Team JSTARS trainer still going strong after a decade

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
The Team Joint STARS Mission Maintenance Trainer not only trains air crew members in a simulated and technically-sophisticated environment, but also keeps them safe as they are tested and evaluated before deploying worldwide.

"It's a great tool for us to practice wartime techniques without putting our people in harm's way," said Col. Mark Weber, 116th Operations Group commander.

The Joint STARS trainer has made its home at Robins for more than 10 years.

"What is significant today is we have trained in it for over 40,000 hours," explained Weber. "In the last two years alone, we have had absolutely no failure - a 100 percent mission-capable rate to send people in there without fear of it failing."

Surpassing that 40,000 hours' worth of simulated training in the last two years is a significant milestone in the history of JSTARS, added Weber.

The Air Force's E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform that includes a crew of 21; 18 crew members run the radar and communication systems onboard that can basically see huge areas of the earth.

"The trainer gives us the ability to put those 18 people into a simulated environment, running the exact same equipment they would utilize on a plane," continued Weber. "What it allows us to also do is test and practice for wars that we're not even conducting today, but may conduct tomorrow. We can test techniques we think may be employed in future generations of warfare."

While Joint STARS planes are fighting on multiple fronts across the globe, the trainer back home allows the mission to continue without missing a beat.

"That is what we do. We protect other people through a robust C2ISR platform," he noted.

Up to 18 crew members can use the training system at any given time. Over the years, 3,500 people have learned how to employ Joint STARS, an ever-evolving process much different today than it was a decade ago.

Also through simulation, the trainer can connect to other mission trainers across the country, whether linking up with F-16 fighters, A-10s, or B-1 bombers, for example, of which Joint STARS plays a vital role. Debriefing following simulation exercises are also important as players from across the country learn from one another in order to enhance advanced warfighting techniques.

"Our mission trainer is extremely capable," Weber said.

Northrop Grumman is responsible for maintaining the software onboard the Joint STARS plane as well as the mission trainer.

"Our partners at Northrop Grumman have given us an extremely reliable system - bottom line," he said. "They are technically proficient at what they do and they've given us exceptional capability."

Over the last 10 years, Joint STARS has logged more than 80,000 hours in a combat environment and has been airborne for more than nine straight years. Couple that while being 'airborne simulated' for four solid years, and air crew members have been up in the skies at some point for 13 years.

"That is incredible. You could not match that level of capability anywhere else," he said.