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E-8 Joint STARS - Production Plans

There has been considerable variation in the total number of aircraft planned during the course of the program's history.

  • In April 1988 the Defense Acquisition Board increased the number of planned production aircraft from 10 to 22 [with some Air Force planners arguing at the time for as many as 35 production aircraft].
  • On 19 September 1990 the DOD Joint Requirements Oversight Council [JROC] reduced the total inventory requirement from 22 to 20 JSTARS production aircraft, in addition to the three pre-production aircraft. Of the 20 E-8s, 17 were classified as Primary Aircraft Authorization (PAA), 2 as Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI), and 1 as a test aircraft.
  • On 25 September 1996 the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition approved Joint STARS full-rate production with a total planned quantity of 19 production aircraft.
  • As of 1996 the Air Force planned that by 2004 the Joint STARS program would include a 19-plane fleet outfitted with advanced technology in radar and computer data systems.
  • The May 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review directed that the planned buy of 19 production aircraft be reduced to 13 -- 10 PAA, 2 BAI, and 1 Test for a total of 13, contingent on NATO buying 6 Joint STARS aircraft.

JSTARS aircraft deployments require four aircraft to maintain one continuous orbit. Planners initially believed that 3 continuous orbits would cover the theater of a Major Theater War. But experience in Bosnia's mountainous terrain suggests even smaller operation might require more than three continuously orbiting aircraft. Other assessments suggest that more than 30 JSTARS might be needed to meet existing two Major Theater War requirements, assuming that six orbits were required, with five aircraft needed to maintain a single orbit.

On 06 August 2001 Northrop Grumman Corporation's Integrated Systems Sector (ISS) delivered the first Block 20 E-8C Joint STARS production aircraft to the US Air Force, more than three weeks ahead of schedule. This is the 11th production aircraft and seventh consecutive E-8C delivered early. This delivery brought the number of operational E-8C's to 11. Northrop Grumman was under contract for four more Joint STARS, which are in production, and long-lead procurement for one additional aircraft.

Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems Sector (ISS) is the prime contractor for the E-8C Joint STARS. ISS refurbishes Boeing 707 series aircraft at its Lake Charles facility. Norden Systems, Norwalk, Conn., a unit of Northrop Grumman's Electronic Sensors and Systems Sector, manufactures the Joint STARS radar sensor, a key component. The 24-foot Joint STARS radar and the computer systems are installed at the sector's AGS&BM Systems facility in Melbourne. The Melbourne team completes work on the production aircraft with ground and flight-testing of the system. The Melbourne team also provides support to the 93rd Air Control Wing and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins AFB under a Total System Support Responsibility (TSSR) contract. The TSSR effort is a unique partnership between AGS&BM Systems and the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center to provide the most efficient support to the E-8C Joint STARS fleet, maximizing operational availability and mission reliability.

On 24 October 2001 the House Appropriations Committee recommended full funding for the 16th JSTARS surveillance aircraft.

On Feb. 14, 2002 Northrop Grumman delivered the first upgraded E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft to the U.S. Air Force under the Computer Replacement Program (CRP) two weeks ahead of schedule. This is the first of 10 aircraft being upgraded from the Block 10 configuration to Block 20 with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) data processing capability.

On April 25, 2002 Northrop Grumman Corporation delivered the 13 th E-8C aircraft to the U.S. Air Force today, more than five weeks ahead of schedule. This was the third aircraft in the Block 20 configuration, which provides integrated commercial-off-the-shelf data processing capability. This technology provides the Air Force with increased reliability, advanced technologies and increased processing power, all at a lower cost per aircraft. Northrop Grumman has also started upgrading the first 10 aircraft delivered to the Air Force to the Block 20 configuration, the first of which was completed in February 2002.

The new 116th Air Control Wing (ACW) at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., inherited the entire inventory of Joint STARS aircraft, including P-14 - the most recent production aircraft - which was completed six weeks ahead of schedule and delivered 19 August 2002.

As of early 2003 the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC)-validated requirement for Joint STARS was 19 operational aircraft. The Congress has authorized and appropriated funding for 16 Joint STARS aircraft. Both the Senate and House of Representatives supported the President's Fiscal Year 2003 request for the 17th Joint STARS in their "marks". The Air Force plans to move to a larger Boeing 767-400 airframe for its future airborne ground surveillance platform in a program called Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A).

On May 19, 2003 Northrop Grumman Corporation received a final $113 million increment of a $257 million contract for production of the 17th E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft. The contract includes funding to establish postproduction planning and support after the completion of the final aircraft. Delivery of the 17th E-8C Joint STARS to the U.S. Air Force is scheduled for March 2005. This will be the seventh aircraft produced in the Block 20 configuration, which contains commercial-off-the-shelf computing and data processing capability. This technology provides the Air Force with increased performance and reliability in addition to a major increase in future growth capacity for onboard battle management, all at a lower cost per aircraft.

On March 23, 2005, the 17th and final E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft was delivered by officials from the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., to the 116th Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, GA.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:49:50 ZULU