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E-8C Joint Stars


posted by Jiri Wagner

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is an airborne platform equipped with a long-range, air-to-ground surveillance system designed to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions. Its capabilities make Joint STARS effective for dealing with any contingency, whether actual or impending military aggression, international treaty verification or border violation. Joint STARS consists of an airborne platform - an E-8C aircraft with a multi-mode radar system and U.S. Army mobile ground station modules.

The E-8C, a modified Boeing 707, carries a phased-array radar antenna in a 26-foot canoe-shaped radome under the forward part of the fuselage. The radar is capable of providing targeting and battle management data to all Joint STARS operators, both in the aircraft and in the ground station modules. These operators, in turn, can call on aircraft, missiles or artillery for fire support. While flying in friendly airspace, Joint STARS can look deep behind hostile borders to detect and track ground movements in both forward and rear areas. It has has a range of more than 120 miles (200 kilometers). Wide area surveillance and moving target indicator are the radar's fundamental operating modes. They are designed to detect, locate and identify slow-moving targets. Through advanced signal processing, Joint STARS can differentiate between wheeled and tracked vehicles. By focusing on smaller terrain areas, the radar image can be enhanced for increased resolution display. This high resolution is used to define moving targets and provide combat units with accurate information for attack planning. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and fixed target indicator (FTI) produces a photographic-like image or map of selected geographic regions. SAR data maps contain precise locations of critical non-moving targets such as bridges, harbors, airports, buildings or stopped vehicles. The FTI display is available while operating in the SAR mode to identify and locate fixed targets within the SAR area. The SAR and FTI capability used with the moving target indicator and its history display allows post-attack assessments to be made by onboard or ground operators following a weapon attack on hostile targets. Joint STARS operates in virtually any weather, on-line, in real-time, around the clock.

The augmented Army-Air Force mission crew can be deployed to a potential trouble spot within hours and provide valuable data on ground force movements. Major advanced technological elements of the program include the software-intensive radar with several operating modes; the unique antenna with three receive ports; four high-speed processors capable of performing more than 600 million operations per second and the associated software. The E-8A preproduction model was owned exclusively by Northrop Grumman Corp. Two aircraft deployed in 1991 to participate in Desert Storm even though they were still under development. Joint STARS was instrumental in tracking mobile Iraqi forces, including tanks and Scud missiles. The crew flew 49 combat sorties accumulating more than 500 combat hours and a 100 percent mission effectiveness rate. From December 1995 to March 1996 a testbed E-8A and a production E-8C showed their flexibility while supporting Operation Joint Endeavor, the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Joint STARS proved its effectiveness despite adverse weather conditions and rough terrain.

Crews flew 95 consecutive operational sorties and more than 1,000 flight hours with a 98 percent mission effectiveness rate. Joint STARS returned to support Operation Joint Endeavor in October 1996 when the first production E-8C from the 93rd Air Control Wing and a testbed E-8C from Northrop Grumman Corp. deployed to Germany. As NATO rotated troops stationed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, crews flew 36 operational sorties for more than 470 flight hours. The second production aircraft joined the first after it was delivered to the Air Force in December. The first E-8C was accepted by the 93rd Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., June 11, 1996.  

General characteristics

Primary function Ground surveillance
Contractor Northrop Grumman Corp.
Power plant Four JT3D engines
Length 152 ft 11 in 46.6 m
Height 42 ft 6 in 12.9 m
Weight empty 171,000 lb 77,565 kg
Max. takeoff weight fuel 155,000 lb 70,307 kg
gross 336,000 lb 152,407 kg
Wingspan 145 ft 9 in 44.4 m
Speed 622 mph 1,002 km/hod
Range 11 hours; 20 hours with air refueling
Unit cost Approximately $225 million
Crew Flight crew of 4 plus mission crew of 18 Army and Air Force specialists (mission crew size varies according to mission)
Date deployed 1996
Inventory Active force, 2 (13 to be delivered to Air Force by 2004); ANG, 0; Reserve, 0


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Last updated 01.01.2017