E-8C Joint STARS

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Product Type:

Airborne Battle Management Aircraft

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

Sustainment Phase / Recapitalization

Prime Contractor:

Northrop Grumman Corporation

The E-8C Joint STARS

About the E-8 JSTARS:

The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) is an airborne battle management and command & control aircraft. The Joint STARS system conducts ground surveillance and situational awareness and supports offensive operations and targeting. The E-8C detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets enemy ground movements. Furthermore, the aircraft provides real-time information to U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army command posts through secure data links.

The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-320 airframe packed with advanced command & control and battle management systems - enabling it to perform the JSTARS mission. The aircraft is powered by four Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C turbofan engines, each delivering 19,200 pounds of thrust. The Air Force planned to re-engine the E-8C fleet with Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 turbofans. However, in May 2012, the Air Force decided it would not proceed with the re-engining program. An E-8C test aircraft was fitted with JT8D engines but no other aircraft were re-engined.

The most prominent external feature on the E-8C is the 40-foot long canoe-shaped radome (placed under the forward fuselage), which houses the 24-foot side-looking AN/APY-7 phased array antenna, which can operate in wide area surveillance, ground moving target indicator (GMTI), fixed target indicator (FTI), target classification, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes. The radar and computer subsystems on the E-8C can gather and display detailed battlefield information. The information is relayed in near-real time to Army and Marine Corps common ground stations and other ground command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) nodes. The antenna can be tilted to either side of the aircraft where it can develop a 120-degree field of view covering nearly 19,300 square miles (50,000 km²). It is capable of detecting targets more than 150 miles (250 km) away and can simultaneously track up to 600 targets. The radar also provides a limited capability to detect helicopters, rotating antennas and slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft.

The E-8C has a total crew of 22, including the four-man flight crew + a mission crew of 18 (15 Air Force and 3 Army specialists). Since 2001, the E-8C has flown over 70,000 hours in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn, and Odyssey Dawn in Libya.

Production of the E-8C commenced in 1992. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the program and has delivered a total of 19 aircraft of which one was retired in 2012. Of the remaining 18 aircraft, 16 are based with the 461st Air Control Wing (USAF Active Duty) and the 116th Air Control Wing (Georgia Air National Guard) at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. One E-8C is used as for flight training in support of 116th ACW pilots, while another, based in Melbourne, Florida, is used as test bed aircraft to support advanced technology development, testing and program upgrades.

On November 7, 2013, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $178 million contract to sustain the E-8C in a deal that continues the Total System Support Reliability program - first awarded to Northrop Grumman in 2000. On November 14, 2014, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $210 million contract to continue sustaining the E-8C fleet.

A new JSTARS recapitalization program will replace the aging E-8C JSTARS with modern, more efficient, and capable aircraft and mission systems. The Air Force plans to develop a new aircraft based on a business jet platform, which could be operational as soon as FY 2022. Past efforts to develop a JSTARS replacement have been unsuccessful. The Air Force selected Northrop Grumman's 767-based E-10 as a JSTARS successor, however, the program was terminated in FY 2007 because due to a lack of funding. The top contenders for the new JSTARS competition are Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, and Northrop Grumman. Gulfstream has proposed a platform based on their G550 or G650, while Bombardier is considering a bid with its Global 6000. Northrop Grumman has not yet announced its plans. Boeing has proposed the JSTARS replacement be a variant of the 737-based P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The Air Force expects to send out a request for proposal (RFP) in the first months of FY 2016 and select the winning bid by the end of that year.




To perform airborne battle management and command & control missions to provide military commanders with ground surveillance in support of offensive operations and targeting.

FY 2014 DoD Program:

The last year of JSTARS modernization funding is FY 2014 which funds fielding, transition and closeout efforts. Procurement funds in the amount of $49.2 million have been allocated for the E-8C JSTARS.

FY 2015 DoD Program:

No procurement funds provided in FY 2015. RDT&E funds in the amount of $73.1M have been allocated for the development of a JSTARS replacement platform. The JSTARS recapitalization program will replace the aging E-8C JSTARS with modern, more efficient, and capable aircraft and mission systems. With the decision to recapitalize the E-8C JSTARS fleet.

For more information, click to see the FY 2015 USAF E-8C Budget.

Sources: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2017 Budget

Last Update: June 24, 2016.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (kasper.oestergaard@forecast1.com)

External Resources:

Northrop Grumman: E-8C Joint STARS

YouTube: E-8C Joint Stars | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: E-8C JSTARS

E-8C U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the E-8C Joint STARS in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of E-8C Joint STARS Aircraft in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2013/14/15 + Budget for FYs 2016 + 2017

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the E-8C JSTARS Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Modification of E-8C Aircraft (USAF) Aircraft Spares and Parts (USAF)

Aircraft Specifications: E-8C Joint STARS

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Primary Function: Airborne battle management and command & control
Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp.
Power Plant: 4x Pratt & Whitney TF33-102C turbofan engines
(re-engining program with Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 turbofans cancelled in 2012)
Thrust: 19,200 pounds (each engine)
Wingspan: 145 ft 9 in (44.4 m)
Length: 152 ft 11 in (46.6 m)
Height: 42 ft 6 in (13 m)
Weight (Empty): 171,000 lbs (77,566 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 336,000 lbs (152,410 kg)
Fuel Capacity: 155,000 lbs (70,306 kg)
Payload: Electronic equipment and crew
Speed: Mach 0.52-0.65/390-510 kts/449-587 mph (723-945 km/h) optimum orbit speed
Service Ceiling: 42,000 ft (12,802 m)
Endurance: 9 hours
Armament/Weapons: None
Crew: Total: 19; Flight Crew: 4; Mission Crew: 18 (15 Air Force and 3 Army specialists)
(crew size varies according to mission)
Price/Unit Cost: $244.4 million (FY 1998 constant dollars)
First Flight: E-8A: December 1988
Deployed: Initial Operational Capability (IOC): December 18, 1997
Inventory: Total: 18; ANG: 17; Testing: 1

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