half in each battle the place US troops have been engaged in fight, and can also be longest repeatedly deployed Air Drive asset, being deployed since 2002 in Afghanistan. Along with the EA-18G Growler and the F-16CM Block 50/52 Combating Falcon, Compass Name is a part of the US Suppression of Enemy Air Protection (SEAD) triad.

The EC-130H is operated by the 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) at Davis-Monthan AFB as a geographically separated unit of the fifty fifth Wing based mostly at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. The latter gives Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Digital Warfare (EW), Command and Management (C2) and nationwide treaty verification capabilities for the U.S. forces with quite a few variants of the C-135 and C-130 airframes. As soon as delivered, the EC-37Bs will likely be assigned to the fifty fifth ECG.

The EC-37B photographed in USAF colours. (Picture: L3Harris)

The EC-130H flew for the primary time in 1981 and was delivered to the Air Drive a yr later. The plane, with a crew of 13 folks (4 accountable for flight and navigation and 9 for the EA mission gear), has been upgraded all through the years, however after 40 years it wants a substitute. Following the kind’s retirement introduced in 2014, the U.S. Air Drive initiated the Compass Name Rehost program, which is transferring the Compass Name suite from the EC-130H to the brand new EC-37B, based mostly on the Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning Aircraft (CAEW) airframe.

As for the EC-130H, BAE Programs is the contractor for the Prime Mission Tools (PME) and L3 Communications is the contractor for plane integration and depot upkeep. L3 Communications and Gulfstream bought a sole-source contract in 2017 to begin rehosting Compass Name. The businesses stated the EC-37B will present considerably improved survivability, in addition to improved stand-off jamming functionality and adaptability to counter refined communications and radar threats.

The improve of the Compass Name mission system includes quite a few incremental capabilities, akin to BAE Systems’ Small Adaptive Bank of Electronic Resources technology. SABER is a serious technological advance that can enable the Compass Name weapon system to transition from {hardware} to software-based electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) warfare functionality. The SABER system is constructed on a set of Software program Outlined Radios (SDRs) utilizing an open system structure and can present the spine of the brand new EC-37B’s working system, also called the “Baseline 4” iteration.

Jared Belinsky, Product Line Director of the Countermeasure & Electromagnetic Assault (CEMA) options at BAE, defined that the event group wished to each obtain danger discount for the EC-37B Baseline 4 configuration and likewise to supply these capabilities to the present EC-130H platform. Due to this, a Baseline 3 configuration was launched and examined on the EC-130H so as to add the brand new capabilities to the fleet till the Baseline 4 configuration is prepared.

“As our first foray into an open-system {hardware} and software program functionality for Compass Name, SABER permits the speedy insertion and integration of recent expertise via software program updates as an alternative of {hardware} reconfiguration,” stated Belinsky. “They may very well be BAE-developed or come from Third-party suppliers, no matter the perfect obtainable functionality is.”

The EC-37B photographed in USAF colours. (Picture: L3Harris)

Final yr, the Air Drive and BAE efficiently examined at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona, three new third-party purposes which have been built-in on the EC-130H trough the non-proprietary SABER software program improvement package. The brand new structure is now getting used, along with the final deliberate {hardware} upgrades delivered final yr, as basis for the Baseline 4 configuration, which is anticipated to exponentially enhance the capabilities of Compass Name.

“Utilizing the structure as an idea that we developed via SABER for the EC-130H, we’re now bringing that structure ahead onto Baseline 4 and the EC-37B in such a approach that it extends and gives much more functionality than what we have been capable of submit on the EC-130H,” defined Belinsky. “We’re actually bringing it ahead in a way more intensive approach, pushing the expertise and functionality ahead and absolutely exploiting the benefits offered by open architectures within the EC-37B Baseline 4 system.”

In the meanwhile there will likely be three configurations of Compass Name, which will likely be regularly introduced to 2 with the retirement of the final EC-130Hs after which one as soon as all EC-37Bs are delivered. This may enable to regularly introduce in service the brand new capabilities as they’re obtainable, with out lengthening the time wanted to area the brand new fleet.

“The present model of Compass Name that’s on the EC-130Hs at the moment is what we name the mid-Baseline 2. The interim Baseline 3 Compass Name structure model is for the primary 5 EC-37B plane. The second 5 plane would be the Baseline 4 system structure functionality,” explains Tom Huerter, Enterprise Growth Director for BAE’s CEMA enterprise space. “So, we’re taking the chance to show out the SABER expertise and area it now on the EC-130H (as what we name a clip-in) which has been the best way that added functionality has been dropped at that platform for forty years.

Contemplating that the EC-37B airframe has a a lot smaller dimension than the EC-130H, reducing the size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements of the prime mission gear was a key level of this system. This was achieved because of the brand new open-system {hardware} and software program answer that’s being adopted for the EC-37B which, by the best way, additionally resulted in a a lot decrease cooling requirement for all onboard electronics.

The EC-37B photographed in USAF colours. (Picture: L3Harris)

Clearly, the most recent Compass Name iteration should not be already out of date when it’ll lastly enter service, as adversaries are continually engaged on new superior layered and built-in sensing and electromagnetic warfare capabilities. To protect the prevalence within the digital warfare spectrum, the brand new Compass Name must be updated with the newest improvements fielded by adversaries.

“To satisfy the mission necessities of Compass Name, we’ve wanted to be extremely targeted on, and updated on our adversaries’ command, management and communications methods in addition to their air protection radars, information hyperlinks and navigation methods,” stated Belinsky. “And so, we’ve strived all through the lifetime of this program, along with the Air Drive, to maintain tempo with the rising threats and to evolve the system alongside the best way to proceed to be related into the long run.”

The partnership with the Air Drive doesn’t finish right here, because the business can also be working with the fifty fifth ECG to organize each infrastructures and coaching at Davis-Monthan AFB and at Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Efforts are additionally being made to scale back the operator workload and improve mission effectiveness, as defined by Huerter: “By optimizing the operator expertise via numerous automated resolution aids and improved Human to Machine Interface (HMI) instruments, the EC-37B EWOs [Electronic Warfare Officers] can have higher situational consciousness and extra actual time focusing on functionality than their EC-130H predecessors.”

On account of all this system’s efforts, the EC-37B’s working prices will likely be reduce in half in comparison with the EC-130H Compass Name, whereas additionally with the ability to carry out its mission at greater altitudes and velocity and longer ranges and durations. The G550-based plane can even be optimized to carry out missions in Anti-Access, Area-Denial (A2/AD) environments, whereas additionally with the ability to be simply upgraded to face new threats because of its Modular Open Programs Structure.

Much more superior capabilities may discover their approach into the Compass Name’s electronics and software program, as Chris O’Donnell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Protection, Platform and Weapon Portfolio Administration, stated final yr that the Division of Protection wants focused investments and modern and novel capabilities, akin to cognitive EW, to maintain the sting over adversaries and to counter superior and non-traditional threats. As a matter of reality, cognitive EW capabilities are already being examined with the Angry Kitten ECM pod, so it’s completely expectable that sometime they’ll find yourself on the EC-37B.

To date, the U.S. Air Drive has been the one operator of the Compass Name system, nevertheless this may change in future. As we reported, Italy is trying to purchase two EC-37B plane as a part of the P-MMMS (Piattaforma Multi-Missione, Multi- Sensore/Multi-Mission, Multi-Sensor Platform) program, aimed toward acquiring a contemporary asset that may be built-in in a net-centric C4ISTAR structure and later tailored for multi-domain operations.

The Nationwide Armaments Directorate (which is accountable for the procurement of materiel, gear and weapon methods for the Italian Armed Forces) decided that the only solution capable of satisfying the requirements is the EC-37B Compass Call. This may require each a Direct Business Sale, for the acquisition of the elements and the required modifications, and a International Navy Sale, for the acquisition of the mission methods and the bottom management stations.

Ought to the US Division of State approve the FMS, Italy would turn into the primary overseas authorities to amass the extremely categorized Compass Name system and the Italian Air Drive would turn into one of many few operators to area a fight confirmed, state-of-the-art and extremely efficient Digital Assault functionality.

Stefano D’Urso is a contract journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based mostly in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he is additionally learning to realize a Grasp Diploma in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT strategies utilized to the world of army operations and present conflicts are amongst his areas of experience.


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