Northrop Grumman Corporation celebrated 30 years of information dominance for decision superiority provided by the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) on April 5, 2018 – as it looks to the future of battle management command and control.
Hundreds of Northrop Grumman employees, members of the U.S. Air Force 116th Air Control Wing and 461st Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard leadership, State of Florida Senator Debbie Mayfield and Melbourne Mayor Kathy Meehan, celebrated the 30th anniversary of the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft first flight in a patriotic ceremony.
The event recognized the current and past employees who have worked on the program since its inception, saluted many of the civilian employees who received Air Medals from the U.S. Air Force in April 1992 for their outstanding mission support in Operation Desert Storm, and highlighted the commitment of the thousands of military and civilian employees who support the program today.
“Today we celebrate the vision of those who have come before us to develop the Joint STARS capability, and honor the dedication and commitment of those who continue keeping Joint STARS relevant and highly capable in the fight. It is also a chance to honor all who have supported and will support missions using this incredible capability,” said Col. Curtis “Walleye” Bass, commander, 461st Air Control Wing, United States Air Force. “Joint STARS remains the ‘Eyes in the Sky’ for boots on the ground as well as those in the air and on the sea. We look forward to continuing to support combatant commanders around the globe in this important mission.”
Grumman Corporation was awarded its first Joint STARS contract in 1985. The first development aircraft, named Air Vehicle 1, or AV-1, leveraged a government furnished commercial 707-aircraft platform which was militarized for the mission by Grumman. Leveraging its previous Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) work done on the Pave Mover program in the late 1970s and early 80s, Joint STARS test pilots flew the first development aircraft at 1:15 p.m. for two hours April 1, 1988. Eighteen days later, the program started its mission system preliminary design review and on July 5, 1988, the Department of Defense Acquisition Board declared full speed ahead for Joint STARS. By Dec. 22, Grumman flew the first Joint STARS radar test flight.
“Joint STARS is the only all-weather battle management command and control weapons system today in the Department of Defense. We’re honored to celebrate all that the system, and the warfighters who fly it, have accomplished in support of our nation’s security,” said Kevin Mickey, sector vice president and general manager, military aircraft systems, Northrop Grumman. “Flying nonstop since 9/11, Joint STARS has supported every major combatant commander – flying over 130,000 combat mission hours for CENTCOM alone. It is clear that Joint STARS is providing information dominance for decision superiority.”
Two Joint STARS aircraft, while still in the development phase, flew in 1991 to support Operation Desert Storm. A mix of development and production aircraft were again deployed in 1995 to support Operation Joint Endeavor I and Operation Joint Endeavor II in 1996. Northrop Grumman delivered its first production Joint STARS aircraft in 1996 and the last production aircraft in 2005.
Northrop Grumman’s battle management command and control team continues to leverage its 30 years of experience in this mission domain to support the United States Air Force in joint environments. In the past 15 years, Northrop Grumman has added 27 new capability upgrades to the 16-aircraft fleet and battle management command and control weapons system. The company continues to deliver new battle management capabilities to meet warfighter demand. Joint STARS has flown in every major U.S. combat operation since Desert Storm.
“American ingenuity created Joint STARS and it has proven its worth time and time again over these last 30 years,” said Senator Debbie Mayfield (15th District), State of Florida. “It is critical that we, in elective office, keep this battle management command and control capability at the forefront of the fight to support our combatant commanders around the world. Our enemies cannot have any battlefield advantage.”