February 11, 2020 (by SSgt. Betty R. Chevalier) - On March 19, 1982, the first specially modified EC-130H “Compass Call” aircraft, tail number 1587, arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. On January 15, 2020, the aircraft made its final flight over the skies of Arizona.
USAF EC-130H #73-1587 Compass Call from 41 ECS sits on the flight line at Davis-Monthan AFB, January. 15, 2020. This EC-130H,was retired from the fleet following its final flight after 37 years of conducting the Compass Callmission. [USAF photo by SrA Christina Rios]
The Compass Call aircraft is an airborne tactical weapon system used to disrupt enemy command and control communications and limit adversary coordination essential for enemy force management.
The aircraft, assigned to the 55th Electronic Group, supported various missions over its 37 years including, but not limited to, Operations Inherent Resolve, Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm.
“The retirement of aircraft #73-01587
is a historic event for the U.S. Air Force and a proud moment for the EC-130H COMPASS CALL program,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Phil Acquaro, 55th ECG commander. “In March 1982, “Kermit” entered USAF’s ranks as the first aircraft modified into an airborne electronic attack platform to answer the nation’s call to enhance defense of American and allied interests in Europe. Its service culminated in close to 29,000 flight hours, almost 11,000 of which have been in direct support of combat operations.”
The 55th ECG, a geographically separated unit from Offutt AFB, Nebraska, is the only Compass Call unit in the Air Force and the services longest continuously deployed unit since 2001.
“We have been supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom Sentinel since they began and the unit as a whole had a rotation out since, minus September through December 2002; that was the last time the 55 ECG has been able to celebrate the holidays as a whole,” said Master Sgt. Michael Meredith, 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent.
This may be the end of 1587s flying career, but the aircraft will continue to represent the 55th ECG as it is scheduled to be modified into a static aircraft, placed in front of the ECG campus.
“Aircraft 1587’s legacy was derived from the blood, sweat and tears of the thousands of Americans that designed, built, maintained and flew this aircraft for the last 37 years,” said Acquaro. “Over the years, the nickname has changed from Kermit to Reaper. This respected aircraft has been through numerous modifications to keep pace with evolving technology and satiate new mission requirements by combatant commanders. Reaper has delivered precise electronic fires to disrupt our adversary’s command and control networks and save lives of American and coalition forces around the world. It has served with distinction and it is a proud day as we salute its last flight.”
While the EC-130H fleet reaches the end of its lifespan, the EC-37B Compass Call is slated to start replacing the fleet to keep the mission alive and jamming our adversary’s communications.