Northrop Grumman created another milestone in combat identification and tracking by the installation and testing of a multispectral sensor fitted onto the new keel beam accessory bay (KAB) of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft.
Through the usage of this sensor, the sensor –to-shooter timeline comes down to minutes and a better control and airborne ground surveillance command is achieved.
Northrop Grumman is a pioneer in global security. They cater to both government and private customers worldwide. They have made a mark in providing systems and products in aerospace, electronics and information systems.
Mike Mos, the director of Joint STARS architecture and concept demonstrations was highly confident that new sensor system will not only help in tracking the identified targets but also make the other sensors available for other operational functions.
For testing purposes, MS-177 camera, which is a multispectral intelligence sensor weighing 500 pounds was used on the Joint STARS. The intent of this testing was to determine how the sensor increases the combat identification capability of Joint STARS. After take off from the Florida coast, the operators of Joint STARS put the MS-177sensor to work; the information got from the sensor was fed into the battle management system. Through the usage of the MS-177 sensor the operators were able to track the target and the imagery got was of high quality. With the help of these images the operators were more aware of the surroundings and the ground moving target indication (GMTI) was more effective.
Mike Mos claimed that the MS-177 camera was capable of identifying images of people, buildings ships etc located at very far distances when used along with the APY-7 radar. He added that the MS-177 had an Electro –optical/Infrared capability as well, which along with the GMTI ability makes it an extremely effective force multiplier.
The technical team of Northrop Grumman took great pains to ensure that the Joint STARS aircraft was fit to fly with the KAB and Camera in place. In order to get the ‘fit to fly’ assurance they worked with the engineers of the U.S. Air Force's Electronics Systems Centre and Aeronautical Systems Centre.
The test results of the Joint STARS aircraft proved that the KAB is able to support one large sensor or multiple small sensors, which did not hamper the battle management and surveillance capabilities of the system. With this result in mind, the team planned to do tests on aerodynamic modelling and delve into combining the multispectral sensor with other sensors and integrate it into the Joint STARS system. Post the military utility assessment done by the US Air Force they plan to integrate additional sensors into the KAB and test the performance further.
The Joint STARS aircrafts are unique in many ways, they are the only all weather systems, they are long range, real time and are capable of vigilance over a large area. They can perform battle management and are used in command and control weapon systems. They have contributed to many combat missions and have been operational since 2001.The fleet of Joint STARS contains 17 aircrafts in all and are flown by the 116th Air Control Wing based in Warner Robins, Ga.The Joint STARS have supported many combat missions namely Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn.