Joint STARS Upgrade Complete

Airmen of the 751st Electronic Systems Group at Hanscom AFB, Mass., have completed a retrofit that gives operators at workstations onboard the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft the ability to chat, correspond via e-mail messages, and browse the DOD’s secure secret Internet network from any location. This upgrade has “fundamentally changed the nature” of how Joint STARS aircraft are used in the war theater today to support ground operations, said Capt. Kate Stowe, program manager for the beyond-line-of-sight project. BLOS culminated last month with the installation of a beyond-line-of-site ground-entry station in Virginia. The project began in response to an urgent operational need in February 2007. The first of the upgraded E-8Cs appeared in the war theater in March 2008 and the final Joint STARS was upgraded by the Air Force, working with prime contractor Northrop Grumman, last December. Stowe noted that the BLOS program was finished early and on cost. Next up is how to incorporate greater bandwidth into the BLOS system. (Hanscom report by Monica D. Morales)