Primary Role: Airborne battlefield command and control & electronic warfare
The EC-130E aircraft are used as an Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC). The aircraft has been modified with additional external antennae and designed to hold the “ABCCC” III capsule system. The system is a high-tech automated airborne command and control facility featuring computer generated color displays, digitally controlled communications, and rapid data retrieval. The platform’s 23 fully securable radios, secure teletype, and 15 automatic fully computerized consoles, allow the battle staff to quickly analyze current combat situations and direct offensive air support towards fast-developing targets.
As an Air Combat Command asset, “ABCCC” (A-B-Triple-C) is an integral part of the Tactical Air Control System. While functioning as a direct extension of ground-based command and control authorities, the primary mission is providing flexibility in the overall control of tactical air resources. In addition, to maintain positive control of air operations, “ABCCC” can provide communications to higher headquarters, including national command authorities, in both peace and wartime environments. The USC-48 “ABCCC” III capsule, which fits into the aircraft cargo compartment, measures 40 feet (12m) long, weighs approximately 20,000 pounds (9,072kg), and costs $9 million each.
In 1990, the EC-130E variant joined the newly formed Air Force Special Operations Command and has since been designated “Commando Solo”.
Highly specialized modifications have been made to this latest version of the EC-130E airframe. Included in these modifications are enhanced navigation systems, self-protection equipment, and the capability of broadcasting color television on a multitude of worldwide standards throughout the TV VHF/UHF ranges.
“Commando Solo” primarily conducts psychological operations and civil affairs broadcast missions in the standard AM, FM, HF, TV and military communications bands. Missions are flown at maximum altitudes possible to ensure optimum propagation patterns. The EC-130E flies during either day or night scenarios with equal success, and is air refuelable. A typical mission consists of a single-ship orbit which is offset from the desired target audience. The targets may be either military or civilian personnel.
Older versions of the “Commando Solo” have a large blade antenna under each outer wing and above the dorsal fin. A smaller horizontal blade antenna is on each side of the rear fuselage. Bullet-shaped canisters located outboard of each underwing antenna and at the tail end of the aircraft house wire antennas that can be extended several hundred feet behind the EC-130E during a flight. The crew is normally made up of two pilots, a navigator, flight engineer, loadmaster, electronic warfare officer and six electronic equipment operators.
The EC-130H “Compass Call” modification performs communications jamming with a crew of 13 operating high tech countermeasure equipment for short notice support of tactical air/ground forces. Specifically, the modified aircraft uses noise jamming to prevent communication or degrade the transfer of information essential to command and control of weapon systems and other resources.
Modifications to the aircraft include an electronic countermeasures system (“Rivet Fire”), air refueling capability, and associated navigation and communications systems. “Rivet Fire” has demonstrated its powerful effect on enemy command and control networks in Panama and Iraq.
The EC-130H integrates into tactical air operation at any level. Although “Compass Call” primarily supports interdiction and offensive counter-air campaigns, the truly versatile and flexible nature of the aircraft and its crew enable the power of EC to be brought to bear on virtually any combat situations.
In the world of Electronic Combat, the major players are the EF-111, F-16, and EC-130H “Compass Call”.
The Lockheed Martin EC-130V AEW&C aircraft was first developed by General Dynamics in 1992 for the United States Coast Guard as a proof-of-concept aircraft. The EC-130V combined a C-130H airframe with the APS-125 Radar and Mission System of the U.S. Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye. This aircraft was primarily used for counter-narcotics missions requiring greater endurance than the E-2C could provide, but had also been evaluated for Search and Rescue, Fisheries Patrols, EEZ enforcement and as a support aircraft for NASA Space Shuttle launches.
Externally, the EC-130V differs from a standard Coast Guard C-130 with the fitting of a large rotodome housing the APS-125 radar. Internally, the mission system is palletized and rolled into the cargo compartment.
Due to budget cuts, the Coast Guard EC-130V program was terminated and the aircraft was transferred to the USAF as the NC-130H for further development, including upgrading to the latest APS-145 radar.