BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
“Looks can be deceiving,” said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Foydl, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron EC-130H Compass Call crew chief. “What may look like your ordinary C-130is not a regular C-130.”
The EC-130H is an airborne tactical weapon system using a heavily modified version of the C-130H Hercules; it is designed to disrupt enemy command and control communications and limits adversary coordination essential for enemy force management.
With only 14 aircraft in the U.S. Air Force inventory, two of which are assigned to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, it is the responsibility of Airmen from the 455th EAMXS to keep these aircraft flying in support of the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Communications Squadron.
“Every day, we come out and service the aircraft,” said Foydl. “We have to service the plane with fuel, liquid oxygen, hydraulics and whatever it needs. We inspect the plane to make sure it is good to go for its mission for the day.”
The Compass Call had its first flight in 1981, was delivered to the Air Force in 1982, and reached initial operating capability in 1983.
“The EC-130H has been around for a long time and continues to support operations here in the area of responsibility,” said Master Sgt. Dayne Dozier, 455th EAMXS EC-130H production superintendent. “As the maintainer of the aircraft, we are responsible for the condition of the Air Force's flying fleet, and for the safety of the flying team. It’s our job to see that aircraft are operationally ready by performing scheduled inspections, functional checks and preventive maintenance both before and after flights.”
The Compass Call system employs offensive counter-information and electronic attack capabilities in support of U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, and special operations forces. It does this by jamming communications and collecting intelligence.
“Our unit is important for the ground troops for whenever they go in to infiltrate. We deny the enemy communications so that they can’t talk to each other,” said Dozier. “Without communications, they are unable to coordinate any tactics against us.”
According to Dozier, there are other aircraft here that can do what they do, but none can do it quite like them.
“We are the swiss army knives of the electronic communications platforms,” said Dozier. “A lot of planes are plug and play. They prepare for whatever mission they are going to do. If the mission changes mid-flight, they aren’t always geared for that. We have everything all on one platform. We can configure or change our mission on the fly if we need to.”
The EC-130Hs have served in every major U.S. contingency operation, including Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and have been continuously deployed to support U.S. Central Command since 2004.
“If we weren’t here…the planes wouldn’t get ready in time causing missions to delay or not happen,” said Foydl. “The capability we provide to the battlefield wouldn’t be here. The mission of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is to defend, support and deliver airpower. Without us, there will be no communication support for the ground troops.”