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US Air Force retires E-8C JSTARS

The last E-8C JSTARS takes off at Robins AFB, Georgia, on 4 November. (116th Air Control Wing, USAF)

The US Air Force (USAF) has formally retired the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) in a 4 November ceremony at Robins Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia.

The E-8C, a Boeing 707-320C aircraft with an AN/APY-7 Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) mounted to its belly, entered service in 1991 to perform the ground moving target indicator (GMTI) role for the USAF. The E-8C flew “more than 14,259 operational sorties equalling 141,169 flying hours in support of every combatant command around the world”, according to a USAF statement.

The last operational sortie was flown on 21 September out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, according to the USAF's Air Combat Command. The final operating aircraft is to be sent to Kelly AFB, Texas, where it is likely to become a ground-based trainer for the USAF's remaining 707-based platforms.

Fleet divestment began in February 2022, when the first E-8C was sent to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. While the type could theoretically be brought back into service, the GMTI function has moved to other types such as the unmanned Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk. The US Department of Defense (DoD) ultimately plans to move GMTI to low-Earth orbit satellites.

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