EC-37B Compass Call electronic warfare (EW) aircraft is being developed to provide improved electronic attack capabilities for the US Air Force (USAF).
The new platform will be based on the Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning Aircraft (CAEW) airframe, which is a derivative of G550 business jet. It will be equipped with the existing Compass Call electronic warfare system installed on the ageing Lockheed Martin-built EC-130H Compass Call electronic attack aircraft.
The EC-37B Compass Call aircraft is expected to provide enhanced stand-off jamming capability for the USAF, compared to the existing EC-130H Compass Call, which has been operational with the USAF since 1982.
The USAF plans to acquire a total of ten new EC-37B Compass Call aircraft and put the first two aircraft in service by 2023.
EC-37B Compass Call EW aircraft development
The USAF announced its proposal to retire the existing fleet of EC-130H Compass Call aircraft from its service in 2014. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2016 fiscal directed the USAF for a report on recapitalisation of EC-130H Compass Call fleet to address future threats, either through a replacement programme or by installing Compass Call capabilities onto an existing platform.
The USAF issued a request for information to aircraft manufacturers for their ability to provide commercial derivative aircraft integrated with the Compass Call system in October 2015.
In early 2016, the USAF concluded that the future EW capability could be addressed by moving the existing Compass Call mission system onto a commercial derivative aircraft, based on the responses submitted by Boeing, Bombardier and Gulfstream Aerospace.
The USAF issued a classified justification and approval to award the sole-source contract for the Compass Call re-host to L3 Communications in August 2016. It unveiled plans for the EC-X Compass Call replacement aircraft, under the Compass Call Cross Deck programme, in 2017.
L3 Communications was awarded a contract by the USAF in April 2017 to serve as the prime contractor for the integration of Compass Call EW technology into the Gulfstream G550 CAEW airframe. Gulfstream Aerospace was preferred to supply Gulfstream G550 CAEW airframes in September 2017.
BAE Systems is responsible for the development, procurement, production and integration of electronics and mission equipment for the EC-37B Compass Call EW aircraft fleet.
The initial design review of the Compass Call weapon system was completed in 2017 and the work to transition Compass Call EW technology from EC-130H aircraft to the modern platform began in July 2018.
Modifications of the first G550 airframe are underway and the final design review of the weapon system is expected to be completed in Fall 2018.
Design, features and avionics of EC-37B Compass Call EW aircraft
The EC-37B aircraft will have a length of 29m and a wing span of 28m. It will be powered by two Rolls-Royce BR710 C4-11 engines. The airplane’s weight and operating costs will be reduced by 50% each, compared to the EC-130H Compass Call.
It will be integrated with the modern Compass Call airborne tactical weapon system, which will deliver high-mission effectiveness while ensuring survivability of the pilots and operators.
Avionics aboard the new platform will include an advanced flight deck, modern electronics and communications suite, jamming equipment, data link, tactical radios, as well as transmitting and receiving antennas.
EC-37B Compass Call mission capabilities
The new EC-37B electronic warfare platform will be used to disrupt enemy command and control communications and suppress air defence networks of enemy forces. It will also be used to attack enemy early warning and acquisition radar threats and perform counter-information operations.
The new EW aircraft will have the ability to operate at high altitudes with increased speeds, and execute missions at long ranges. It will also be able to perform missions in anti-access, area denial and irregular warfare conditions.
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