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Joint STARS Recapitalization

JSTARS Recapitalization is intended to replace the aging fleet of specialized reconnaissance aircraft with 16 modern aircraft with an on-board battle management command and control suite, advanced communication subsystem and an updated sensor. The recapitalized system will also interact with all elements of the theater air control system, which includes JSTARS and AWACS aircraft, control and reporting centers and air operations centers. Some of the specific items include a Federal Aviation Administration-certified flight deck, an air refueling capability and an airframe that would accommodate a 10 to 13-person aircrew.

Born out of necessity, the recapitalization effort sprung from a 2011 study that examined options for conducting the JSTARS mission most effectively - and efficiently -- going forward. It resulted in a recommendation to deliver an advanced radar and on-board computer system on a significantly smaller, more efficient business jet class airframe. the JSTARS analysis of alternatives described a need for the integration of existing technology rather than the acquisition of new systems

The Department of the Air Force proposal to recapitalize the JSTARS fleet with a commercially available aircraft that will decrease the logistics footprint, decrease sustainment costs, increase operational flexibility, and operate in an anti-access/area denial environment. However, past intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft programs have failed due to the selection of platforms too small to properly support the necessary mission equipment and crew.

The E-8C isn't cost-effective to update. The Air Force got them old. The E-8s are based on well-used commercial 707 platforms. Though the Air Force had hoped these airframes would have long service lives, the platforms' depot track record and the need to re-engine the fleet has made the E-8 less competitive with alternatives. Also, their electronics need a broad refresh, and new technology could make it possible to put the JSTARS capability on a significantly smaller and more efficient airframe.

The JSTARS Recap solution is envisioned to incorporate currently available technology to recapitalize the JSTARS Synthetic Aperture Radar / Moving Target Indicator (SAR/MTI) Battle Management Mission Area capability on a smaller and more efficient airframe, thereby reducing life cycle costs of the weapon system. It will integrate high technology readiness level (TRL) components, and will utilize Open Systems Architecture (OSA) to reduce the cost and risk of integration. The system includes four main subsystems: the airborne platform, a radar subsystem, a Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) subsystem, and a communications subsystem. The schedule requires the delivery of four JSTARS Recap weapon systems to achieve Initial Operational Capability (IOC) no later than 1QFY22 with two test aircraft available in the 1QFY2018.

Aircraft and communication companies from around the country gathered for an industry week at Hanscom AFB, Mass., April 7-10, 2014. More than 100 participants from 35 companies attended the event where a series of government briefings, presentations from small business sub-contractors, one-on-one sessions with government representatives and a networking lunch took place.

As the Air Force's No. 4 acquisition priority, the Joint STARS Recapitalization program continues to progress through risk reduction efforts and refine requirements, all the while growing in size and significance. So much so, the Recap was designated its own division within the Battle Management Directorate at Hanscom AFB at the end of 2014. The JSTARS Recap Division is comprised of three departments: a systems engineering, integration and test branch; a platform branch responsible for aircraft and communications; and a mission systems branch responsible for radar and battle management command and control. All will work together to integrate and field a complete weapons system solution.

The NextGen JSTARS program was scheduled to release a request for proposal in late fiscal year 2015 and source selection planned to be conducted in fiscal year 2016. The Air Force’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (JSTARS) recapitalization effort was the subject of an Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) Materiel Development Decision (MDD) Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) was scheduled for February 23, 2015.

Green aircraft provider may be U.S. or international. International support to mission systems integration would be limited to joint troubleshooting of a problem to the aircraft side of the interface, then analysis and resolution would be either joint US-international provider or U.S. only.

The USAF initially advised industry that: “Due to strict export control and national security considerations, the Government does not contemplate any foreign involvement in the JSTARS Recap effort. If a potential offeror has a foreign company or individuals as part of its team, they should contact the Low Observable / Counter Low Observable (LO/CLO) Executive Committee (EXCOM) [through the USAF Tri-Service representative] for further information.”

Many (if not most) DoD acquisition programs involve foreign industry participation at the subcontractor or supplier level, so the USAF position on JSTARS appeared stricter than normal DoD practice. However, the fact that the USAF also notes that the LO/CLO EXCOM may be contacted regarding potential foreign industry involvement on JSTARS Recap seems to indicate there could be some flexibility in this area. The Air Force opened the competition to European firms.

The Engineering, Manufacturing and Development phase was anticipated to begin in 2017. Following the draft requirements release, the Air Force held a technical exchange event with industry to discuss requirements and impacts face-to-face. The exchange, which took place in December 2015, yielded valuable feedback for the Service that will help refine requirements. The Air Force remains optimistic that the program will meet the milestone decision authority sometime in the first quarter of calendar year 2015.

With a tentative initial operational capability slated for the first quarter of fiscal year 2022 and a potential full operational capability scheduled for fiscal year 2025, the Air Force has made its modernization efforts clear. The Air Force is paying special attention to any option that offers an open system architecture approach to hardware and software, will increase automation within the BMC2 component and options that ultimately lower the cost of the product over the program's lifecycle.

In the FY 2016 budget request, the Air Force included a refined acquisition strategy for the E-8 JSTARS recapitalization efforts, delaying the divestiture of five E-8C aircraft from FY 2016 to FY 2019. The draft acquisition strategy was refined, restructuring the Technology Maturation Risk Reduction acquisition phase. Although this refinement addresses the program’s top integration risks earlier in the program’s life-cycle, it pushes the Initial Operational Capability out to FY 2023. To fund JSTARS recapitalization, the Air Force divested the E-8C test capability, including the T-3 test aircraft, and placed the E-8C on a force management to sunset profile with a retirement between FY 2025 - FY 2026.

In September 2015, the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board withheld approving a “Milestone A” decision to launch the program’s next, technology maturation, phase. However, the board allocated funding to continue the risk reduction effort into 2016.

In March 2015 a key Department of Defense acquisition board provided a major step forward for recapitalization of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System. Officials came away from the successful Materiel Development Decision board optimistic that they'll soon be able to move forward as planned with the Air Force as the lead component. "This means the recapitalization will be able to proceed with the acquisition process, enabling the service to put industry on contract to further mature requirements," said Col. David Learned, JSTARS Recap senior materiel leader. This will allow recap officials to competitively award up to three contracts specifically focused on requirements and reducing integration risks.

Northrop Grumman said 12 June 2015 that it selected business-jet manufacturer Gulfstream as airframer, along with General Dynamics [GD] and L-3 Communications [LLL] as partners in the competition to replace the 17-aircraft Joint Surveillance, Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). Gulfstream is a GD subsidiary.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] and teammate Raytheon [RTN] announced a JSTARS bid in February 2015 without selecting an aircraft. Following Northrop Grumman, L-3, General Dynamics and Gulfstream’s lead, a competing team of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Bombardier positioned to compete for the Air Force’s JSTARS recap program. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin had previously announced their intention to partner for the competition, with Bombardier set to bring their long-range business jet to the team, to complement Raytheon’s sensor portfolio and Lockheed Martin’s system integration expertise. The plan was to base the entry on Bombardier's ultra-long-range jet, taking advantage of its relatively low cost and the plane's superior deployment capability and endurance.

On March 24, 2016 Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Baltimore, Maryland, was awarded a not-to-exceed $70,288,310 undefinitized contract action for radar risk reduction efforts intended for the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization (JSTARS Recap) program. Contractor will provide nonrecurring hardware and software engineering activities to ensure radars are scaled to meet JSTARS Recap Wide Area Surveillance requirements. Work will be performed at Baltimore, Maryland, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2017. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2015 and 2016 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $7,500,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is the contracting activity (FA8730-16-C-0016).

On March 24, 2016 Raytheon - Space and Airborne Systems, McKinney, Texas, was awarded a not-to-exceed $60,000,000 undefinitized contract action for radar risk reduction efforts intended for the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization (JSTARS Recap) program. Contractor will provide nonrecurring hardware and software engineering activities to ensure radars are scaled to meet JSTARS Recap Wide Area Surveillance requirements. Work will be performed at Baltimore, Maryland, and is expected to be complete by Sept. 30, 2017. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition. Fiscal 2015 and 2016 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $7,500,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is the contracting activity (FA8730-16-C-0015).

The Air Force plans to buy 17 planes to replace the fleet of 50-year-old aircraft, pitting three popular and very different business jets against one another in a competition for a contract that could be worth as much as $6 billion. Three teams are in the running for an initial contract to deliver three test planes by 2019.




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