The U.S. Air Force Can’t Win a War Without This Plane (Not the F-22 or F-35)

    Kris Osborn


    And you might not even know it exists. 

    JSTARS is able to acquire and disseminate graphic digital map displays, force tracking information and – perhaps of greatest significance – detect enemy activity; information obtained can be transmitted via various data-links to ground command and control centers and, in many instances, connected or integrated with nearby drone operations. The Northrop E-8C surveillance aircraft can identify an area of interest for drones to zero in on with a more narrow or “soda-straw” sensor view of significant areas below. JSTARS can detect enemy convoys, troop movements or concentrations and pinpoint structures in need of further ISR attention.

    Flying thousands of feet in the sky and zooming sensors in on enemy movement below, the Air Force manned Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System has been using advanced technology to gather and share combat-relevant information, circle above military operations and share key Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance data with service command and control.

    Since its combat missions during the Gulf War in the early 1990s, JSTARS has been an indispensable asset to combat operations, as it covers a wide swath of terrain across geographically diverse areas to scan for actionable intelligence and pertinent enemy activity.

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    The JSTARS mission is of such significance that the Air Force is now evaluating multiple industry proposals to recapitalize the mission with a new, high-tech, next-generation JSTARS plane to serve for decades into the future.

    However, while Air Force officials tell Warrior the service plans to continue its pursuit of a new JSTARS platform, service weapons developers now say the Air Force is contemplating the prospect of developing different systems, platforms or technologies better equipped to perform the JSTARS mission in high-threat environments.

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