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 delivered a total of 19 aircraft of which one was retired in 2012.

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 by FY2022. 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 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.




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

FY 2020 & FY 2021 - E-8C DoD Program:

This data is available in Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, a comprehensive analytical database containing historical and forecast budget figures, year-to-year funding comparisons, congressional budget markups, program justification documents, and much more.

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

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