No more JSTARS

Officials at the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center plan to deliver the final E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft March 22 to personnel in the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.

The last of 17 JSTARS communications wide-body airplanes, called P-17, comes equipped with a new weather radar system consisting of a color digital display and a wind shear warning capability that will increase the safety of flight crews by alerting them to dangerous conditions. The P-17 also comes with an updated satellite communications (satcom) radio that allows aircraft personnel to send and receive ultra-high frequency satcom voice and digital data to and from beyond-line-of-sight locations, said Air Force officials in a March 17 service statement.

“We’re extremely proud to give the wing another tool in the low-density, high-demand toolkit,” said Col. James Shaw, deputy director of the Joint STARS Systems Group. “JSTARS demonstrated its vital role in the 21st-century battlefield during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, epitomized by its ability to see through the now-famous sandstorm attack.”

The P-17 marks the second JSTARS aircraft equipped with Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum, a communication navigation surveillance/air traffic management capability that lets it fly more optimal routes, save fuel and increase airspace capacity. The new aircraft represents the seventh produced in the Block 20 configuration, Air Force officials said in the statement.

“The Block 20 planes provide integrated commercial off-the-shelf data processing capability,” said David LaRochelle, director of the JSTARS Systems Group. “This capability enables the warfighter to operate with more effective reliability, advanced technology and increased processing power, all at a lower cost per platform.”

The P-17 will be the last JSTARS aircraft off the assembly line at Northrop Grumman. Company workers will soon start updating the first JSTARS airplane, P-1, to the Block 20 configuration, the final E-8C to receive the computer replacement, according to the statement.

Air Force officials expect JSTARS aircraft to stay in service through 2025. But they plan to start test flying in 2008 a new airplane called the E-10A-C Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft equipped with a new network called the Battle Management Command and Control system in 2008 that could see battle in 2013.

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