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Interesting facts about the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System)

The Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS is the aircraft of the United Air Force which performs the following roles for the army.

  • Airborne Ground Surveillance
  • Battle management
  • Command & Control

Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS

The word STARS in this aircraft’s designation is the abbreviation for the Surveillance Target Attack Radar System which allows the aircraft to track the ground vehicles, some of the aircraft along with a collection of imagery and relaying the said tactical picture to both its air and the ground commanders. This aircraft is currently in the operational working of both the USAF and the Air National Guard along with carrying the US Army people which are specially trained for its additional crew.

Grumman E-8

The aircraft is often dubbed by the US Army as the “AWACS for ground pounders” which is made possible with its God’s Eye View that allows the aircraft to have a mapping of the nearly 19500 square miles of the battlespace area. The aircraft is equipped with large-sized radar which is easily locatable under its fuselage section. This radar is so powerful that it is able to detect even the small objects moving in a range of nearly 250 kilometers. The radar fitted inside this aircraft is the AN/APY-7 synthetic aperture radar which makes the enemy radars unable to hide from its sensors.

E-8 Joint STARS

For our readers today, we bring to you some of the amazing facts about the Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS (Surveillance Target Attack Radar System).


 E-8 Joint STARS

A single one of the E-8 Joint STARS aircraft is powered by 4 of the Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C engines and each of them creates a thrust of nearly 19200 pounds each. This gives the aircraft a top speed of nearly 587 mph while the cruising speed is 449 mph. the aircraft has a fuel capacity of nearly 70306 kilograms which allow for the aircraft to stay in the air for nearly 9 hours at an altitude of 42000 feet.

As for the crew of the E-8 Joint STARS, it includes the following personnel.

  • Flight Crew: 4 members
  • Mission Crew: 15 members
  • Army Specialists: 3 9 this can vary due to mission needs)

The cost of a single one of the E-8 Joint STARS is about 244.4 million dollars and the US Air Force and the Air National Guard has nearly 156 of these aircraft.

Cold War-era Design still capable in the 21st Century

The E-8 Joint STARS is officially named with its designation E-8 Joint STARS the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System back in the Cold War Era. The E-8 Joint STARS was butyl to be an invaluable asset for US Air Force by making modifications to the Boeing 700-300; a commercial liner. The aircraft’s design was approved and started back in the Cold War Era but then it was cancelled by the Pentagon after the Soviet Union collapsed following end of the Cold War.

US Air Force

However, the program once again got revived after the Persian Gulf War conflict which started back in 1991. The US Army at that time needed the immediate scanning of the large areas of the enemy battlefield for locating heir dug-in armoured assets as well as their mobile missile sites. Seeing his need, the first prototype of the E-8 Joint STARS was rushed into the active duty service in the Persian Gulf. Shortly after the first one, a second one was built and these two E-8 Joint STARS aircraft flew for nearly 500 flight hours with a success rate of 100 per cent. The aircraft not only served extensively for the US in the Persian Gulf conflict and its War on Terrorism but also served the NATO as their go-to battle platform for their intervention during the Yugoslavian Civil War.

God’s Eye

The E-8 Joint STARS is equipped with following sensors that allow the aircraft to gather the Intel of the enemy ad relay it to its ground stations.

  • Radar
  • Infrared

Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS control board

However, all of these are only one part of the aircraft’s job but the real purpose of the aircraft is something else entirely. A single E-8 Joint STARS has onboard staff of nearly 18 operators along with sensors operators. These personnel work on the aircraft for following tasks.

  • Command & Control
  • Communications
  • Computer systems
  • Intelligence missions

In simpler terms, the E-8 Joint STARS is acting for the US Army as its airborne and on-the-scene commando post which works to coordinate the forces of army form their different branches or the forces of their allies and all of this is being done in real-time.

Counterinsurgency Specialty

The E-8 Joint STARS was initially designed ad entered into the service for the coordination of extremely large and complex mobile battlefields that were during the World War II type case. However, despite being built for the aforementioned purpose, the aircraft has proved to be an invaluable asset even for the counter-insurgency warfare missions of small scale.

Until 2015, the fleet of the E-8 Joint STARS has flown for an accumulated of little over 85000 mission flight hours for supporting the army in following conflicts.

  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan
  • Libya
  • Syria

The engine of the E-8 Joint STARS has the endurance of nearly 9 hours without a need of refueling and only a handful of other surveillance aircraft can match this feat of E-8, thus making it an invaluable support for the army in their ground operations.

Despite the type of mission such as coordination of large scale operations for thousands of army troops or to help a single platoon to find a way out of trouble; these roles are performed by the E-8 Joint STARS perfectly. It is truly a Guardian Angel for the US Army watching them and showing them the way from skies.


Some new upgrades and modifications have been made in the systems of the E-8 Joint STARS which now also act as a node for the Fire Control Network. After these upgrades, the E-8 Joint STARS has been able to successfully locate the mobile targets of enemy forces and help the US Navy to fire the AGM-154C-1 Joint Standoff Weapon from its jet fighters, the F/A-18 Hornets.

In other performance capabilities of the E-8 Joint STARS, it is serving as the US Army’s surveillance aircraft to monitor the demilitarized Zone of Korea. The peace n the Korean Peninsula is being maintained with E-8 Joint STARS’s ability to scan its demilitarized zone for any camouflaged infiltrators along with spotting the concentration of any force’s activity in hundreds of kilometers north of this DMZ zone.

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