WHO GETS TO CONTROL THE SYSTEM?
By Julian Nettlefold
Dr Dale Burton, vice president of Technology and Chief Technology Officer for Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Integrated Systems sector, met BATTLESPACE at the Dubai Air Show
“The current buzz word revolve around UAV ISR capability in the battlespace, does this mean the end of the manned ISR mission with systems like Joint-STARS?” The Editor asked Dale Burton.
“The real issue is who gets to control the system, not whether it is manned or unmanned. Joint-STARS is now a truly Joint system under the control of a Blended Wing under the control of Air Combat Command, with a National Guard Commander, Brigadier General Moore. You must look at the whole issue of wide area surveillance to put the question in perspective. Joint-STARS can cover an area one third the size of Florida in one swath. Not only that, its advanced battle management capability means that the sensor can conduct 16 concurrent jobs in a mission which can take 20 hours with refuelling. In fact it is the limitations of the engines and the crew which limits longer endurance. Our current re-engining Program will ensure that the Joint-STARS fleet has better and longer endurance.”
“How does this capability compare with Global Hawk or Predator?”
“Joint-STARS can cruise at 450 knots whilst Global Hawk reaches 280 knots and Predator 170 knots at 20,000ft. Thus Joint-STARS can move to cover an area in a much faster time than its UAV competitors and is thus more flexible. In addition, the size limitations of the Global Hawk means that the MP-RTIP antenna is only a 4 x 20 foot version of MP-RTIP versus the current Joint-STARS AP-3 sensor of 4 x 20ft, which gives you the wide area capability. However, given that there are only 17 Joint-STARS aircraft, the service needs more ISTAR assets, thus the growth in unmanned systems which are of course cheaper to deploy and require less manning. There will always, in my view, be a mix of manned and unmanned systems.”
“Does the tanker impasse impinge on the future of Joint-STARS?”
“The original plan envisaged by General Jumper saw the current Boeing 707 Joint-STARS platform being replaced by a GFE Boeing 767 with an MP-RTIP sensor under the $1 billion E-101A Program. We traded Joint-STARS aircraft 18 and 19 for E-10A for which we won the Battle Management system in a competition against Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. This was then cancelled in 2004.”
The original tanker specification required a medium sized aircraft based on the Boeing 767 which would be a common platform with E-10A. The cancellation of E-10A and the tanker decision stalled the whole project to replace the ageing fleet of Boeing 707 aircraft in the U.S. military inventory. In September 2006 the Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker fleet celebrated 50 years of enhancing fighter, bomber and cargo aircraft missions. The aging tanker has received several upgrades over the years to the point it is almost a completely different aircraft than when it first flew in the 1950s, The Boeing Military Airplane Company’s model 367-80 was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker. In 1954 the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future fleet of 732. The first of these aircraft left the assembly line at Boeing Airplane Company, Renton, Washington, July 18, 1956, and flew for the first time August 31, 1956. The Air Force received its first KC-135s at Castle Air Force Base, Calif., Jun 28, 1957. The first aircraft flew in August 1956 and the initial-production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in June 1957. The last KC-135A was delivered to the Air Force in 1965. About 550 of the tankers built – all by Boeing at its Seattle facilities – remain in service. As of May 2002, the Air Force had 545 KC-135 Tankers, 134 E Models and 411 R Models.
In addition, Boeing built 88 aircraft in over 30 different models for other Air Force uses, s