Electronic Weapons: JSTARS Forever


June 30, 2008: The U.S. is spending about $95 million on each of the 18 E8-C Joint JSTARS radar aircraft operated by reservists (the Air National Guard). This will include new engines, an Internet-like communications capability, long range optical sensors (like that on combat aircraft targeting pods) and the ability to search water surfaces.

The E8 is a militarized Boeing 707 (a 1950s design, also used for the KC-135 aerial tanker and other U.S. Air Force electronics warfare aircraft). The main capability is the JSTARS ground search radar. This system has two modes; wide area (showing a 25 by 20 kilometer area) and detailed (4,000 by 5,000 meters). The radar can see out to several hundred kilometers and each screen full of information could be saved and brought back later to compare to another view (to see what has moved). In this manner, operators can track the movement of ground vehicles, or ships. Operators can also use the detail mode to pick out specific details of what's going on down there, like tracking the movement of many small missile boats trying to rush an American warship. JSTARS can stay up there for over 12 hours at a time, and two or more JSTARS can operate in shifts to provide 24/7 coverage.

The Air National Guard aircraft can be kept in service another 40 years, although they may be replaced by cheaper, unmanned, aircraft before then. JSTARS first proved its worth during the 1991 Gulf War, where it accurately, and in real time, tracked the movement of Coalition and Iraqi ground forces.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close