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E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a long-range, air-to-ground surveillance system designed to locate, classify and track ground targets in all weather conditions. While flying in friendly airspace, the joint Army-Air Force program can look deep behind hostile borders to detect and track ground movements in both forward and rear areas. It has a range of more than 150 miles (250 km). These capabilities make Joint STARS effective for dealing with any contingency, whether actual or impending military aggression, international treaty verification, or border violation.

The program was initially known as JSTARS, and subsequently designated Joint STARS. With the transition of the system to operational status with Air Combat Command, systems names currently under consideration include Sentinel II [aircraft previously named Sentinel include the World War II vintage Army Air Forces Stinson L5 and the Marine Corps Convair OY-1 and OY-2 light observation aircraft, and the unbuilt Lockheed P-3 airborne early warning and control aircraft proposal of 1984], Excalibur [a name once considered for the B-1B Lancer], and Night Owl.

The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300 series commercial airframe extensively remanufactured and modified with the radar, communications, operations and control subsystems required to perform its operational mission. The most prominent external feature is the 27-foot (8 meters) long, canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage that houses the 24-foot (7.3 meters) long, side-looking phased array antenna. The radar and computer subsystems on the E-8C can gather and display detailed battlefield information on ground forces. The information is relayed in near-real time to the Army and Marine Corps common ground stations and to other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I, nodes.

The antenna can be tilted to either side of the aircraft where it can develop a 120-degree field of view covering nearly 19,305 square miles (50,000 square kilometers) and is capable of detecting targets at more than 250 kilometers (more than 820,000 feet). The radar also has some limited capability to detect helicopters, rotating antennas and low, slow-moving fixed wing aircraft.

As a battle management and command and control asset, the E-8C can support the full spectrum of roles and missions from peacekeeping operations to major theater war.

Joint STARS evolved from Army and Air Force programs to develop, detect, locate and attack enemy armor at ranges beyond the forward area of troops. The first two developmental aircraft deployed in 1991 to Operation Desert Storm and also supported Operation Joint Endeavor in December 1995.

Team Joint STARS men and women have contributed tremendously to overseas contingency operations, flying more than 85,000 combat hours in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn Odyssey Dawn, and Unified Protector. Their operational resume includes support of six Combatant Commands including U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Europe Command.

Team JSTARS was the first organization in the U.S Air Force to activate under the Air Force’s Total Force Initiative as a “blended” wing. America's first "Total Force" wing, the former 93rd Air Control Wing, an active-duty Air Combat Command unit, and the 116th Bomb Wing, a Georgia Air National Guard unit, were deactivated Oct.1, 2002. The 116th Air Control Wing was activated blending Guard and active-duty Airmen into a single unit. In October 2011, the Active Associate construct was formed by the newly activated 461st Air Control Wing as a member of Team JSTARS.

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