‘Bats’ complete final EC-130H sortie

The USAF’s 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron (ECS) ‘Bats’ – a part of Air Combat Command’s 55th Electronic Combat Group (ECG) – marked a major milestone in its transition to the new Gulfstream G550-based EA-37B Compass Call electronic attack (EA) aircraft on February 15, when the unit completed its final flight with the legacy EC-130H Compass Call (pictured) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

Despite being home-based at Davis-Monthan, the 55th ECG (and 43rd ECS) operate as a geographically separated unit of the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. While minimal details were shared by the unit regarding the final legacy Compass Call sortie, the flight involved EC-130H (73-1595/DM). The aircraft will likely now be placed into long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan.

The ‘Bats’ are the first squadron within the 55th ECG to begin its transition from the EC-130H to the new EA-37B – a next-generation tactical jamming platform that will be tasked with disrupting enemy command, control and communications, radar and navigation systems. The platform also offers secondary offensive counterinformation, EA and suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) capabilities.

USAF/Airman 1st Class William Finn

Commenting on the EC-130H’s departure, Lt Col Tray C Wood – commander of the 43rd ECS – said: “Throughout its storied existence, the squadron’s adaptability and commitment to evolving military technologies shine through, having operated 11 different aircraft types across six continents. The final EC-130H flight marks the end of an era and signals the beginning of a new chapter with the forthcoming EA-37B transition.”

The ‘Bats’ began operating the EC-130H from Sembach Air Base, Germany, in 1987 and continued to serve with the type in Europe until 1991. The unit then relocated to Davis-Monthan in May 1992, initially joining the 355th Wing before being transferred to the 55th ECG in 2006.

According to the USAF, “ten EA-37B aircraft are on track to be delivered while simultaneously retiring the EC-130H fleet in a phased approach”. The ‘Bats’ will receive its first EA-37B before the end of 2024.