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News > Key Joint STARS equipment upgrades in the works
Evaluating equipment
MELBOURNE, Fla. - Members of the 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Detachment 2, try out new 27-inch display Joint STARS operator workstations in the Northrop Grumman-Melbourne integration lab. The Electronic Systems Center is working to upgrade critical mission equipment, such as the workstations and the operating system, on the Joint STARS platform. (Courtesy photo)
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Key Joint STARS equipment upgrades in the works

Posted 3/26/2012   Updated 3/27/2012 Email story   Print story


by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

3/26/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Electronic Systems Center is working to upgrade critical mission equipment on the E-8 Joint STARS aircraft and recent flight testing is proving successful and advancing the program.

Joint STARS is an airborne battle management, command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform that provides troops on the ground situational awareness of the battlefield. It has the ability to look at a more than 19,000 square mile area.

"When the Joint STARS aircraft were delivered in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the technology was state-of-the-art," said Michael LaFosse, Joint STARS Prime Mission Equipment Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (PME DMS) program manager. "But times and technologies have changed and we need to keep pace, so we're working to solve DMS issues."

Also, although the aircraft was originally designed to look for large movements of troops, it is now being used in a much broader range of activities, making its processing technology a key feature which needs to be kept up to date.

The first phase of the program involves replacing the Radar Airborne Signal Processor, or RASP, which allows raw radar data to get converted to useable, actionable data. The second phase involves replacing the operator workstations, upgrading to a new network that is 110 times faster than the current system, providing more bandwidth and improved displays and allowing for future technology insertion at lower costs.

"We are putting in the new infrastructure and equipment that will allow us the capability to bring in what basically could be considered the 'apps' we need," said Mark Driscoll, senior technical advisor from MITRE. "And this will provide the operators with improved situational awareness."

Four successful RASP flight tests have been completed, and flight testing for the new workstations will begin in the spring. Testing will continue until September when the program will transition to the production phase.

Operators also believe the upgrades are needed for the aircraft.

"The changes will allow us to increase our battle management capabilities by allowing us to monitor more information," said Capt. Daniel Kreher, Joint STARS senior director assigned to the Joint Test Force in Melbourne, Fla. "The program shows a lot of potential, and as operators, we're excited about the overall capabilities it will give us."

Program personnel have been striving to ensure this vital work gets accomplished.

"I'm immensely proud of how our government and industry team streamlined the PME DMS design to reduce our production costs and remain on schedule," said Lt. Col. Chris Ellis, E-8 Modernization Branch chief. "This program is a monumental stepping stone for our warfighter and sets the stage for the next decade."

The Joint STARS fleet is operated by crews from the Air National Guard's 116th Air Control Wing, the Air Force's newly activated 461st Air Control Wing and the Army's Intelligence and Security Command 138 Military Intelligence Company, all based at Robins Air Force Base, Ga. Since 2001, the crews have flown more than 70,000 hours in combat missions in support of operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

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