The Leaner, More Effective JSTARS

Air Combat Command has approved the capabilities design document for the follow-on platform to the E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance aircraft, said Col. Henry Cyr, 461st Air Control Wing commander at Robins AFB, Ga. The document will serve as the foundation for determining the attributes of the future airplane, he told reporters on Sept. 15 at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. Although many CDD details remain under wraps, Cyr said the follow-on platform would be a “business-class jet,” in a size ranging “from a Gulfstream 550-type jet to a Boeing 737 business jet variant.” It will not be a widebody 767-type aircraft, said Cyr, as the crew requirements will likely be fewer, he said. The E-8C carries a crew of some 20 personnel, including the aircrew, battle managers, technicians, and intelligence personnel. Although there will be fewer crew members, Cyr said he does not believe capability will be lost, since next-generation aircraft have more modern electronics that require less maintenance and space. “No more aircraft have flight engineers today,” he said. The Air Force aims to start operating the JSTARS follow-on in 2022.