The Department of Defense, the United States Air Force and the United States Air National Guard continue to drive agile acquisition as a way to deliver more capability faster to the warfighter. Proof positive of the benefit of that strategic collaboration are the upcoming flight tests of Northrop Grumman’s E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) battle management command and control (BMC2) weapon system with its new central computer system.

“We’ve finished installing and ground testing one E-8C aircraft with its new central computer,” said Janice Zilch, vice president, military aircraft surveillance programs, Northrop Grumman. “Flight test is scheduled for this month. Our team will then move to fleet wide installation which will be another major leap forward for our customer.”

Over its entire mission life since initial deployment to Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the high demand Joint STARS weapon system has gone through a variety of major block upgrades and capability additions—each time delivering more value to the combatant commanders.

The Air National Guard has funded some of the recent Joint STARS mission enhancements including this upgrade. “The Air National Guard remains committed to keeping this weapon system modernized for our warfighters in coordination with Air Combat Command and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center,” said Colonel Dan Begin, Deputy Director, Plans and Requirements (NGB/A5/8).

Joint STARS supports OMS Standards

The Block 50 upgrade is the backbone for Northrop Grumman to continue to deliver more mission capability to the fleet—which has flown non-stop since September 11, 2001 and supported nearly every major operation. “This investment is the catalyst for us to again rapidly deliver more system and sensor enhancements. Our customers continue to create more demand signal as their mission requirements evolve and we are delivering on that demand,” Zilch added.

This Central Computer System upgrade meets the Air Force’s open mission systems (OMS) standard giving the E-8C fleet full integration with systems across air, sea, land, space and cyberspace at multiple security levels.

“The Joint STARS crews will have increased network access and tools to communicate with U.S. and allied forces,” said Henry Cyr, program director, manned C2/ISR, Northrop Grumman. “This investment expands its current role even further to meet the needs of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control environment now and well into the future.”

The added combat data processing capability and flexible architecture will permit Joint STARS BMC2 weapon system to communicate with additional platforms and support new systems and networks. It will connect with more assets to efficiently decide and act in real-time across multiple domains.

“With Joint STARS, commanders continue to get command and control in and around their theater of operations. Our Northrop Grumman team is proud of the support we provide joint warfighters enabling them to deliver critical and perishable command and control information up and down the chain of command. The Joint STARS mission is to protect our forces and successfully prosecute enemy’s forces,” Cyr added.

Fleet wide installation is expected to be complete in 2021.