Air Force Tests an Electronic Attack Jet Based on Gulfstream’s G550

The EC-37B tactical jammer is slated to replace the C-130-based EC-130H Compass Call.

The EC-37B tactical jammer is slated to replace the C-130-based EC-130H Compass Call. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

The U.S. Air Force's EC-37B Compass Call, the next-generation tactical jammer aircraft program based on a business jet airframe, is "progressing well" and on track to enter service within the next five years, according to the service.

The EC-37B is based on the Gulfstream G550 business jet airframe and kitted out with electromagnetic warfare equipment from BAE Systems and L3Harris. It’s slated to replace the C-130 Hercules-based EC-130H Compass Call tactical weapon system that’s been in service since the early 1980s.

Designed to disrupt enemy command and control communications and navigation systems in order to restrict battlefield communication, the EC-37B also offers the enhanced flight performance of a commercial business jet, service officials say.

The Air Force has plans to order 10 EC-37Bs to replace its current fleet of 14 EC-130Hs. The EC-37B made its first flight last October, and the Air Force plans to field the first five aircraft next year, The Aviationist reported.

Gulfstream’s Multiple Military Applications

The EC-37B is one of several military or special mission applications for Gulfstream. The G550 also serves as the platform for the U.S. Navy's Telemetry Range Support Aircraft, as well as the German Aerospace Center's HALO high altitude atmospheric research aircraft. The business jet manufacturer's platforms are also used for medevac aircraft and international maritime surveillance and patrol.

Late last month, Gulfstream announced it had delivered the third EC-37B to the Air Force.

The three jets are currently "in various stages of mission system integration and test," Maj. Joshua Benedetti, an Air Force spokesperson, confirmed to FLYING.

"The program is progressing well, thanks in large part to our partnership with L3, BAE and Gulfstream," Benedetti said. 

‘More Lethal’

"Compass Call remains the premier wide-area, standoff, Airborne Electromagnetic Attack (AEA) Command and Control Warfare/Information Operations (C2W/IO) weapon system," Benedetti added. "The EC-37B Re-host sustains Compass Call’s current capabilities and makes it more lethal by modernizing its electromagnetic attack capabilities."

When the EC-37B enters into service, it will be based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. Last month, an EC-37B landed at Davis-Monthan, reportedly so airmen in the 55th Electronic Combat Group could view the aircraft up close.

"Compass Call suppresses air defenses by preventing the transmission of essential information between adversaries, their weapon systems, and control networks," the Air Force said at the time.

The special mission aircraft utilizes the BAE Systems-developed Compass Call mission system currently deployed on the EC-130H, which is integrated onto the G550 platform by L3Harris. 

"The G550 platform has increased speed, endurance, and extended stand-off range over the legacy EC-130H aircraft—providing significantly improved survivability," according to L3Harris. "The new platform will provide combatant commanders with improved stand-off jamming capability and flexibility to counter sophisticated communications and radar threats."

[Video Courtesy: U.S. Department of Defense]

In the more than three decades the EC-130H has been in operation, it has been deployed to employ offensive counter-information and electronic attack for missions in places such as Kosovo, Haiti, Libya, Serbia, and Afghanistan. In the past decade alone, the EC-130H conducted more than 26,000 hours of electronic warfare in Iraq, according to the Air Force.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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