10 Things The Air Force Won't Tell You About Its Plan To Kill Recap Of The J-Stars Radar Plane. | World Defense

10 Things The Air Force Won't Tell You About Its Plan To Kill Recap Of The J-Stars Radar Plane.

Tps77

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The U.S. Air Force operates a small fleet of radar planes that can track moving ground targets in the fog of war, warning friendly forces of approaching danger while vectoring strike aircraft to counter the threat. Called the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-Stars), the 17 modified Boeing jetliners in this fleet are in continuous demand from regional military commanders. And with good reason: no other Air Force asset can track 600 moving ground targets simultaneously at distances in excess of 150 miles.
Because the planes have battle managers on board, they can compress the "kill chain" of steps that must be accomplished to eliminate surface threats to U.S. soldiers. Time is critical when the threat is moving. Using J-Stars, tactical commanders can know with high accuracy where enemy vehicles and troops are, what direction they are moving in, and at what speed. They can also receive images of the enemy force generated by the plane's radar -- images obtainable even in the dead of night, or when it is foggy, or when a dust storm is raging. In addition, they can learn where friendly ground forces are on the battlefield.
This is invaluable information for protecting U.S. warfighters, securing tactical objectives, and avoiding deaths from friendly fire. But J-Stars is old. Its radars were installed decades ago on previously-owned commercial jetliners that today exhibit metal fatigue, corrosion and technical obsolescence. The Air Force had been planning a "recapitalization" (replacement) program for the fleet known in the inevitable piece of Pentagon jargon as J-Stars Recap. It said fielding successor planes by 2021 was a matter of high urgency.

North Korea plans to operate its future intercontinental ballistic-missile force on mobile launchers. Without a system like J-Stars to track the movement of such launchers, it would be impossible to destroy the missiles before they were launched. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
And then last summer, the Air Force suddenly changed course. It said the aging planes could remain airworthy until 2030, and that new radar planes would be too vulnerable in the contested air space of future war zones. It argued a better arrangement would be to network other sensors -- most of them already in the force -- to fashion a more survivable approach to tracking moving ground targets. That's the course on which the service has now embarked. But Air Force leaders have left some key details out of their explanation for the sudden change of plans.
  1. Five studies said a new radar plane was needed before a sixth said it wasn't. The question of what to do about the aging J-Stars fleet has been studied to death. Five different studies came to the conclusion that a new airframe hosting an improved radar and on-board battle managers was needed to continue accomplishing a vital mission. And then, out of the blue, a sixth assessment came to the opposite conclusion shortly after a new leader was installed at the service's air combat command. This reversal appears to be more about personalities than mission requirements.
  2. All of the previous studies covered the same ground as the sixth. The Air Force didn't suddenly discover last summer that flying near Russia or China in a future war might be a little more dangerous than overflying ISIS. Nor did the value of having human battle managers on board as a way of compressing the kill chain suddenly get called into question. The Air Force just changed its mind about what the data meant, without any public explanation of why. Unfortunately, it could change its mind again, and again, while the J-Stars fleet gradually decays.
  3. If J-Stars isn't survivable, neither are tankers, transports and other parts of the force. Isn't it a bit odd that the survivability of militarized commercial jets would become a decisive issue in recapitalizing J-Stars at the same time the Air Force is executing a multi-decade program to replace its equally old tankers with modified jetliners? With the exception of fifth-generation fighters, all of the airframes in the joint fleet are subject to survivability concerns. That's why the top priority for the stealthy F-22 and F-35 during the early days of future wars will be to suppress enemy air defenses.
  4. The Air Force doesn't have an alternative to the current system. The Air Force's proposed alternative to J-Stars has barely reached the advanced PowerPoint stage. It lacks the sensor systems, communications links, processing centers and battle management network to replicate what today's radar planes deliver. Kluging together all the necessary pieces would cost many billions of dollars, and would take more time to accomplish than the service has before current radar planes must retire. Just look at all the time and money the service has spent trying to secure its existing networks from cyber attack.
  5. Drones will not survive in future combat, and satellites might not either. Since the Air Force is arguing against a new generation of manned radar planes, its notional alternative presumably would utilize unmanned aircraft ("drones") and satellites instead. But drones lack protection from enemy air defenses, and the command links to their remote pilots have been known to fail even when they are not being jammed. The Air Force Space Command is warning that satellites used for sensor collection and communications relay will be subject to disruption by enemies in the future. If survivability is the issue, drones and spacecraft aren't the answer.
  6. You need 6-8 drones to take the place of one J-Stars plane. The only unmanned aircraft the Air Force currently operates that is equipped with a radar for tracking moving ground targets is the Block 40 variant of the Global Hawk. It's an impressive piece of technology, but because its radar aperture is much smaller than that on a J-Stars plane, several would be needed to match the sensing capability of a single J-Stars. Unfortunately, the Air Force only bought 11 of the Block 40 variants, and it has no plans to buy more. On a good day, its entire complement of Block 40s might be able to match the tactical performance of two J-Stars planes.
  7. The Air Force tried to kill the drone best suited to take the place of J-Stars. Few observers today seem to recall that only a few years back, the Air Force was considering cancellation of the Block 40 variant of Global Hawk. In 2013, the Block 40 was offered up in budget deliberations as a bill-payer for "higher priorities." Now it bulks large in the service's plan for killing a successor to J-Stars. The obvious implication is that Air Force leaders have no strong convictions about how the tracking of moving ground targets should be accomplished. A more troubling possibility is that they don't care about the mission at all.
  8. J-Stars planes can be kept airworthy a few more years, but that's not the same as available. Although the Air Force's projection of when existing radar planes must be retired has been pushed back to 2030, that doesn't change the fact that on any given day, a third of the planes are tied up in maintenance. Boeing stopped building the 707 airframe 40 years ago and the Air Force elected not to replace the plane's antiquated engines when it had the chance, so planes are frequently unavailable due to required maintenance. It has been estimated that the cost of recapitalization ($6-9 billion) is less than the cost of keeping the legacy fleet flying (around $11 billion).
  9. U.S. combatant commanders count on having ground moving-target trackers available. The J-Stars fleet has been in continuous demand from U.S. combatant commanders since Operation Desert Storm a quarter century ago. For instance, it is on patrol over the Korean Peninsula today, monitoring the movement of North Korean artillery, armored vehicles and missile launchers. So the idea that the Air Force would suddenly stop the long-planned recapitalization of this unique but aging fleet in order to pursue a nebulous alternative on no certain timeline is dangerous -- particularly for the lives of America's soldiers on the ground in foreign war zones.
  10. The Air Force has a long history of suddenly discovering convenient information. This isn't the first time the Air Force suddenly discovered it could change a plan previously regarded as critical and time-sensitive. It tried to kill the unique U-2 spy plane several years back despite lacking a viable alternative for some of the plane's most vital missions, and it tried something similar with the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support plane. In both cases, Congress stepped in because it doubted the adequacy of the Air Force's data and analysis. The sudden reversal on J-Stars recapitalization after years of agreement on what needs to be done looks like a repetition of the same pattern.
The Air Force shouldn't be discouraged from investigating new ways of waging war. But in the case of J-Stars and several other key warfighting assets, the service is playing catch-up after two decades of depressed spending on new weapons. If the joint force and our allies are to continue having timely, accurate details on where enemy ground forces are in the fog of war, the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System needs to be modernizednow. No more delays, no more bold ideas getting in the way of action. The lives of our warfighters depend on keeping recapitalization on track.
Several companies with a potential stake in the modernization of the J-Stars fleet contribute to my think tank. Some are consulting clients.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2017/11/29/ten-things-the-air-force-wont-tell-you-about-its-plan-to-kill-recap-of-the-j-stars-radar-plane/#1a0c2daf36ea


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Air Force Analysis: New & Upgraded JSTARS Preps for New Enemies
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

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.

By Kris Osborn

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.

The circumstance has left many to wonder about just what kind of path forward the Air Force will ultimately pursue when it comes to its longer-term aerial battlefield surveillance mission.

"The Air Force remains in source selection for a follow-on to JSTARS as we continue to evaluate alternative approaches for battlefield command and control that could be more effective in high-threat environments. In the meantime, we plan to continue flying the current JSTARS fleet through fiscal year 2023," Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Scout Warrior. "Although we are exploring options, there are many steps still to be taken before any force structure proposals are included in the 2019 budget."

In the meantime, as Grabowski indicated, the Air Force is aggressively advancing efforts to ensure that the existing JSTARS fleet of 16 aircraft remain current, upgraded and able to function in high-threat combat circumstances.

"Over the last 30 years, we have incorporated about 27 different capabilities. Ultimately, the fleet has flown over 130K combat hours since 9/11. It is an in-demand platform and we will make sure it stays in demand," Bryan Lima, director of manned C2 ISR business, JSTARS, told Warrior in an interview.

Lima expounded upon this to specify a handful of communications and sensor upgrades along with ISR technologies engineered to address lower, slower moving targets, described as LSS. Newer methods of data exploitation, Lima articulated, enable operators to better understand and classify what they are looking at.

"We believe we can address many emerging threats with the current fleet," Lima said.

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.

In an interview with Scout Warrior earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, Military Deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, Acquisition, said the service has upgraded some of its existing fleet of J-STARS but still needs to develop new technology for the future.

While Air Force officials did not elaborate much on the various future threat conditions currently informing the calculus of decision-making, there has been much discussion of a broader need for air surveillance assets to operate in a more contested, high-threat, near-peer type warfare environment. Given these dynamics, broadly speaking, it makes sense that a larger, and therefore more detectable platform like JSTARS could be a more vulnerable target against adversaries with sophisticated weapons and sensors. Accordingly, while JSTARS functions with great effect in lower threat combat circumstances, such as Afghanistan, where the US maintains air supremacy, its size, configuration and radar signature are such that it could potentially be more vulnerable to advanced enemy air defenses.

At the same time, the platform is known to add tremendous value in combat scenarios - and advances in aircraft defenses, countermeasures, electronic warfare and newer sensor technology, it seems, could potentially enable JSTARS to operate successfully against sophisticated enemy air-to-air weapons and ground-based air defense systems. Clearly, the aircraft is not intended to fly at the edge of combat, unprotected, against enemy fighter jets and air defenses - the question is what kinds of assets, emerging systems or supplemental technologies might be leveraged to expand its mission functionality in more contested areas?

An ability to address a high-threat electromagnetic warfare environment, by any estimation, is a likely focal point of the calculus regarding how best to equip large sensor platforms - such as JSTARS - for future combat environments. While many details regarding these kinds of technologies are, naturally, not available, engineering and upgrading an aircraft such as JSTARS with EW countermeasures or systems designed to minimize its electronic "signature" could indeed be fundamental to an ability to operate in sophisticated near-peer types of warfare scenarios. Of course Lima did not address these questions, however, EW is clearly center stage with US military weapons and technology developers. Additionally, it may be that other kinds of advanced countermeasures and aircraft protections, including the use of nearby unmanned drones as protection, could prove useful with respect to upgrading JSTARS to operate against advanced enemies.

There are other potential considerations or likely reasons why an upgraded current JSTARS aircraft might be positioned to operate with some success against sophisticated modern enemies; attack aircraft or stealth bombers could eliminate air defenses before a JSTARS enters a high-threat area of operation, thus enabling it to operate with great effect -- electronic jamming aircraft such as the EA-18 Growler equipped with a high-tech Next-Generation Jammer, also, could potentially detect and jam radar signals from enemy air defenses - and semi-autonomous drones operated from a JSTARS cockpit in the future might test enemy air defenses or assess the threat environment while the surveillance aircraft operates at a safer distance. JSTARS is specifically engineered to survey wide areas at great distances.

Moving into the future, there may be emerging assets able to perform these missions more effectively against extremely advanced enemies; newer EW and sensor technology, for instance, are rapidly evolving such that smaller, better protected platforms might have occasion to track wider areas at increasingly longer ranges - all while maintaining a lower radar signature. Faster computer processing speeds, enabling a smaller hardware footprint - coupled with more "hardened" networks and data links - might enable smaller, new platforms to gather, organize, analyze and disseminate crucial, combat-relevant information in near real-time. In short, command and control technology is evolving so quickly, that the Air Force might wish to ensure it can consistently identify and leverage the best emerging technical solutions able to perform the requisite surveillance and command and control functions currently executed by legacy JSTARS planes. This could lead to an enhanced, new JSTARS recap platform - as is the current plan - or some kind of modification.

Given the aforementioned sphere of technological possibility, there does appear to be ongoing inquiry into the question of whether a different platform or technical system might succeed in performing the JSTARS mission more effectively in contested, near-peer or higher-threat environments. Would emerging drone surveillance technology, historically thought of as providing a "soda-straw" view of areas below, be able to survey wide-swaths of dispersed terrain across a combat area of operations? Perhaps stealthy platforms, increasingly equipped with advanced sensor technology, could perform some of the wide-area command and control missions currently taken up by the JSTARS. It may be that a new JSTARS platform could operate in tandem with other systems, networks and aerial platforms able to assist the mission in higher-risk environments.


The Air Force plans for new JSTARS to be operational in 2024.

JSTARS is a critical airborne extension of the Theater Air Control System and provides Ground Moving Target Indicator data to the ISR Enterprise. Air Force official Capt. Emily Grabowski told Scout Warrior.

Ground Moving Target Indicator, GMTI, is another essential element of JSTARS technology which can identify enemy movements below.

“Combatant Commanders require unique command and control, and near real-time ISR capabilities to track the movement of enemy ground and surface forces,” she explained.

Grabowski emphasized that the JSTARS recap will be a commercial derivative aircraft designed to keep pace with rapid technological changes and reduce life-cycle costs for the service.

JSTARS uses Synthetic Aperture Radar to bounce an electromagnetic “ping” off of the ground and analyze the return signal to obtain a “rendering” or picture of activity below. Since the electronic signals travel at the speed of light – which is a known entity – an algorithm can then calculate the time of travel to determine the distance, size, shape and movement of an object or enemy threat of high value.

JSTARS planes, which have been very active supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, have flown 130,000 combat mission hours since 9/11.

Although initially constructed as a Cold War technology to monitor Soviet Union tank movements in Eastern Europe, the JSTARS has proven very helpful in key areas such as near North Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. The platform has also succeeded in performing maritime missions in the pacific theater, Southcom (U.S. Southern Command) and Central Command areas of responsibility.

The JSTARS has been able to help meet the fast-expanding maritime demand for ISR and command and control due to an upgrade of its radar to Enhanced Land/Maritime Mode, Air Force officials said.


The current JSTARS is based on a four-engine Boeing 707. Of the 16 JSTARS currently in the Air Force inventory, 11 of them are operational. The JSTARS is the only platform technically able to simultaneously perform command and control as well as ISR, Air Force developers describe.

The crew of an existing JSTARS, which can go up to 21 people or more, includes a navigator, combat systems operator, intelligence officers, technicians and battle management officers. However, technology has advanced to the point wherein a smaller crew size will now be able to accomplish more missions with less equipment and a lower hardware footprint. Advanced computer processing speeds and smaller components, when compared with previous technologies, are able to perform more missions with less hardware.

Northrop Grumman is offering a Gulfstream G550 jet engineered with a common software baseline to allow for rapid integration of emerging commercial technologies. By building their aircraft with a set of standardized IP protocol, the aircraft is designed to accommodate new software and hardware as it becomes available.

Sized smaller than other offerings, the G550 is intended to fly at higher altitudes and operate with less fuel, Northrop developers said.

“Our G550 business jet can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost. Its agility and size allows it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Vice President, Next-Generation Surveillance and Targeting, Northrop Grumman, told Scout Warrior in an interview earlier this year.

Higher altitude missions can widen the aperture of a sensor’s field-of-view, therefore reaching wider areas to surveil.

Northrop’s G550 JSTARS have flown 500 hours and gone through simulated inflight refueling behind KC-135 and KC-10 tanker aircraft. Developers say the aircraft has all-weather performance ability, provides VHF/UFH radio operations and optimizes radar performance with a layout creating no blockage from engine cowlings or wings.

The G55O is compliant to wide area surveillance common open architecture radar processing system requirements, Northrop officials said. Along with General Dynamics-owned Gulfstream, L3 is also partnering with Northrop on the JSTARS recap.

Lockheed’s Bombardier business jet, built by Sierra Nevada, offers a modified Global 600 aircraft with Raytheon-built battle management systems.

The aircraft is 94-feet long and can operate with a 100,000-pound take off gross weight; Lockheed developers claim the Global 6000, which currently flies in the Air Force inventory as the E-11A, can reach a range of 6,000 nautical miles and altitudes of 51,000 feet.

Lockheed also emphasizes that their offering places a premium on common standards and open architecture.

"Rather than using unique or customized hardware and software approaches adapted to an open systems architecture environment, our architecture is truly open and free of proprietary interfaces. This allows us to leverage state-of-the-art commercial technology to expedite integration of capabilities and minimize cost," a Lockheed statement said.


Boeing’s JSTARS uses a 110-foot 737 able to reach altitudes of 41,000-feet. Developers say it can cruise at speeds of 445 knots and carry a maximum payload of 50,000-pounds. Like other offerings, Boeing’s jet claims to accomplish an optimal size, weight, power and cooling ratio.
 

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@WebMaster This article may interest you.
This article just proved my point. The UAE does have a financial capability to procure whatever military aircraft it wishes as you mentioned but it can achieve that by converting the A-380 fleet it possesses to be used for military purposes. @Nima was talking about A-380 being heavily used which means the UAE has no plan to move those airplanes anywhere but if it does, they can be transformed into something like the Global master, C-5, A400..and so on.
 

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This article just proved my point. The UAE does have a financial capability to procure whatever military aircraft it wishes as you mentioned but it can achieve that by converting the A-380 fleet it possesses to be used for military purposes. @Nima was talking about A-380 being heavily which means the UAE has no plan to move those airplanes anywhere but if it does, they can be transformed into something like the Global master, C-5, A400..and so on.
Yep I agree the transformation (if ever) would be in accordance with the purpose(s) A 380's size can serve.
 

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Yep I agree the transformation (if ever) would be in accordance with the purpose(s) A 380's size can serve.
They can strip out the seats and have the planes serve as transporters in their current condition. Or maybe tankers for aerial refueling.
 

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They can strip out the seats and have the planes serve as transporters in their current condition. Or maybe tankers for aerial refueling.
If you ask me ....... I will tell them to refurbish it to an extent, if needed it can drop a MOAB or FOAB ......... obviously I won't be interested in the technicalities.
 

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They can strip out the seats and have the planes serve as transporters in their current condition. Or maybe tankers for aerial refueling.
The A380 has major issues, in a non passenger role..

A/c's are built so they can be stripped down to bare bones, i.e. D Checks, and maintained as close to "new" as possible. With the number of 2nd hand A380s' becoming available, (https://world-defense.com/threads/is-it-the-end-of-the-a380.4464/post-30955) military and non-military users have been considering getting them.

I will broadly try to list the issues it has:

1) Composites - Although a +ve for an aircraft, that it strengthens the air frame, but without the weight gain. The flip side is, that it makes modifying the air frame difficult. Given how the cockpit is placed tight in the middle of the a/c, a nose flip like the B747F is out of the question. The other option would have been to have the tail flip open, like the B747 Dream lifter. Because of composites, it is not possible to do this with existing a/c's. It would have suited the oversized cargo maket just fine!

B747 Dreamlifter.jpg

B747 Dream Lifter tail open.

2) Reverse thrusters - Mil A/c like the C17 can reverse a 1.5degree incline with full load. On the contrary, the A380 when landing, due to the danger of kicking up debris, has reverse thrust only in its No.2 and No.3 engines. Hence needs a much longer runaway to land as well.

3) Width of Runway - Given the length of its wings, most airports cannot handle A380. This is why it does not fly to Pakistan, although Emirates 6, B777-300 flts, per day to Karachi, could surely be replaced with 3 ~4 of the A380.

4) Landing gear - Most mil a/c's of this size, C17, A400M all have rugged landing gears, which lets them land on rough / unpaved runways. This a/c posses no such capability. And given the space constraints of the wheel wells, a simple replacement is not possible.

5) Agility - In the airborne fuel tanker role / airborne surveillance or command center role - it cargo carrying capacity is a plus, BUT the way it maneuvers, it's agility, make it a sitting duck with a huge Radar Cross Section. A major impediment.

6) Parts and Maintenance - When an aircraft of this size goes in for a C++Check or D-Check, it is gone for a month at least, meaning that a min of 2 or 3 similar a/c would be required. Given the per hour flying cost, the cost of spares, and the requisite of specialist MRO facilities, it would be very exorbitant, to operate. Keeping in mind, that Mil's sometimes are more concerned about Op-Ex than Cap-Ex.

The points above should give anyone a clearer pic as to why huge behemoth, is more less fit for the passenger, or "Maybe" palletized civilian cargo role.

This is my understanding, as always I 'm open to correction.

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This article just proved my point. The UAE does have a financial capability to procure whatever military aircraft it wishes as you mentioned but it can achieve that by converting the A-380 fleet it possesses to be used for military purposes. @Nima was talking about A-380 being heavily used which means the UAE has no plan to move those airplanes anywhere but if it does, they can be transformed into something like the Global master, C-5, A400..and so on.
Another interesting point is Emirates is going to retire some of the A380 fleet next year.

Well I'm not very well informed about this subject. I think there are some ICAO rules which prohibit convert of commercial planes to military planes. Also converting an A380 into a heavy cargo plane will require structural changes such as making huge cargo doors. we need to know the possibility of doing that.

B747-200 have many variants, theres a variant called B747-200C which is convertable to cargo and it's currently in use in IranAir. But normal passenger B747-200 is incapable to be converted.
 

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