Naval Air: JSTARS Goes To Sea

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July 5, 2007: The U.S. Air Force has successfully tested new software for its JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft, that enables it to spot ships, and small boats, at sea. The new software takes into account the wave movement, which created a lot of false hits, until new signal processing software was developed which, in effect, prevented moving water messing up JSTARS view of what was on the surface.

The JSTARS radar has two modes; wide area (showing a 25 by 20 kilometer area) and detailed (4,000 by 5,000 meters). The radar can see out to several hundred kilometers and each screen full of information could be saved and brought back later to compare to another view (to see what has moved). In this manner, operators can track the movement of ground vehicles, or ships. Operators can also use the detail mode to pick out specific details of what's going on down there, like tracking the movement of many small missile boats trying to rush an American warship. JSTARS can stay up there for over 12 hours at a time, and two or more JSTARS can operate in shifts to provide 24/7 coverage.

A radar, similar to what the JSTARS uses, is being installed in a Global Hawk UAV. The navy is planning to use UAVs for a lot of its future maritime patrol work.

Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar consists of thousands of tiny radars that can be independently aimed in different directions. A recent improvement in the JSTARS AESA radar enables them to spot smaller, man sized, objects. AESA type radars have been around a long time, popular mainly for their ability deal with lots of targets simultaneously, and produce a more accurate picture of what is out there. Production versions of the open water JSTARS radar software won't be installed in deployed aircraft until next year.

 


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