The US Air Force has revealed that the structural health of its primary airborne electronic attack platform, the EC-130H Compass Call, is under review by a fleet viability board.
The board's members will determine by January how the airframes of the 14-aircraft Compass Call fleet have held up after nearly a decade of hyper-activity, says Col Stephen Brown, chief of electronic warfare requirements.
The US Air Force's primary system for jamming communications
systems has been in high demand in both
The Compass Call fleet has operated at a rate 2.5 times greater than planned, Brown says in an interview. But it's not clear if any major concerns prompted USAF officials to call for the fleet viability board review.
"I'm not gong to say it was a worry or a concern," Brown says.
The results of the review will be closely scrutinized by the joint community. The Compass Calls are not only in high demand in current operations, but are the primary aerial weapon for jamming or disrupting enemy communications in a "near-peer" conflict.
Moreover, the Compass Call's future viability is a hot issue
within the USAF. By default, the EC-130H fleet now stands as a pillar of the
USAF's airborne electronic attack strategy, with the final demise earlier this year of a plan to
convert some B-52s into standoff broadband signals jammers. Brown confirms the B-52 core component jammer programme was canceled because a broadband jammer was not deemed cost-effective.
If the Compass Call viability review finds any problems, the USAF could be faced with an unplanned, and expensive, repair or replacement bill. USAF officials have previously stated that WC-130s or TC-130s, or both, could be converted into EC-130Hs if the demand required it.
The US Navy is also starting to field its own communications jamming system. The Boeing EA-18G Growler carries the Raytheon ALQ-227 communications countermeasures set.
The US Army also appears interested in creating a similar capability by repackaging the ALQ-227 into a jamming pod that can be carried by unmanned aircraft system such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc MQ-1C Sky Warrior.