GILLIAN RICH, iNVESTOR.COM
The Air Force wants to make a decision on a $7 billion airborne command and surveillance program next month.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service will hopefully make a decision on whether or not to keep the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalization program in October, Aviation Week reported Wednesday.
But what is the program and why is the Air Force considering scrapping the bid? Here are five things to know about the JSTARS recap.
Who’s Bidding On The Contract?
Boeing (BA), Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) are leading teams with bids for the aircraft. The Boeing team is offering a modified version of its top selling 737-700 commercial jet while Lockheed is working with a Bombardier (BDRBF) Global 6000 business jet and Northrop’s offering is a modified Gulfstream G550 business jet. The planes will replace the current fleet of Northrop E-8s.
Boeing shares were up 0.6% in premarket trading on the stock market today. Lockheed and Northrop were flat.
After 16 years of high-tempo operations in the Middle East, the current fleet of E-8s are facing maintenance issues as the fleet ages. But the service and Northrop are also working on a plan to update the fleet’s central computers and improve the radar to keep the plane flying until 2030, removing the urgency of the recap, IHS Janes reported.
Not 100% Sold On New Program
Some officials want to network various aircraft, drones and sensors as a temporary measure until industry develops a more survivable system.
The Air Force acknowledged earlier this month that it’s evaluating “alternative approaches for battlefield command and control that could be more effective in high-threat environments,” according to Defense News.
Pentagon Chief Weighs In
At the Air Force Association conference last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis noted different ways of doing the JSTARS mission but didn’t directly talk about the future of the program itself.
“I just talked to chief of staff of the air force; we are standing here in front of the room talking about new ways to do the JSTARS mission,” Mattis said. “I’m eager to hear these efforts to help one another, the other services.”
What About Congress?
Georgia lawmakers wrote a letter to Mattis saying they would block any move to stop flying the current fleet without a replacement.
“While the rationale has not yet been made known to us, canceling or delaying would be ill-advised and directly impact our combatant commanders who employ this asset in theater,” Sen. Johnny Isakson, Sen. David Perdue, Rep. Austin Scott, Rep. Sanford Bishop and Rep. Tom Graves wrote.
The current fleet of 16 aircraft operates out of Robins Air Force Base, Ga.