C4iSR: Air

Pentagon budget 2019: USAF secretary says JSTARS meets few combatant commander requirements

14 February 2018
US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the current JSTARS fleet only meets 5% of combatant commander requirements, one reason the service decided against recapitalizing the aircraft Source: Northrop Grumman

Key Points

  • The US Air Force secretary believes its current JSTARS fleet meets 5% of requirements
  • The service has decided to divert billions of US dollars to other BMC2 efforts

The US Air Force (USAF) is moving away from recapitalising its fleet of Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft because they only meet 5% of combatant commander requirements and vehicle technology that can carry sensors has advanced, according to service Secretary Heather Wilson.

Wilson said things have changed since JSTARS was originally introduced in 1991. She said now almost everything is a sensor that can connect and that the USAF has unmanned aerial vehicles, manned aerial vehicles, and can perform battle management from the ground in many cases.

Wilson said JSTARS was a radical and experimental new programme when the USAF pushed it to the Gulf war, but that the service was now questioning whether recapitalising the programme was the best use of money.

“Do we want to do the same thing again,” she told reporters at the Pentagon on 13 February.

The USAF on 12 February announced it was cancelling its JSTARS recap programme and diverting those funds towards other battle management command and control (BMC2) priorities. The service, in its fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request, anticipated requesting about USD2 billion through FY 2022 for JSTARS recap. USAF spokesperson Ann Stefanek said on 13 February that this was a budget request and that the service will work with Congress as it continues with source selection.

Wilson said the USAF is pursuing a post-JSTARS concept that provides more combatant commander requirements by linking sensors together, including sensors that can linger for much longer, and produce a better picture of the battlespace. USAF Vice-Chief of Staff General Stephen Wilson, appearing with Wilson, said the service will build a resilient network to ensure the USAF can get information from its fourth- and fifth-generation fighters and connect to Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

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