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EC-130H Compass Call protects and enhances regional airpower capabilities

Airborne EC-130H

A U.S. Air Force EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, assigned to the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, takes off in support of a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 13, 2021. LFE exercises provide both ADAB and other CENTCOM and coalition forces a unique opportunity to train with international partners in advanced tactics with a broad spectrum of mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

Airborne EC-130H

A U.S. Air Force EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, assigned to the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, takes off in support of a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 13, 2021. LFE exercises provide both ADAB and other CENTCOM and coalition forces a unique opportunity to train with international partners in advanced tactics with a broad spectrum of mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

Airman saluting an EC-130h prior to takeoff

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Austin Lockhart, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, salutes an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft as it prepares to take off in support of a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 13, 2021. LFE exercises provide both ADAB and other CENTCOM and coalition forces a unique opportunity to train with international partners in advanced tactics with a broad spectrum of mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

Airman giving thumbs up to pilot in EC-130H prior to taking off

U.S. Air Force Capt. Taylor Drolshagen, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron pilot, signals to Airman 1st Class Logan Romo, 41st EECS airborne maintenance technician, as she starts the engine of an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft in preparation to participate in a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 13, 2021. LFE exercises provide both ADAB and other CENTCOM and coalition forces a unique opportunity to train with international partners in advanced tactics with a broad spectrum of mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

Airman signaling with index finger in front of aircraft

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Logan Romo, 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron airborne maintenance technician, signals to the pilot of an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft to start an engine in preparation to participate in a large force employment exercise at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 13, 2021. LFE exercises provide both ADAB and other CENTCOM and coalition forces a unique opportunity to train with international partners in advanced tactics with a broad spectrum of mission sets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --

Over the past month, the EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, has flown in two multi-nation, large force employment exercises that strengthened integration capabilities with CENTCOM partners and allies.

The Compass Call, flown by the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, is an airborne tactical weapon system that employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack capabilities, and has been operating persistently in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility for almost 20 years.

In addition to flying combat sorties, the crews routinely participate in monthly LFE exercises as a means to exercise not only large force employment, but also multi-national integration, explained Lt. Col. Tyler Stark, Advanced Training Division Chief for the U.S. Air Forces Central Air Warfare Center, ADAB, UAE.

“These exercises provide both the 380th AEW and CENTCOM forces a unique opportunity to train with our international partners in advanced tactics in a broad spectrum of mission sets, including command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air interdiction, close air support, and everything in between,” he said.

As for the Compass Call, the 13 crewmembers onboard are eager to participate alongside a variety of other aircraft from around the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

“These exercises are important for everyone involved because our ability to coordinate and operate with our coalition partner nations will be critical to our success in any future conflicts in the region,” said Capt. Ryan Fahey, tactics officer, 41 EECS, who is also the lead planner for the EC-130H’s participation in the LFEs.

The role of the Compass Call will vary depending on the exercise, Fahey said. In one LFE they might act as “red air,” providing contested and degraded operations for all exercise participants, while in another, they will act as “blue air,” providing offensive tactics in cooperation with coalition assets.

As a non-kinetic platform, the Compass Call mission can be a challenge to incorporate, Fahey said. “It can be more difficult for some to understand things they can’t physically see, as opposed to dropping a bomb,” he said.

But much like a conventional weapon, electronic attack is a threat that can have just as much potential for damage to the mission as it can to help ensure success.

“We do our best to integrate into the exercises in the best way possible to provide valuable training and experience for everyone,” Fahey said. “Incorporating electronic attack will hopefully continue to enhance all players’ abilities to conduct operations in a contested and degraded environment.”

This ability is becoming more and more important when preparing warfighters for the next generation of combat, he said. “These exercises are beneficial for all of us, as they allow our crews to experience partner nation operations and continue to develop our tactics, techniques and procedures in the region.”