GRAYLING, Mich., Aug. 4, 2017 — For the last five years, the Michigan National Guard has hosted Northern Strike, a National Guard Bureau-sponsored exercise uniting about 5,000 service members from 13 states and five coalition countries at Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center in northern Michigan.
This year, the exercise features one of the most advanced and versatile pieces of military technology: the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, known as Joint STARS, an advanced and battle-management system.
The E-8C Joint STARS is a modified Boeing 707, an aircraft that was originally manufactured in the 1960s. Internally, it’s equipped with 22 radios, seven data links, two internets and secure telephone capability, all operated by 21 personnel.
The Joint STARS team consists of the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing, the active-duty 461st Air Control Wing, and Army Joint STARS personnel and it provides simultaneous wide-area joint airborne command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support over land and water from a manned platform to combatant commanders around the globe.
The joint total-force integration unit operates the world’s only Joint STARS weapon system, based out of Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Its role during Northern Strike 2017 is to provide battle-management command and control as well as intelligence, and reconnaissance data.
The realistic training scenarios during Northern Strike 2017 present the Joint STARS team with “abundant opportunities to hone our wartime capabilities while incorporating our joint and multinational partners,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Billings, mission crew commander with the 116th Air Control Wing’s 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron.
The newly accredited Northern Strike 2017 demonstrates the Michigan National Guard’s ability to provide , readiness-building opportunities for military units from all service branches to achieve and sustain proficiency in conducting mission command, air, sea, and ground maneuver integration, together with the synchronization of fires in a joint, multinational, decisive action environment, exercise officials said.