E-8C Joint STARS Battle Management Role Recognized

MELBOURNE, Fla: Recent events for Northrop Grumman Corporation’sE-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)aircraft program reinforce its contribution as the top airborne battlemanagement platform. Joint STARS is the only platform in the U.S.defense arsenal that can provide wide area surveillance covering morethan 50,000 square kilometers and detect objects moving at a widevariety of speeds.

The system’s expanded capabilities were recently demonstrated in amajor coalition exercise in Korea. Its aircrews received their sixthconsecutive battle management award. “These are significant examples ofthe system’s battle management capabilities, and illustrates itsability to adapt to the needs of the warfighter,” said Dale Burton,vice president for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance andBattle Management Command and Control.
The versatility of the system to support more conventionaloperations was demonstrated during Ulchi Freedom Guardian 09 (UFG).This annual event is the world's largest annual computerized commandand control exercise. Retired Brig. Gen Barry Barksdale, Senior AirController for UFG, cited the Joint STARS input and crew role insuccess of the battle management exercise.
“If the opposing forces moved 100 tanks out of an undergroundfacility, it would be immediately apparent to a fighter equipped with apod that flew overhead or perhaps just a visual pickup,” GeneralBarksdale said. “In the simulation, only the Predator or the E-8C JointSTARS can provide this input in near-real time, and the Predatorrequires something to provide the cueing to narrow the look area.”
Bringing their “real world” expertise to the exercise, Barksdalenoted issues the Joint STARS crew tackled “ran the gamut from the moreobvious marshalling of air assets against emerging mobile forces,time-sensitive targeting, airspace deconfliction, targeting priorities,changing weather conditions, and countless others too numerous todetail.”
The recent award of the Air ForceAssociation’s Air Battle Management Crew of the Year to a Joint STARSteam brings to light some of their daily contributions. Each year,Joint STARS crews are considered against other systems for the awardbased on their battle management contribution to the USAF and airpower. This year’s award was the sixth in a row for a Joint STARS crewand the ninth since the award’s inception in 1998.
The 2009 winning crew from the 116th Air Control Wing was recognizedfor accomplishments including exposing weapon smuggling routes,providing overwatch for convoys and ground units and alerting them ofinsurgent advancement, relaying targets to fighters, identifyinghideouts, locating individuals planting improvised explosive device and providing target information to fighter aircraft.
Joint STARS powerful radar can track enemy combatants in all weatherconditions, day or night. Often referred to as “911 in the Sky,” theE-8C has the capability to correlate information from a wide variety ofsensors and sources to provide unprecedented situational awareness tothe combat elements on the ground.
It provides a top-down look that can track insurgents in flat areasfound in Iraq, as well as looking down in the sides of mountains andinto the valleys of Afghanistan. The ability to simultaneously trackvehicles as well as other emerging target categories in multiple areasof interest, over large areas, makes the Joint STARS system uniqueamong Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance assets.
“Yet, with all of its technological capabilities, the real warfighter value comes from the onboard Air Force and Armyoperations and intelligence specialists providing real-time battlemanagement support,” said Brig. Gen Tom Moore, commander of the 116thAir Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga. “Our crews are trained to evaluateGround Moving Target Indicator information to identify vehicle oremerging target threats for U.S. and allied troops. They are invaluableto the entire process.”
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the E-8C Joint STARSdevelopment and whole-life support programs. The Joint STARS program ismanaged by the 751st Electronic Support Group at Hanscom Air ForceBase, Mass. All 17 combat-configured Joint STARS aircraft are assignedto the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th ACW, a “total-force blendedwing,” comprising active-duty Air Force, Army and Air National Guardpersonnel.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense and technologycompany whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products,and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace andshipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide

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