Magazine article National Defense

Acuity, Endurance Extended by Joint STARS Rehabilitation

Magazine article National Defense

Acuity, Endurance Extended by Joint STARS Rehabilitation

Article excerpt

Air Force officials cite prolonged service life for its multi-mission eye-in-the-sky platform

Northrop Grumman Corporation recently completed an extensive remanufacture and modification on the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS) platform.

The purpose of the refurbishment was to achieve like-new performance and a significantly extended service life, officials said.


Because of J-STARS advanced radar and surveillance capabilities, the Defense Department was on track to procure 19 systems for the 21st century. Controversy arose, however, when the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) recommended that this number be reduced to 13. The reason was the assumption that NATO would purchase the remaining six.

In an August memo to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), ranking minority member on the defense appropriations subcommittee, Harold J. Johnson, associate director of international relations and trade issues of the General Accounting Office said, "NATO did not accept the U.S. proposal to utilize J-STARS to meet its ground surveillance requirement due to economic considerations and competing interests among several European allies ... Currently, NATO has no specific proposals under consideration, but is studying several options for an alliance ground surveillance system, including the use of an enhanced version of the J-STARS sensor system."

When NATO did not select J-STARS, the Pentagon failed to update the QDR, officials said. To make up some of the difference, Congress authorized $72 million for advance procurement of two J-STARS.

The platform is configured with the flight deck-aircraft commander, pilot, engineer-storage space, galley/crew rest area, radar antenna and radome, navigation/defensive system officer workstation, data racks, communications racks, and 17 operations and control workstations. There are four system technicians, three U.S. Army personnel, one intelligence specialist, and nine command and control operators.

JSTARS is built on a Boeing aircraft and has a canoe-shaped radome, which is located under the forward fuselage and contains a 24-foot long, side-looking, phased array that is electronically scanned in azimuth and mechanically scanned in elevation.

J-STARS also has an in-flight refueling system that can extend the aircraft's 11hour mission endurance to more than 20 hours, officials affirmed.

The platform's cabin supports 18 operator workstations with a communications suite and associated equipment. The cabin also has room for additional crew members and their facilities as well as storage space for spare parts.

The standard mission crew usually is composed of 21 members, said officials, however, there is enough space in the aircraft's cabin to comfortably accommodate a crew of 34. A larger crew can ensure consist<*nt system performance by eliminating the threat of operator fatigue as crew members alternate time at workstations.

The main purpose of J-STARS is to provide long range, air-to-ground surveillance by locating, classifying, and tracking ground targets in all weather conditions.

The system, expanding on its primary aptitude, is responsible for detecting moving vehicles using a long range radar, capturing synthetic aperture radar images, trarsmitting radar data to commanders on the ground, and providing real-time battle management to attack support aircraft. …

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