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Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call

Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Aircraft

Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call

Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Aircraft


The EC-130H Compass Call is a dedicated electronic warfare platform based on the ubiquitous Lockheed C-130 airframe.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1982
STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed; L-3 Communications - USA / BAe Systems - UK
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: 13
LENGTH: 96.13 feet (29.3 meters)
WIDTH: 130.25 feet (39.7 meters)
HEIGHT: 37.40 feet (11.4 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 101,000 pounds (45,813 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 153,772 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines developing 4,591 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 300 miles-per-hour (483 kilometers-per-hour; 261 knots)
RANGE: 2,295 miles (3,694 kilometers; 1,995 nautical miles)
CEILING: 25,000 feet (7,620 meters; 4.73 miles)

No conventional weapons nor munitions carried.
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Series Model Variants
• EC-130H - Base Series Designation; 14 examples produced in all with all serving actively in the inventory of the USAF.
• EC-130H Block 30 - Program Upgrade; revised mission area; upgraded software.
• EC-130H Block 35 - Program Upgrade; Additional jamming capability; improved Early Warning and Acquisition systems; extended frequency ranges; digital signal processing.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 9/2/2018. Authored by Martin Foray. Content ©
The EC-130H "Compass Call" is a dedicated Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) platform based on the hugely successful Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport airframe. The modified aircraft retains the basic appearance of the original but is stocked with state-of-the-art technology that enables the United States Air Force (USAF) to jam or disrupt enemy communications. In addition to the basic EWA functions, the EC-130 can also be utilized to suppress enemy air defense networks and supply "counter-information" as needed. The end effect is to strongly limit enemy communications infrastructure and severely debilitate coordinated actions against friendly forces, in effect removing the advantage an enemy may perceive to have. Modernization programs have continually branched out the capabilities of the base EC-130 system to keep pace with the requirements of the modern battlefield. The EC-130H can be clearly identified by the masses of antenna fixtures and wiring found along the fuselage sides, roof and tail planes.

The EC-30H completed her first flight in 1981 and was entered into USAF service in 1982 at a cost of $65 million USD per aircraft with operational capability being reached in 1983. To date, only fourteen of these very specialized airframes have seen service and all maintain an active status in the inventory of the USAF. They are fielded out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base but serve under the 55th Wing out of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While Lockheed is the notable chief contractor of the EC-130, BAe Systems supplies the prime mission equipment while L-3 Communications is responsible for aircraft integration and depot maintenance.

Design of the EC-130H naturally followed that of the original C-130. The fuselage was of a stout, somewhat cylindrical design with the C-130's identifiable high-set monoplane wings. Each wing was fitted with two underslung nacelles mounting powerful turboprop engines giving the airframe a Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) quality already inherent in the original C-130. Optional underwing equipment pods could be fitted between each engine nacelle or outboard of them when needed. The cockpit flight deck was held well-forward in the design with the mission area within the fuselage itself. The empennage was dominated by a large vertical tail fin and a pair of horizontal tail planes. The aircraft is crewed by no fewer than 13 personnel made up of two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator, two dedicated electronic warfare specialist officers, a mission crew supervisor, and acquisition operator, a maintenance technician and four crypto-logic linguists. While not serving any conventional weapons for offensive or defensive attacks per se, the EC-130H manages "non-kinetic energy waveforms" as its primary armament.

Power continues to be supplied by an effective arrangement of 4 x Allison T56-A-15 series turboprop engines delivering up to 4,910 horsepower to four-bladed propeller systems. Maximum speed is listed at approximately 300 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 25,000 feet. Internal fuel capacity is 62,000lbs offering a range of 2,295 miles. Maximum take-off weight (MTOW) is listed at 155,000lbs and the aircraft maintains a wingspan of 132 feet, 7 inches.

The EC-130H has since been upgraded through the Block 30 and Block 35 initiatives. The former introduced a new, revised mission area along with an upgraded operating system. The latter has extended the power and reach of the onboard Early Warning and Acquisition Radar suites as well as introducing improved navigation and digital signal processing.

The EC-130H has been purposely designed as a highly flexible combat element allowing it to serve anywhere in the world and at all operational levels as needed while working against very short delivery timeframes. The EC-130H works in conjunction with other existing USAF specialty aircraft such as the Northrop Grumman EA-6B "Prowler" and General Dynamics F-16CJ "Fighting Falcon" to form a powerful triangle of suppression and jamming services to help give whatever possible advantage to American air power and friendly forces throughout a given operation.

To date, the EC-130H Compass Call platform has seen active military service over Kosovo, Haiti, Panama, Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan, proving her worth time and again.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (300mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Lockheed EC-130H Compass Call's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (14)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
In the Cockpit...
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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