US National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), recognised the US Air Force’s plan to replace the Northrop Grumman E-8 JSTARS with a new network of sensors spread across unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft, called the Advanced Battle Management System. The new system will replace most of piloted aircraft with UAV.
The NDAA bill adds $120 million to the General Atomics MQ-9 programme “to accelerate the development of the Advanced Battle Management System” instead of placing funds to buy more E-8 JSTARs aircraft.
Until the new system reaches initial operational capability, the NDAA bill also directs the USAF to maintain and operate its existing fleet of E-8 JSTAR aircraft.
JSTARs will be retired in the mid-2020s.
The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, is an airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform. Its primary mission is to provide theater ground and air commanders with ground surveillance to support attack operations and targeting that contributes to the delay, disruption and destruction of enemy forces.
The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300 series commercial airframe extensively remanufactured and modified with the radar, communications, operations and control subsystems required to perform its operational mission.