Intelligence: May 18, 2005


The war on terror has created unexpected demand for some types of U.S. Air Force electronic intelligence aircraft. Chief among these are the EC-130E Senior Hunter SIGINT (signals intelligence) aircraft. These aircraft are C-130 transports that become EC-130E aircraft by loading electronic equipment and operator workstations (mounted on pallets) aboard. Antennas, attached to  removable panels, are then mounted on the undercarriage door and rear cargo compartment passenger door. The installation process takes about twelve hours. Depending on the mission, between four and a dozen operators work in the aircraft. Currently, the United States has six of the kits that turn C-130s into EC-130Es (four with the air force and two with the marines). These aircraft are useful in the war on terror because the terrorists often use radios as their primary communications. Especially in rural areas, like Afghanistan, western Iraq and parts of Africa. Just knowing what kind of radios are being used is useful. Conversations can be recorded and then screened with software that seeks out key words and phrases. EC-130E can also have linguists on board who can listen in and translate on the spot, usually in support of troops on the ground who are looking for someone, or shooting it out with them already.


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