Differing JSTARS Concepts

The Air Force went for diversity in its three choices as finalists in the competition to recapitalize the E-8C JSTARS fleet. The Air Force broadly indicated it wanted the airplane to be based on a “business jet,” which a spokesman said was a generic term for a “commercially available class of aircraft” smaller than the E-8C. Boeing’s JSTARS recap would be hosted aboard its 737-700 airplane, with many systems borrowed from its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance airplane. Northrop Grumman—which was the E-8 JSTARS integrator—flew a demonstrator around to USAF bases in recent months aboard a Gulfstream 550. Lockheed Martin announced at the Paris Air Show in June it had teamed with Raytheon and Bombardier on a proposal to be hosted on Bombardier’s Global 6000 business jet. The Air Force plans to fly a radar between 16 and 20 feet long aboard the JSTARS recap. The service expects the next JSTARS to fly at about 40,000 feet, and take advantage of commercial systems and engines as much as possible. The program is ranked fourth or fifth on USAF’s list of top-five priority programs, which include the F-35 fighter, KC-46 tanker, Long-Range Strike Bomber and T-X trainer. Under the pre-EMD contracts awarded Friday, the selected contractors are meant to identify the highest-risk elements of the JSTARS recap and offer ways to reduce that risk.