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Projecting Airpower: JSTARS join aircraft utilizing PSAB to modernize employment for future

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

Since its revitalization as a host for U.S. forces in 2019, Prince Sultan Air Base has evolved to provide needed operational depth in the Middle East.

Led by the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing, Prince Sultan AB has transformed into a major hub of support for U.S. Central Command’s projection of decisive airpower and deterrence throughout the region. In doing so, PSAB has supported a variety of combat aircraft including the F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and the F-35A Lightning II.

Now, with its recent support of the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (Sentry), the installation is not only a staging point for smaller aircraft but it is also helping modernize the tactics and employment of the Air Force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

“PSAB isn’t just an operating base for F-16s or F-15Es anymore,” said Brig. Gen. John Walker, 378th AEW commander. “This base is currently leading the charge in providing key operational depth for all airframes in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility.”

This past week, members of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) assigned to the 7th Expeditionary Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, forward deployed to Prince Sultan AB to improve its employment capability in the region.

The rapid deployment and agile combat employment exercise, which ran from March 8-10 provided the aircrew and its maintainers a unique operating wrinkle to an aircraft which has primarily operated from a more established location for the previous 18 years.

“Most of our aircrews have never worked to employ forces as quickly as we are asking them,” said Maj. John Miller, 7th EACCS Detachment commander. “In today’s Air Force, we need to expand our lethality through innovation in processes and flexibility in employment. This is our first step toward that with this particular airframe.”

According to Miller, this exercise affords his aircrews the opportunity to train in conducting a rapid deployment to an austere environment.

“Adding agility is key for us when speaking about an aircraft not historically known for its flexibility,” Miller said. “We are proving that we can truly operate anywhere to support our men and women conducting critical operations on the ground.”

The JSTARS is a joint U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army program that detects, tracks and classifies vehicles in all conditions deep behind enemy lines by using a multi-mode side looking radar. The system evolved from Army and Air Force programs to develop, detect, locate and attack enemy armor at ranges beyond the forward area of troops.

During their exercise, members of the JSTARS team were able to work with their Royal Saudi air force coalition partners and members of the 378th AEW to project capability from Prince Sultan AB.

“We are pushing the way we employ this airframe to new heights,” said Maj. Tyler Lohrenz, 7th EACCS. “This isn’t an exercise we conduct every day. It tests our ability to provide vital support to our coalition forces on the ground, while also preparing our aircrew for an increase in scope and capability of our own aircraft and mission in the future.”

The JSTARS exercise at Prince Sultan AB shows CENTCOM’s adjustments to increase survivability and deterrence capabilities in the region. Additionally, increasing U.S. forces’ interoperability with coalition partners provides more reason to operate from this key operating location.

“(Prince Sultan AB) will continue to operate and evolve to conduct the missions necessary to stabilize the region,” Walker said. “Malign actors need to know that as long as there is a need for U.S. Forces here, the men and women of (Prince Sultan AB) will meet the challenges presented in defense of our coalition partners and our joint brothers on the ground.”