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ESC Played Significant Role During Desert Storm

ESC Played Significant Role During Desert Storm

By Kevin Gilmartin, Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs.

Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts -- January 19, 2001 (AFPN) -- For some people, it seems like only yesterday, for others, it seems like eons ago, but in truth, this week marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. It was the evening of Jan. 17, 1991 that the nation held its collective breath and tuned into news stations to watch and hear the beginning of America's first war since Vietnam.

The American public remained riveted by continuing coverage of the country's high-tech assault. And at the Electronic Systems Center, then known as Electronic Systems Division, people immediately shifted into high gear to ensure America's troops in the desert had the command and control capabilities necessary to turn back the aggression of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and liberate Kuwait.

Although Operation Desert Storm officially began Jan. 16 and actual hostilities got under way Jan. 17, American and coalition troops began building up in the region in August 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Realizing the need to keep an eagle eye on Hussein and his troops, American commanders turned to a program still in its early stages of development, the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, an airborne radar that can detect and track troop and armor formations on the ground well behind enemy lines.

Even though the program consisted of only two development aircraft, both systems were deployed with only three weeks notice to the Middle East Jan. 11, 1991, along with 30 ESD people -- two from Hanscom and the other 28 from the Joint Test Force in Melbourne, Fla.

The two aircraft, each capable of 12-hour sorties, became the heart of the newly formed 4411th Joint STARS Squadron. The two aircraft alternated 12-hour missions every night, logging more than 500 hours in the skies, relaying data back to Army and Air Force commanders.

Joining Joint STARS in the skies over the Persian Gulf was another ESD-developed system, the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System. Thirty AWACS were deployed, providing comprehensive air traffic control of nearly all the aircraft in the theater, and logging more than 900 sorties totalling 15,000 hours.

It wasn't just programs developed here that deployed to the gulf, but Hanscom people representing security police, services, office of special investigation and morale, welfare, and recreation who headed overseas to do their part.

In fact, as people tuned in for daily press conferences they often saw Hanscom's Public Affairs Officer, Lt. Col. Michael Gallagher, conducting the conferences from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Yellow ribbons adorned houses and buildings across America, including on Hanscom, as people awaited the safe return of our forces from the desert. Although the Persian Gulf War didn't last too long -- it ended Feb. 28, 1991 - 148 American servicemen and women lost their lives in the conflict.

As the deployed military began returning home to Hanscom, they were met by relieved relatives and thankful military and civilians waving flags and holding signs.

The two Joint STARS aircraft and their crews returned home to Melbourne Fla., on March 11, 1991. On May 15, the base held a welcome home picnic and parade honoring all who had served in the conflict.

During the celebration, then ESD Commander Lt. Gen. Gordon E. Fornell said, "Joint STARS provided a God's-eye view of the battle that commanders have never had before in any kind of conflict ... That was one realistic test program."

Some of the other ESD programs in the Saudi Theater included:

  • Constant Source; computer terminals which incorporate and correlate intelligence data to unit-level forces.
  • Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center; a command center used by tactical air forces in the forward battle area.
  • Military Airlift Command C2 Information Processing system which provided the Military Airlift Command with information needed to track airlift deployments.
  • Have Iron; an upgrade to U.S. Transportation Command's global transportation Network, providing high-speed workstations.
  • Physical Security Systems; solar powered relocatable intrusion detection systems that provided ground threat security to coalition assets.
  • Sentinel Byte and the Intra-theater Imagery Transmission System; intelligence systems for tactical air force units.
  • Air Situation Display; a system that provided communications capability for security forces.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).