The Grumman Boeing E-8 J-STARS system conducts ground surveillance, enabling commanders to develop an understanding of the enemy situation, and to support attack operations and targeting. From a standoff position, the aircraft - a modified Boeing 707-320 series commercial aircraft - detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links with U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army command posts. The most prominent external feature is the 12 meters long, canoe-shaped radome under the forward fuselage that houses the 7, 3 meters long, side-looking phase array antenna. From racetrack orbit the E-8 uses the Norden radar to peer sideways in three modes to build up a complete picture of all ground movements within its search sector.
The E-8A is the only version that not has been modified for air refueling.