Skip to comments.'Bats' shield Airmen from harm
Posted on 08/15/2006 6:48:14 PM PDT by SandRat
8/15/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Their mission is simple: save the lives of troops on the ground in Iraq by providing an electronic shield around them.
That is the job of the 43rd Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron. Known as the Bats, they take to the air every day of the week to actively support coalition warfighters in harm's way by providing electronic combat coverage.
As one of only a few electronic combat squadrons in the Air Force, the 43rd EECS's special skills are in high demand. When not deployed, the 43rd ECS and its sister squadron, the 41st ECS, are part of the 55th Electronic Combat Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The two squadrons have been continuously deployed since spring 2004.
"I'm incredibly proud of everybody here with us," said Lt. Col. Steve Miller, the commander of the 43rd ECS. "We have guys that have been deployed here four and five times, and their dedication to the mission is just amazing to me."
The 41st ECS supports Operation Enduring Freedom, and the 43rd ECS takes care of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We work with three major divisions on the ground: the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the Army's 101st Airborne and 4th Infantry Division," Colonel Miller said.
A typical mission for the 43rd ECS consists of eight to nine hours of flying high in the Iraqi sky. While in the air they respond to joint tactical air strike requests, or JTASRs, which basically tell the Bats where their help is needed.
"Through JTASRs they tell us where, when and what they need to have targeted," Colonel Miller said.
And the numbers don't lie. So far this year the 43rd ECS has supported more than 1,125 JTASRs; last year they answered more than 1,500 requests.
"It's known as electronic close-air support or non-kinetic CAS," said Maj. Arvid Opry, the 43rd ECS director of operations. "Basically we are providing a protective shield for 150,000 ground troops and Iraqi civilians."
Although the amount of requests are high, the number of people and aircraft in the squadron is relatively few. The 43rd ECS maintains a high mission-effectiveness rate by relying on roughly 35 operations and 35 maintenance Airmen from the red aircraft maintenance unit of the 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
The 43rd ECS operates a fleet of EC-130H Compass Calls to accomplish their important mission. At first glance these aircraft appear to be the same as the rest of the base's C-130s, however they are not. The crew on board uses this heavily modified airframe to disrupt enemy command and control communications.
"The antennas really stand out, especially the one they call the cheese cutter," Colonel Miller said. "Basically from nose to tail we have receiver antennas and jamming antennas that help us do our mission."
Through all the deployments and long work hours, including more than 320 sorties and 2,600 combat flying hours this year, it is supporting the forward deployed troops that keep Airmen of the 43rd ECS motivated.
"When people come to the squadron they're aware of our ops tempo," Major Opry said. "And at the three-year point they can shift out, but most of them stick with it. To me that really shows the dedication they have to the mission and the squadron."
Compass Call, the original mammy jammer...
Won't UAVs soon perform this function?
X-45A Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle In September 2000, Phantom Works previewed the first X-45A UCAV, ushering in a new era of X-vehicle technology. The X-45 will begin flight-testing in mid-2001 to demonstrate autonomous flight and the potential of combat missions. Operational UCAVs will be able to fly 650 nautical miles and carry 1,000 pounds of weapons. The Boeing program manager is Rich Alldredge.