EC-130H Compass Call
1. Ops Tempo / Deployment
As a newly checked out copilot, you can expect to fly or sim twice a week. You will rarely be the only copilot on the sortie but scheduling does a good job balancing out who flies what (mission, proficiency or aerial refueling sorties). When you fly, you can expect a 10 hour day from showtime to debrief. On your non-flying days, you will be stuck in the office doing your day job. TDY’s are pretty rare but you will generally fly a tailswap and one large force exercise (Red Flag / WIC Spt) within your first year.
We currently deploy to two overseas locations in support of both OIR and OFS. Deployments have drastically slowed down for copilots and you can expect one four month deployment for every 12-16 months.
2. Lifestyle / Family Stability
Overall the community is pretty stable. The 55th ECG is the only unit that operates the EC-130H so it is not unheard of for guys to stay at DM for 7 years bouncing between squadrons. The Group is good about taking care of its own but will take out the trash if you make a name for yourself. Tucson is a nice area if you enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and is very gun friendly. The deployment and TDY schedule allow for a generous amount of family time when compared to other airframes.
3. Community Morale
Community morale has been pretty good for the last 4 ½ years. The biggest gripe I hear from new copilots is the waitlist to get on the deployment schedule. Flying the Herk is relatively easy, but flying it well can be difficult at times. Unlike our slick brethren, we only complete the non-tactical portions of the syllabus at Little Rock so we are not qualified on low-levels, airdrop, airland, or NVG operations. After completing initial training at the Rock, you will get spun-up on mission and aerial refueling procedures when you arrive at Davis-Monthan. Though the flying can be monotonous at times, the downrange mission is very rewarding and you do get the opportunity fly some interesting exercises.
4. Advancements and Future
The future of the community is looking relatively secure. There were rumors of losing half the fleet (seven aircraft) but it never came to fruition. We are continually upgrading our mission system to keep us relevant against new emerging threats. Half of the fleet is also receiving an avionics upgrade that is essentially replacing our legacy instruments with glass displays. Though we have not identified a formal replacement, there has been talk of a possible G550 (EC-37) as a likely contender.
As stated previously, the community does a pretty good-job taking care of its own if you do not negatively self-identify. For pilots, it is generally difficult to receive a follow-on MWS assignment. Evaluator/Instructor types leaving the squadron after 6-7 years will generally get white jets to P-Cola, C-Springs or the UPT bases. Occasionally we will see RC-135’s but this usually comes with the caveat of a remote to Korea or Wg Exec time. The remainder of our follow-ons are RPA’s with a spattering of green-door/U-2 exceptions.
5. Preferred PCS
Only location is Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ