Three Contractors Advance for Air Force JSTARS Replacement

 - August 10, 2015, 3:40 PM
A U.S. Air Force crew works aboard an E-8C airborne command and control and surveillance aircraft. (Courtesy: Northrop Grumman)

The U.S. Air Force awarded preliminary development contracts to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman for its effort to replace the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JStars) with a newer aircraft. An unnamed fourth bidder was eliminated from contention, according to the contract awards announced on August 7.

The Air Force awarded pre-engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contracts worth $11.5 million to Lockheed Martin, $10 million to Northrop Grumman and $9.9 million to Boeing. “Contractor activities will help assess maturity of subsystem technology, reduce weapon system integration risk, and lower life cycle cost by virtue of design,” the service stated. It expects the pre-EMD work to be completed by next July.

JStars is a command and control as well as a radar platform based on the Boeing 707-300. The Air Force plans to replace its current fleet of 16 E-8Cs with the same number of new aircraft fitted with an onboard battle management suite, advanced communications and updated ground surveillance radar. Under the JStars recapitalization program, the service expects to award an EMD contract in 2017, with initial operational capability of the new platform following in 2022.

Northrop Grumman, the current E-8C contractor, on June 12 announced that it will offer a JStars system based on the Gulfstream G550 business jet, leading a team that includes General Dynamics, its Gulfstream subsidiary and L-3. Days later, Lockheed Martin said it is teaming with Raytheon and Bombardier to offer a system based on Bombardier’s Global business jet. Boeing has said it will offer a variant of its 737-700 airliner for the Air Force requirement.