FCW in Mid-East: JSTARS keeps eye on enemy
- By Dan Caterinicchia
Federal Computer Week's Dan Caterinicchia
is in the Middle East, reporting on the role that IT plays in the Iraq war.
Like ADT, FCW is a 101communications LLC publication.
FCW - CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - After proving its mettle in the skies over southwest
Asia during Operation Desert Storm, the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar
System (JSTARS) once again is helping commanders keep an eye on the enemy.
JSTARS is providing coalition ground commanders with a real-time picture of
moving targets on the battlefield and shortening the time it takes to engage
and destroy enemy forces.
"Every Operation Iraqi Freedom ground commander has had a better understanding
of the battlefield because of JSTARS contributions," said Air Force Lt.
Col. Mick Quintrall, commander of 363rd Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control
A joint Army/Air Force program, JSTARS is an aircraft-based system that uses
sophisticated radar sensors to track slow-moving vehicles. While flying in friendly
airspace, JSTARS crew members can detect and track ground movements deep in
hostile territory, collecting valuable data for planning attacks and assessing
The system, carried on Air Force E-8C aircraft, uses a high-powered computer
server to process and analyze data, then relays the information to Army ground
stations and other command and control systems.
"During this war, increased sentry capability has been due to increased
numbers of E-8C aircraft, increased numbers of aircrews, as well as improved
reliability and upgraded onboard computers," Quintrall said in an April
2 e-mail sent from a desert air base. "The JSTARS radar product to the
battlefield commander and [Central Command] command and control centers has
demonstrated improved moving ground target tracking and quicker sensor-to-commander
nodes on the ground."
The aircraft have a range of more than 150 miles, according to the Federation
of American Scientists. Air Force officials confirmed that JSTARS provides "wide-area
surveillance," but said the exact range is classified.
One of the newest JSTARS' features is a data linking capability with the Army's
Apache Longbow helicopter, which although not perfect is paying dividends on
the battlefield, Quintrall said.
"This limited ability provides cooperative attack capability and information
exchange between JSTARS and the helicopter, which allows the Apache to better
make targeting decisions," he said.
The JSTARS desert-deployed squadron includes active-duty Army and Air Force
personnel and members of the Georgia Air National Guard and civilian contractors,
he said. To date, those crews have flown more than 50 missions as part of Operation
Iraqi Freedom and more than 130 for Operation Southern Watch, according to service
officials. Quintrall flies on the aircraft as mission crew commander.
There are 15 aircraft in the JSTARS fleet, but Quintrall would not say how
many of those are being used to support the war effort. Due to operational security,
he also would not comment on any upcoming operations.