The Air Force’s Fiscal 2015 budget request, released Tuesday, calls for a 40 percent reduction in USAF’s current fleet of E-8C JSTARS. However, it also provides $2.4 billion over the Future Years Defense Program for a JSTARS replacement aircraft. The next-gen JSTARS will be an “affordable commercially available aircraft,” that is expected to reduce operational and sustainment costs by 27 percent, according to budget documents. “It yields a smaller logistics footprint and improves operational capability with an advanced ground surveillance radar and on-board battle management suite,” states the documents. The next-gen JSTARS fleet is slated to reach initial operational capability in Fiscal 2022 with a planned fleet of 16 aircraft. “The new aircraft will have much greater operational flexibility than the E-8C, [and it will be] able to operate out of 70 percent more airfields,” states the document. To fund the recapitalization effort, the Fiscal 2015 budget request also seeks to divest the Air Force’s E-8C test capability, including the T-3 test aircraft. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the JSTARS fleet is one of the Defense Department’s high-demand, low-density platforms. “What we try to do is to meet combatant commanders at the times when they need them the most, but it’s hard to maintain a persistent presence with the JSTARS globally,” Dempsey told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. (Air Force Fiscal 2015 budget overview)