There is a compelling need for Congress to fund the installation of a sophisticated new overhead monitoring radar on the Air Force’s fleet of E-8C Joint STARS aircraft, argues Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. “Warfighters in Iraq have identified an urgent operational need for the new capability,” he writes in an April 8 issue brief. “The technology works, and it could greatly improve the ability of US forces to track ground vehicles, whether they are fast-moving tanks or aged Toyotas getting into position for a suicide attack.” But because of funding shortages, the Air Force does not have funds to install a larger variant of the Northrop Grumman-Raytheon multi-platform radar technology insertion program on its fleet of 17 Joint STARS platforms. MP-RTIP is a sophisticated active electronically scanned array radar for peering down on ground targets in all weather and tracking elusive moving targets with much greater precision than is currently possible with the Joint STARS’s existing radar. Instead the Air Force can only afford to install a smaller variant of MP-RTIP on 15 of its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. “The bigger, more capable version of MP-RTIP will disappear this summer unless money is included in the 2008 supplemental appropriation for the Iraq war,” Thompson writes.
Robins Air Force Base, Ga., has completed two environmental reviews, clearing the way for new construction to support the bases four new missions sets, which will replace the E-8 Joint STARS mission that has defined the base for decades.