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Air Force Fact Sheets
E-8C Joint Stars
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TheE-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is an airborne battle management and command and control (C2) platform that conducts ground surveillance to develop an understanding of the enemy situation and to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces. These functions support the primary mission of Joint STARS which is to provide dedicated support of ground commanders requirements.


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 40-foot (12 meters) long, canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage that houses the 24-foot (7.3 meters) long, side-looking phase array antenna.

The E-8C can respond quickly and effectively to support worldwide military contingency operations. It is a jam-resistant system capable of operating while experiencing heavy electronic countermeasures. The E-8C can fly a mission profile for more than eight hours without refueling. Its range and on-station time can be increased through inflight refueling.

The radar and computer subsystems on the E-8C can gather and display broad and detailed battlefield information. Data is collected as events occur. This includes position and tracking information on enemy and friendly ground forces. The information is relayed in near-real time to the Army's common ground stations via the secure jam-resistant surveillance and control data link and to other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) nodes beyond line-of-sight via ultra high frequency satellite communications.

Radar operating modes include wide area surveillance, moving target indicator (MTI), sector search MTI and synthetic aperture radar. The antenna can be slued to either side of the aircraft to provide a 120 degree field of view covering nearly 19,305 square miles (50,000 square kilometers) and is capable of detecting targets at ranges from 164,049 to 820,248 feet (50 to 250 kilometers) from the aircraft. In addition to being able to detect, locate and track large numbers of ground vehicles the radar has some limited capability to detect helicopters, rotating antennas and low slow-moving fixed wing aircraft.

Other major E-8C subsystems are communications, operations and control. Eighteen operator workstations display computer-processed data in graphic and tabular format on video screens. Operators and technicians perform battle management, surveillance, weapons, intelligence, communications and maintenance functions.

In support of air-to-ground operations, the E-8C can provide the direct information needed to increase situation awareness with intelligence support and support attack and targeting operations to include attack aviation, naval surface fire, field artillery and friendly maneuver forces. It also provides information for air and land commanders to gain and maintain control of the battle-space and execute against enemy forces.

The E-8C can be used as a battle management and command and control asset to support the full spectrum of roles and missions from peacekeeping operations to a 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. In 1982, the programs were merged and the Air Force became the lead agent. The contract was competitively awarded to Northrop Grumman (formerly Grumman Aerospace Corporation) in September 1985 for two E-8C development systems. These aircraft deployed in 1991 to participate in Desert Storm even though they were still in development. The joint program accurately tracked mobile Iraqi forces, including tanks and Scud missiles. Crews flew developmental aircraft on 49 combat sorties accumulating more than 500 combat hours and a 100 percent mission effectiveness rate.

Joint STARS developmental aircraft were also called to support the NATO peacekeeping mission, Operation Joint Endeavor, in December 1995. While flying in friendly air space, the test-bed E-8A and pre-production E-8C aircraft monitored ground movements according to the Dayton Peace Treaty agreements. Crews flew 95 consecutive operational sorties and more than 1,000 flight hours with a 98 percent mission effectiveness rate.

The 93rd Air Control Wing accepted its first aircraft, June 11, 1996, and Joint STARS returned to Operation Joint Endeavor in October 1996 when the 93rd ACW deployed. The designated 93rd Air Expeditionary Group (Provisional) monitored while NATO rotated troops through Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first production E-8C and a pre-production E-8C from Northrop Grumman Corp. flew 36 operational sorties and more than 470 flight hours with a 100 percent effectiveness rate. The wing declared initial operational capability Dec. 18, 1997.

The E-8C Joint STARS supports various taskings from the Combined Force Command Korea during the winter exercise cycle to the United Nations enforcing resolutions on Iraq.

A fourth production aircraft, designated backup aircraft inventory, was delivered to the Air Force Aug. 18, 1998.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Airborne battle management

Primary Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.

Power Plant: Four Pratt and Whitney TF33-102C

Thrust: 19,200 pounds each engine

Length: 152 feet, 11 inches (46.6 meters)

Height: 42 feet 6 inches (13 meters)

Wingspan: 145 feet, 9 inches (44.4 meters)

Speed: Optimum orbit speed 390 - 510 knots (Mach 0.52 - 0.65)

Ceiling: 42,000 feet (12,802 meters)

Maximum Takeoff Weight: 331,000 pounds (150,142 kilograms)

Range: 8 hours (unrefueled)

Unit Cost: approximately $270 million

Crew: Flight crew of four plus mission crew of 15 Air Force and three Army specialists (crew size varies according to mission)

Date Deployed: 1996

Inventory: Active force, 4 (14 to be delivered to Air Force by 2003); ANG, 0; Reserve, 0

Point Of Contact

Air Combat Command, Public Affairs Office, 115 Thompson St., Suite 211; Langley AFB VA 23665-1987; DSN 574-5014 or (757) 764-5014.

Above Information Courtesy of United States Air Force

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