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US Air Force’s new Compass Call electronic warfare plane flies for first time

G550 with a Compass Call electronic warfare suite
Photo: BAE Systems

L3Harris Technologies announced on October 6 it completed the first flight of what will become the US Air Force’s new Compass Call aircraft designed to combat enemy threats.

L3Harris is leading the integration of the Compass Call electronic warfare system onboard the Gulfstream G550 business jet. The G550 has increased speed, endurance and extended stand-off range over the legacy EC-130H aircraft – providing significantly improved survivability. L3Harris is supporting initial modification efforts at the Gulfstream facility where the first flight occurred.

Compass Call is an airborne tactical electronic attack weapon system that disrupts enemy command and control communications, radars, and navigation systems to restrict adversary battlespace coordination. The weapon system supports the suppression of enemy air defenses by preventing the transmission of essential information between adversaries, their weapon systems, and control networks. Compass Call has provided attack capability on the EC-130H since 1981 and is now being cross-decked onto a Gulfstream G550 CAEW platform to be named the EC-37B Compass Call. BAE Systems serves as the mission system engineering, integration, and testing lead as well as the mission system prime contractor.

The system features modular open system architecture, which enables rapid integration of new technology and reduces overall cost of future upgrades. Its size, weight and power enable customers to add new capabilities for evolving mission needs.

“The Air Force’s cross-deck initiative ensures it can continue its critical electronic warfare mission for many years,” said Luke Savoie, President, Aviation Services, L3Harris. “Our collaboration with teammates BAE and Gulfstream will enable the Air Force to outpace its adversaries and counter emerging technologies.”

The Air Force’s Compass Call program has been in operation for 40 years. The EC-130H fleet is the longest continuously deployed Air Force aircraft in the Global War on Terror, serving as a key EW platform since 2002.

The USAF program calls for the procurement of 10 EC-37Bs with six already on order.