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E-8 Joint STARS

The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a United States Air Force airborne battle management and command and control (C2) platform that conducts ground surveillance to develop an understanding of the enemy situation and to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces. These functions support the primary mission of Joint STARS -- to provide dedicated support of ground and air theatre commanders.

United States Air Force E-8 Joint STARS

The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300 series commercial airframe extensively remanufactured and modified with the radar, communications, operations and control subsystems required to perform its operational mission. The most prominent external feature is the 12-meter (40-foot) long, canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage that houses the 7.3-meter (24-foot) long, side-looking phase array antenna.

The E-8C can respond quickly and effectively to support worldwide military contingency operations. It is a jam-resistant system capable of operating while experiencing heavy electronic countermeasures. The E-8C can fly a mission profile for 9 hours without refueling. Its range and on-station time can be substantially increased through in-flight refueling.

The radar and computer subsystems on the E-8C can gather and display broad and detailed battlefield information. Data is collected as events occur. This includes position and tracking information on enemy and friendly ground forces. The information is relayed in near-real time to the US Army's common ground stations via the secure jam-resistant surveillance and control data link and to other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) nodes beyond line-of-sight via ultra high frequency satellite communications.

Radar operating modes include wide area surveillance, moving target indicator (MTI), fixed target indicator (FTI) target classification and synthetic aperture radar. The antenna can be tilted to either side of the aircraft where it can develop a 120-degree field of view covering nearly 50,000 kmē (19,305 square miles) and is capable of detecting targets at more than 250 kilometers (more than 820,000 feet). In addition to being able to detect, locate and track large numbers of ground vehicles the radar has some limited capability to detect helicopters, rotating antennas and low, slow-moving fixed wing aircraft.

Other major E-8C prime misison equipment are communications and operations and control subsystems. Eighteen operator workstations display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Operators and technicians perform battle management, surveillance, weapons, intelligence, communications and maintenance functions.

In support of air-to-ground operations, the E-8C can provide real time information needed to increase ground situation awareness with intelligence support, attack support and targeting operations including attack aviation, naval surface fire, field artillery and friendly maneuver forces. It also provides information for air and land commanders to gain and maintain control of the battle-space and execute against enemy forces.

As a battle management and command and control asset, the E-8C can support the full spectrum of roles and missions from peacekeeping operations to major theater war.

Joint STARS evolved from US Army and US Air Force programs to develop, detect, locate and attack enemy armor at ranges beyond the forward area of troops. In 1982, the programs were merged and the US Air Force became the lead agent. The prime contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman (formerly Grumman Aerospace Corporation) in September 1985 for two E-8C development systems. These aircraft deployed in 1991 to participate in Operation Desert Storm even though they were still in development. The joint program accurately tracked mobile Iraqi forces, including tanks and Scud missiles. Crews flew developmental aircraft on 49 combat sorties accumulating more than 500 combat hours and a 100 percent mission effectiveness rate.

Joint STARS developmental aircraft were also called to support the NATO peacekeeping mission, Operation Joint Endeavor, in December 1995. While flying in friendly air space, the test-bed E-8A and pre-production E-8C aircraft monitored ground movements to confirm compliance with the Dayton Peace Treaty agreements. Crews flew 95 consecutive operational sorties and more than 1,000 flight hours with a 98 percent mission effectiveness rate.

The 93rd Air Control Wing, which activated January 29, 1996, accepted its first aircraft, June 11, 1996, and deployed in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in October. The designated 93rd Air Expeditionary Group (Provisional) monitored treaty compliance while NATO rotated troops through Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first production E-8C and a pre-production E-8C flew 36 operational sorties and more than 470 flight hours with a 100 percent effectiveness rate. The wing declared initial operational capability December 18, 1997 after receiving the second production aircraft. Operation Allied Force saw Joint STARS in action again from February to June 1999 accumulating more than 1,000 flight hours and a 94.5 percent mission-effectiveness rate in support of the U.S. lead initiative to end Serbian aggression in Kosovo.

The E-8C Joint STARS routinely supports various taskings of the Combined Force Command Korea during the North Korean winter exercise cycle and for the United Nations enforcing resolutions on Iraq. The twelveth production aircraft, outfitted with an upgraded operations and control subsystem, was delivered to the US Air Force November 5, 2001.

General Characteristics