It looks like the Air Force can’t afford to replace it’s fleet of E-8 Joint Surveillance Targeting and Attack Radar System (JSTARS) jets that are based on 40-year old Boeing 707s. (To be fair, the jets have been completely refurbished, as JSTARS prime contractor-Northrop Grumman will remind anyone who points out the ex-airliners’ age)
The air service has been looking at whether to replace or upgrade the E-8s for years now and it has finally come to the conclusion that it needs to replace the ground-scanning radar jets with a mix of business jet-based spy planes and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs. There’s just one problem — money.
Here’s what Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 20.
“The reality is there is not enough space to undertake a new start business-class ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform,” said the four-star. “We simply don’t have the resources.”
In the meantime, the Air Force will have to make do with the existing airplanes. No word on what will happen with the stalled effort to replace the jets ancient JT3D engines that burn so much fuel taking off from hot Middle Eastern bases that they have to refuel from a waiting tanker before they can begin their missions.
I’d also like to know if any of the technology that Boeing was developing for its P-8 Poseidon-based replacement for the E-8 will eventually make it onto the JSTARS.
With the JSTARS fleet likely to remain in service for the foreseeable future, lets hope the Air Force doesn’t lose anymore of them, like it did this one.