JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --
Twenty-Fifth Air Force: 70 years in the Fight
Part three of a four part series on the agency’s contributions to the nation.
As U.S. Air Force Security Service continued to grow in the 1970s, the organization became thoroughly involved in electronic warfare, demonstrating that capability during Tactical Air Command’s Blue Flag 79-1 exercise in 1978.
When Maj. Gen. Doyle E. Larson assumed command of USAFSS on Jan. 19, 1979, a new era would soon follow. On Aug. 1 of that same year, the re-designation of USAFSS as Electronic Security Command took place, making Larson the last USAFSS and first ESC commander.
“The ESC assumed the broad responsibility of improving the use of electronic warfare technology in combat,” said Gabe Marshall, staff historian, Twenty-Fifth Air Force Office of History and Research. “It also gained new and challenging critical national missions and focused on providing carefully tailored intelligence products to warfighters and theater commanders.”
The command also underwent a massive equipment overhaul, replacing outdated 1950s technologies with computer-based automated systems, he said.
During the 1980s, ESC received significant capability enhancements which better enabled Airmen to carry out the service’s core intelligence missions. It was also in the ‘80s that the EC-130H Compass Call airborne platform became operational.
The command’s reach continued to expand with the acquisition of new units and missions, and with the development of partnerships across the Air Force, other military services and with allied intelligence organizations. The command also began participating in counterterrorism operations, predating Sept. 11, 2001, by more than a decade.
On Apr. 14, 1986, Air Force and Navy aircraft conducted nighttime air strikes against Libya in Operation El Dorado Canyon. Command units in Europe provided intelligence support while the RC-135 RIVET JOINT crews supported Sixth Fleet elements during central Mediterranean operations, and later to the search and rescue efforts.
“Even though El Dorado Canyon was a mere pin prick against terrorism, the strike sent a powerful message to prospective terrorists worldwide that they would pay a price for future aggression against the United States,” Marshall stressed.
At the end of the decade, the Air Force’s electronic warfare command played an important role in the success of Operation Just Cause, an operation to remove the dictator Manuel Noriega from power.
“Just Cause showcased how our units in theater conducted valuable electronic warfare planning for, what up to that time was, the most successful military operation since World War II,” Marshal said.
The invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein set the stage for the future of ECS and its successor organizations. On Aug. 9, 1990, command personnel were among the first U.S. military members to arrive in Saudi Arabia to support RIVET JOINT airborne activities in Operation Desert Shield.
“In Desert Shield and Desert Storm, ESC forces played a key role in helping the U.S. to achieve information and operational supremacy over Iraqi forces,” said Marshall.
Learn more about 25th Air Force’s part in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the command’s influence into the 21st century, in the last of this four part series on the organization’s 70 years in the fight.