E-8C Joint STARS
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: JSTARS
Origin: United States of America
Parent System: E-8C Joint STARS
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 1996
Total Production: 17
Total Cost: USD$3.9 billion
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Description: The E-8C Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) is an airborne battle management and control platform that conducts ground surveillance to determine enemy location helping other platforms to engage them. The US Air Force E-8C fleet is expected to remain in active service at least until 2025.
The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300C commercial airplane through the addition of a radar, communications, operations, and control subsystems. Externally a 12 meters long canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage houses the 7.3 meters long side-looking phased array antenna. It is powered by four Pratt & Whitney TF33-PW-102 engines (JT3D).
The E-8C can fly a mission profile for 9 hours without refueling, with refueling E-8C endurance can be extended dramatically (20 hours). Information about enemy and friendly ground forces is relayed in near-real time to the Army's common ground station or other centers via jam-resistant ultra high frequency satellite communications. E-8C's advanced radar can provide wide area surveillance, moving target indicator, fixed target indicator, target classification and synthetic aperture radar.
The E-8C radar antenna features a 120-degree field of view below the aircraft covering 19,305 square miles (50,000 square kilometers) and detecting ground vehicles at 250 km. The E-8C has some limitations to detect helicopters, rotating antennas, and low-slow flying aircraft.
The E-8C Joint STARS aircraft was deployed in 1991 in the Gulf War. In 1991 the E-8C were still under development but performed successfully tracking ground moving Iraqi forces. They were also deployed in support of operations over the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan (Enduring Freedom) and most recently Iraq (Iraqi Freedom).
In June 2004, Northrop-Grumman was awarded a contract to upgrade the weather radar system on the US Air Force E-8C fleet, currently consisting of 16 airplanes, plus two upgraded radar systems for a test bed aircraft and a flight trainer aircraft. The 17th E-8C aircraft scheduled for delivery to the US Air Force in early 2005 will carry the new weather radar system.
Northrop-Grumman expects to complete the upgrade work by March 2005. The upgraded radar system will provide more reliable weather conditions information along E-8C's flight route. The 17th and final production E-8C was delivered to the US Air Force on March 23, 2005. These aircraft are assigned to the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
In early May 2005, the US Air Force's E-8C JSTARS fleet had logged more than 10,000 combat hours since first deployment during the Gulf War in 1991. In August 2005, Northrop-Grumman completed the Block 20 integration on the whole US Air Force E-8C aircraft fleet allowing for hardware and software upgrades at lower costs.
In late November 2005 the US Air Force awarded Northrop-Grumman a $532 million contract for E-8C J-STARS system improvement program which funded design, development, integration and test of improvements to the E-8C fleet.
In January 2006 the US Air Force that was installed successfully the FBCB2 hardware/software system on an E-8C aircraft providing combat identification which is a critical capability to determine the position of friendly troops. FBCB2 installation was done in less than 90 days with a cost under $5.7 million for the first five installations. All the E-8C fleet was expected to be retrofitted with the FBCB2 package by September 2006.
In January 2007, the US Air Force and Northrop-Grumman selected the Pratt & Whitney and Seven Q Seven (SQS) Propulsion Pod System (PPS) based on the JT8D-219 model as the engine replacement for the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft fleet. JT8D-219 will replace the TF33-PW-102 engine providing more than 20 percent improvement in fuel burn over its predecessor according to P&W.
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