The US Air Force began working on the next generation Joint Stars (JSTARS) aircraft on 27 March 2014. The current sixteen E-8Cs are getting old and need a replacement.
The E-8C is a technically speaking a Boeing 707 airliner blended with the so-called Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. It makes the aircraft an airborne command and control/intelligence post, a surveillance and reconnaissance asset, an essential supporter of attack operations and supplies air and ground commanders with targeting information. A designated team from Hanscom Air Force Base is now tasked to provide answer to how the future JSTARS should be.
The current system is comprised of a radar and computer systems, which display real-time battlefield information, and a 24-foot long antenna that is capable of detecting targets from long distances. Joint STARS, which first flew during Desert Storm in 1991,d has been a consistently used military asset for nearly two decades.
From an earlier study the USAF has a recommendation on the table to put a similar advanced radar and on-board computer system on a significantly smaller, more efficient business jet class airframe. How it will look? Who knows, but US Congress has authorized the use of US$ 73 million to come up with answers.
The Hanscom AFB team is conducting risk reduction studies and market research for the aircraft, radar and communications. During this phase, the Air Force plans on using existing contracts to define requirements, support demos and issue preliminary designs.
Initial operational capability of the NextGen JSTARS is projected for 2022, with full operational capability for 2025.
Source: US Air Force