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E-8 Joint STARS - Improvements and Upgrades

Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Melbourne, Florida, on 27 September 2019 was awarded a $495,000,000 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft. This contract provides for modernization and sustainment of 16 mission and one trainer aircraft. The contract would support the current JSTARS Program Office and Air Combat Command projections of improvements to increase or maintain E-8C performance, capability, reliability, and maintainability. Work would be provided at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; and Melbourne, Florida, and was expected to be completed by Sept. 26, 2024. This award was the result of a sole source acquisition. Fiscal 2019 Air National Guard operations and maintenance funds in the amount of $55,345 are being obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, was the contracting activity (FA8529-19-D-0002).

The Joint STARS Joint Program Office had a requirement to retrofit 10 operational E-8C production aircraft (Tail Numbers: 92-3289, 92-3290, 93-0597, 93-1097, 94-0284, 94-0285, 95-0122, 95-0121, 96-0042, and 96-0043) with the Computer Replacement Program (CRP) hardware and software baseline between 4th Qtr FY 99 and FY 05. In 2000 CRP was currently undergoing Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) under the Joint STARS Follow-On Full Scale Development contract with Northrop Grumman and replaces the current Central Computers, Operator Work Stations, selected portions of the radar signal processor, the Local Area Network (LAN), and other peripheral equipment. Additionally, aircraft subsystem modifications to include the environmental control system, the electrical power system, and mounting provisions are being performed to accommodate the replaced equipment. EMD completion was scheduled for 30 April 2000.

The CRP retrofit contractor would be required to acquire and/or fabricate equipment, perform the retrofit on each operational E-8C production aircraft system, and conduct functional, system-level performance, and flight tests in accordance with the CRP System Acceptance Test Procedures, on each retrofitted E-8C production aircraft system in coordination with a Government test force. In addition, the CRP Retrofit contractor would be required to provide initial spares to support the Joint STARS fleet. The CRP retrofit contractor would be required to concurrently accomplish a Major Aircraft Inspection during each CRP Retrofit to reduce total aircraft downtime. Each of the 10 aircraft would require one Major Inspection during CRP Retrofit. Finally, the CRP retrofit contractor would be required to update and deliver modified technical documentation that includes automated technical manuals for each retrofitted E-8C production aircraft system.

The Improved Data Modem (IDM) connected to four radios and the concurrent installation of a SINCGARS radio with the IDM and an additional SINCGARS hot spare provides an interoperable, full duplex, direct targeting support data link to the US Army's Army Aviation Command and Control System (A2C2S) and Apache attack helicopters. This installation would be accessible from any E-8 Operator Work Station (OWS), would be fully logistically supportable and includes associated C2 and attack support messages. Joint STARS E-8 does not have the capability to provide direct data-link targeting information to A2C2S and Apaches. The E-8 communications suite does not have fully compatible and interoperable VHF voice and data capable radios with US Army aviation and ground forces. This capability emulates the initiative to provide Joint STARS data to fighter aircraft. This vastly improves targeting support primarily to Army aviation by providing a fully interoperable data link to C2 and attack helicopters. This capability would also increase Army Joint STARS Common Ground Station (CGS) communications capabilities through the E-8 to Army aviation when helicopters are Beyond-Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) of the CGS. This also had potential to support USMC aviation and USAF IDM equipped fighters and to decrease fratricide. The IDM can also pass Apache sensor information back to the E-8, increasing situational awareness and improving target correlation capability.

The JT3D-7 Engine Upgrade modification would allow the E-8 to operate between FL340 to FL 420 with a climb to altitude within one hour. It would increase the capablity of flying a ten hour sortie without air refueling (two our transit time, eight hours in tactical orbit). It would also increase the capablity of flying a 20 hour sortie with an air refueling (two hours transit time, one hour for air refueling, 17 hours in the tactical orbit). Low engine thrust limits deployment of Joint STARS to only those airfields with long runways. The E-8 can operate at maximum gross weight on only the longest runways (10,000 ft) under optimum weather conditions. Any crosswind, gust, or wet runway conditions severely limits takeoff gross weight. Low thrust engines limit capability to meet required operating altitudes between FL340 and FL420. At heavy gross weights the E-8 cannot meet climb and on station requirements. Higher thrust engines would provide faster climb to higher operational altitude. This improvement increases sensor coverage, on orbit time, communications reach, survivability, and decreases sensor screening. E-8 engines are being purchased from available commercial stocks which include many JT3D-7 engines. The JT3D-7 engines would have to be down scoped to match the existing JT3D-3B engines if this upgrade was not funded. The total requirement of 80 operational engines plus spares was not reflected in the schedule and cost because some JT3D-7 engines have already been purhcased but not yet down scoped.

The Programmable Signal Processor (PSP) Replacement replaces four PSPs with two Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) processors with five additional SHARC processor cards for a total of eight. The solution replaces the four PSPs with two COTS processors with five additional SHARC processor cards, replaces the existing PSP/GPC LAN with a fiber ring, redesigns the PSP code from microcode to HOL, redesigns the PSP rack configuration from a four rack to a two rack design to include installation, power, cooling, and cabling and improved diagnostics and Shop Replaceable Unit (SRU) maintainability. The aircraft currently uses four PSPs which work at maximum processing capacity providing adequate mission support. The E-8 had little growth capability for increased processing required for sensor upgrades. Current processors incorporate inefficient sensor idle time when processing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The current PSPs also have a high potential for becoming a Diminishing Manufacturing Source (DMS). Currently there was no sensor or processing growth potential and no open architecture capability. This upgrade provides improved radar timeline by eliminating the sensor idle time. It was required to provide growth processing and memory capacity for sensor upgrades (ESAR, ISAR, ATR). It improves supportability of both hardware and software components of the PSPs, and provides an open architecture base and limited weight and space reductions.

The Radar Technology Insertion Program (RTIP) was a Pre Planned Product Improvement (P3I) effort where the contractor would be required to design, develop, install, test, and integrate advanced radar systems in the Joint STARS system. An option for a cooperative development of common radar technology with the United Kingdom, including risk reduction prototyping, ground and flight testing was possible. The RTIP Engineering Manufacturing Development (EMD) program would design, integrate and test an advanced RTIP sensor subsystem for the E-8C, sufficient to enable a production decision, and transition into a production, retrofit program. The program would explore wide band data link and anti-tamper security considerations. The E-8C Joint STARS System baseline resulting from the Computer Replacement Program and TADIL-J Upgrade baseline merge effort, under Contract F19628-90-C-0197, would be the starting baseline. On 30 November 1998 Northrop Grumman Corporation's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector (ES3) and Raytheon Systems Company announced an agreement calling for an equal "50-50" work share on the radar sensor portion of RTIP. The Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems and Aerostructures (ISA) Sector would continue as the RTIP prime contractor with Raytheon as a subcontractor to Northrop Grumman ES3. Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems and Aerostructures Sector, which was the RTIP prime contractor, would design, develop, install, test and integrate advanced radar systems into Joint STARS at its Airborne Surveillance and Battle Management Systems unit in Melbourne, FL.

The Enhanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) upgrades allow for target classification and identification through a six-fold enhancement of current SAR resolution with ESAR and the ability to image moving targets and perform mensuration with ISAR. This upgrade assumes the PSP replacement was already implemented. The upgrade also increases both range and azimuth resolution. ESAR and ISAR are concurrent upgrades to reduce cost of Non-Reoccurring Engineering (NRE) and testing. ESAR requires 27.5K Software Lines Of Code (SLOC) and 34.5K SLOC for ISAR. The E-8 SAR resolution does not provide for classification or identification. The E-8 SAR resolution provides some target situational awareness and terrain mapping. ESAR and ISAR would contribute to more accurate targeting data and supports potential growth to Automatic Target Recognition. ISAR also supports maritime potential by using the translational motion of the targets. The primary applications support Theater Missile Defense (TMD) identification of high value mobile targets such as SCUD Transporter-Erector-Launchers(TELs). This capability also increases targeting capability, location and identification accuracy, and the potential for fratricide reduction.

The SAR Management upgrade was a software modification that allows for the storing of a nominal mission's worth of SAR images in a centralized retrievable database. The estimated Software Lines Of Code (SLOC) count for this was 6K. The E-8 Operator Work Station (OWS) can only hold 16 SAR images in the local memory. This was basically a screen store and recall capability. This upgrade would provide the capability to store all SAR imagery collected during a nominal mission. The system would have a master SAR file with all the SARs saved as well as individual save files with OWS unique entries (a subset of the master file). When the Radar Management Officer (RMO) receives a request for SAR, the system automatically searches the SAR imagery database to determine if images have already been taken of the area. If imagery exists, the RMO would be notified and also be provided the option of satisfying the Radar Service Requests (RSR) with the existing imagery rather than tasking the sensor again. The database would be accessible from all OWS, include date/time and position data for each image, a search engine capability to recall images, and provide a SAR-to-SAR comparison capability.

There are four phases to the Joint STARS Link 16 Upgrade programs: Current Capability, TADIL J Upgrade (TJU), Theater Missile Defense (TMD), and Attack Support Upgrade. When added to the current capability, TJU provides a basic, rudimentary Link 16 capability for passing ground tracks to link participants. TJU was partially funded and would be operational by 4qtr FY99. TMD would add three messages and part of another message to provide Joint STARS the capability to identify, monitor and report Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs), TEL reload locations, and TEL hide locations. The ASU would add 25 Link 16 messages to the Joint STARS data base. The upgrades would allow Joint STARS to realize its attack support role by passing sensor to shooter information for target assignment, target sorting, target/track correlation, and various command and platform managemant taskings. The implementation of these messages would give Joint STARS a robust, command and control, full up battle management capability. Software development and implementation would occur concurrent with each program software annual release. The Link 16 upgrades would provide Joint STARS with the capability to contribute heavily to TMD, interdiction, SEAD, and CAS mision areas. The current Joint STARS Link 16 capability was very limited. The E-8 can transmit and receive airborne link participant location and identification (PPLI) messages, receive air track and track management messages, and transmit part of a ground track message. Without this upgrade, Joint STARS can not effectivly contribute to its attack support mission as called for in the Joint STARS ORD, CONOPS and theater employment documents. Primary communications between Joint STARS and fighter aircraft would remain voice radio, and without the upgrades, Joint STARS would realize only a small portion of its potential as a sensor to shooter platform for the Air Force. Concurrent rather than sequential development and implementation of these upgrades would provide substantial cost savings. This upgrade directly enhances TMD targeting mission execution. TJU was funded (except for $3.8M for ground support). TMD, ASU and Future enhancements are totally unfunded.

Joint STARS Intelligence Broadcast System initially provides receive-only capability the TRAP, TADIX, and TIBS broadcast nets. These nets provide near-real time updates from multiple intelligence sources at the SECRET level to support situational awareness, intelligence preparation of the battlefield, cross-cueing, radar scope interpretation assistance, battle management and mission planning. This upgrade improves Theater Missile Defense (TMD) support, Order of Battle (OB) databases, self defense awareness, situation assessment and attack planning. The broadcast information would be integrated into all the E-8 workstations to allow the individual operators to conduct overlay and comparison of Joint STARS sensor data and broadcast system data. Current intelligence broadcast capability was a limited receive only contingency enhancement which was not fully supported through program life cycle and would increase CLS costs if kept as the de-facto baseline capability. The contingency system was hardwired into a single worksattion and was not availble to all mission crew members. Without a robust intelligence broadcast system the mission crew must heavily rely upon other sensor platforms to provide this data over voice communications increasing voice net traffic and operator work load.

Joint STARS Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) provides Joint STARS operators with automated surface target recognition/identification. This enhances operator efficiency in high density situations and exponentially increases current capabilities for surface target identification. ATR provides higher mission crew situational awareness and increases support to battle management and attack support. In support of TMD, the system would be able to locate, track, and identify missile Transporter Erector Launchers (TELS) vehicles upon cueing from off-board sensors/sources. The ATR concept was based upon algorithms using processed radar data (Enhanced Synthetic Aperture Radar [ESAR] and Inverse SAR [ISAR]) and applying Radar Cross Section (RCS) or templating techniques to classify/identify ground and maritime targets. ATR was a computational technique which compares the SAR imagery with imagery templates of high value targets to quickly identify and locate those targets in the image. This requires a large detailed data base of potential target image templates and the processing capability to do comparisons with Joint STARS sensor data. This capability includes integration into all the E-8 operator work stations and assumes implementation of first the Programmable Signal Processor (PSP) and then secondly the ESAR and ISAR upgrades. The initial effort was to develop and demonstrate an ATR capability on Joint STARS. ATR was not yet at a stage for insertion into Joint STARS production models or retrofit of existing aircraft. There was no automated target recognition or identification capability on the E-8. Currently, mission crew must cognitively fuse off board sensor information, current situation awarness, and on board sensors to make any type of recognition call. This type of analysis produces a low confidence level and requires a level of training which was nor provided to operational mission crew members. ATR would allow for more timely and accurate target support and battle management decisions. The PSP replacement and ESAR/ISAR upgrades must be acomplished prior to development of the ATR capability

JSTARS Tagging is an unfunded requirement to develop and implement a Joint STARS Radar Responsive (R2) Tag System comprised of two types of R2 Tags and corresponding functionality on board Joint STARS aircraft. The Joint STARS radar had two primary modes of operation, Moving Target Indicator (MTI) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The R2 Tags are designed to work with the rapid revisit, MTI mode of the radar, providing positive identification of targets equipped with the tag. The tagged targets would be visible to the radar operator whether they are moving or stationary, as long as they are located within the radar field of view. The R2 Tags are also designed to interface with Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS) to provide data collected by the UGS to Joint STARS operators on-board the E-8 aircraft. This data could be a frame of video image, time/date of acoustic sensor activation, or other data provided by an UGS sensor suite. The Radar Responsive Tag would allow the Joint STARS aircraft to positively identify any tagged vehicle, person, or structure. This capability addresses the need for wide area surveillance capability to Detect, Locate, Track and Identify time critical targets and correlate and fuse data.

Enhanced Joint STARS ATR was an unfunded requirement to provide an enhanced means of targeting critical mobile ground targets. The technical objective was to accelerate the transition of targeting enhancements to the Joint STARS system. These enhancements enable more effective targeting against Time Critical Targets (TCTs). There are two primary goals: (1) demonstrate the robustness of using Hi-Resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) based Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) technology for improved identification of Time Critical Targets (TCTs) and; (2) demonstrate the effectiveness of using Hi-Resolution Moving Target Indication (MTI) sorting of targets in a scan mode to pick out target areas of interest in a non-cooperative mode. The approach was to upgrade software capability on-board Joint STARS to take advantage of available hardware and processing to allow for Enhanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ESAR) and High Range Resolution (HRR) MTI. The ESAR capability would provide a resolution 6X the baseline resolution. The HRR/MTI provides target vehicle range extents and integrating this with a tracker capability provides vehicle target length measurements. Conceptually, the HRR/MTI was being used as a cueing mechanism for the detection of TCTs by length measurements. This cue was handed off to the ESAR algorithm for imaging the long length vehicles for the ATR to perform non-cooperative target ID of Tactical Erector Launchers (TEL). The current system performs ATR of TEL type targets in the clear (no obscurations of the target).

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Page last modified: 06-10-2019 18:39:37 ZULU