Joint STARS demonstrates key network-enabled weapons capability

FILE PHOTO -- The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System is a joint Air Force - Army program. The Joint STARS uses a multi-mode side looking radar to detect, track, and classify moving ground vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines. The aircraft is the only airborne platform in operation that can maintain realtime surveillance over a corps-sized area of the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

An Electronic Systems Center team working with an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, pictured here, has been participating in the Joint Surface Warfare Joint Capability Technology Demonstration. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- An Electronic Systems Center team here is wrapping up work on a demonstration that looks to greatly improve network enabled weapons capabilities for joint forces.

The Battle Management Directorate's E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Modernization Branch has been participating in the Joint Surface Warfare Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, or JSuW JCTD.

"The capability developed in this JCTD will provide a quantum leap in a commander's ability to conduct surface warfare with increased lethality to enemy forces and increased survivability of friendly forces," said Brittany Ridings, JSuW program manager.

The U.S. Navy-led JSuW JCTD demonstrates the military utility of having multiple joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets control anti-ship weapons against surface combatants at stand-off ranges.

"This work for Joint STARS began in August of 2008," said Ms. Ridings. "That was when the combined government and contractor team began to develop and integrate the prototype Link 16 Network Enabled Weapon software into the existing software architecture on the E-8 Joint STARS test platform."

From there, the team went through a graduated series of test events involving recorded data, distributed dynamic laboratory testing, ground testing and integration flights -- all leading up to the final Operational Utility Assessment flights.

OUA flights were successfully completed this September at the Point Mugu Sea Range in California. The specific role for Joint STARS was as a command and control node as well as a third-party source to transmit in-flight target updates to guide Navy stand-off weapons to their target.

Using the Link 16 Network Enabled Weapon software, messages were exchanged regarding targeting, command and control, identification and weapon-fly out information. During three days of testing, Joint STARS successfully completed 13 runs with two Navy F/A-18 Hornets, two Joint Standoff Weapons (JSOW C-1) and two instrumented target ships.

"From the Joint STARS perspective, the demonstration was completely successful, as we were able to meet all objectives," said Ms. Ridings. "We transmitted a series of in-flight target update messages that were received and positively acknowledged, and the simulation indicated that the weapon would hit its target effectively."

Navy leadership was also pleased with Joint STARS' accomplishments.

"The fact that JSTARS performed almost flawlessly is a testament to the exceptional efforts by [the] team ... and will help bring this critical net enabled weapons capability to the warfighter," said Navy Captain Carl Chebi, Precision Strike Weapons program manager.