Spy plane contract to be awarded in fiscal 2018: U.S. Air Force

Wed Mar 16, 2016 2:12pm EDT

The U.S. Air Force contract to start replacing the aging fleet of JSTARS spy and battle management planes is expected to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2018, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said on Wednesday.

James told a U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing it was regrettable it was taking longer than expected to award the engineering, manufacturing and development contract.

Last year the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer approved the next step in a multibillion-dollar competition to replace 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, or JSTARS, which have flown over 100,000 combat hours and are approaching the end of their service life.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source reuters.com

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Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Stars

Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Stars @kf4lmt.files.wordpress.com

In 1985 Grumman won a contract to produce two development E-8A prototype J-STARS based on two used Boeing 707-320C aircraft. The development of the new radar was subcontracted to Norden Systems. The first prototype E-8A finally flew in April 1988 without the radar installed and flew with the radar installed on 22 Dec 88. The second J-STARS made its first flight on 31 Aug 89 and later that year both aircraft conducted communication trials and made visits to Europe. The original acquisition plan called for 10 J-STARS aircraft, but in Apr 88 this was increased to 22 aircraft using new Boeing 707 airframes. However, Boeing was planning to close the 707 production line in May 91 and, as a consequence, the cost of each airframe was increasing. Eventually in Nov 89 it was decided to purchase a number of used Boeing 707-300 airframes and convert them into production E-8C J-STARS. In 1990 a contract for a single pre-production E-8C was awarded, this was followed in 1993 by another Low Rate Initial Production contract for five aircraft. Source spyflight.co.uk

Joint STARS cut awayThe weapon’s section of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft voices targeted information to the fighter and bomber aircraft @northropgrumman.com

JSTARS has secure voice and datalinks to the army’s ground command and communications stations and to the air force command centres. Voice communications systems include 12 encrypted UHF radios, two encrypted HF radios, three VHF encrypted radios with provision for single channel ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS) and multiple intercom nets.

The digital datalinks include a satellite communications link (SATCOM), a surveillance and control datalink (SCDL) for transmission to mobile ground stations, and Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). The JTIDS provides tactical air navigation (TACAN) operation and Tactical Data Information Link-J (TADIL-J) generation and processing.

E-8 JSTARS Connectivity @defenceindustrydaily.com

The Cubic Defense Systems SCDL is a time division multiple access datalink incorporating flexible frequency management. The system employs wideband frequency hopping, coding and data diversity to achieve robustness against hostile jamming. Uplink transmissions use a modulation technique to determine the path delay between the ground system module and the E-8 aircraft.  Excerpt from airforce-technology.com

E-8A prototype J-STARS based on two used Boeing 707-320C aircraft@angelfire.com

Boeing’s 737-300BBJ1-based offering for JSTARS

Boeing’s 737-300BBJ1-based offering for JSTARS@flightglobal.com

In yet another twist to the long running quest for a JSTARS replacement (previously dominated by the 767-based E-10A), Boeing is now proposing also an armed variant of their P-8A MMA…..

Quote:

“Boeing has revealed a new version of the P-8 Poseidon aimed at challenging the primacy of the 707-based Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) as a platform that detects and strikes moving targets on the ground.

The 737-based P-8 aerial ground surveillance (AGS) concept, unveiled as a wall-sized mural at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium on 18 February, proposes to add a next generation radar, such as the Raytheon Advanced Airborne Sensor (AAS), and – unlike the unarmed E-8C – an onboard package of bombs and missiles.”

Though this time around, it seems NG’s alliances with the competition in previous tenders has caused a fallout, resulting in Raytheon being mentioned as a likely sensor partner. Predictably, NG reacted quickly to the concept. 

Presumably, fairings would be built onto the airframe of this old conceptual SIGINT design to accommodate the arrays.

 
https://i0.wp.com/www.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/AIR_737_SIGINT_Cutaway_lg.jpg 737-based P-8 aerial ground surveillance (AGS) concept @airliners.net
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