8/20/2019, By Mandy Mayfield, National Defense

The completion of the Air Force’s analysis of alternatives for an advanced battle management system, or ABMS, is being pushed back several months, the head of Air Combat Command said August 20.

The ABMS is envisioned as a family of systems the Air Force will pursue in place of the canceled recapitalization of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, also known as JSTARS. The JSTARS aircraft fleet helps the U.S. military track ground targets and assists with command-and-control. The Air Force wants a more distributed architecture of platforms, to include drones, that could share data and enhance combat effectiveness.

“We are doing an analysis of alternatives, ABMS focused, that Air Combat Command is running for the Air Force that we’ll deliver late this year sometime,” Gen. James “Mike” Holmes said during a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C. “We had hoped to finish late this summer and write the report. We decided we need to go back and make sure that we were modeling some of the components of that at kind of a high fidelity level, and so we are probably going to add about three months” to the study.

The Air Force called for scrapping the planned JSTARS recap in its fiscal year 2019 budget request and instead develop an advanced battle management system, which officials believe would be more effective and survivable in warfare against high-tech adversaries.

Holmes noted that service leadership has remained committed to their thought process behind replacing the legacy capability.

“I don’t think we have changed our mind about the survivability of the JSTARS against the threats posed by Russian long-range air defense systems in Europe, or by Chinese long-range air defense systems in the Pacific,” he said.

The service is hoping to have the analysis of alternatives report ready in time to impact the fiscal year 2021 budget review at the Pentagon, Holmes said.

“We hope to have it in time to affect the … deliberations that will be done in the department this fall, to at least have some initial conclusions where we affect how we start to spend some of the ’21 money,” he said.

Holmes also noted the Air Force has planned a joint experiment to test capabilities that could connect a variety of systems.

“We worked with the outgoing Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. [Paul] Selva to decide to go forward with a joint experiment. [We] called it ‘all domain command-and-control,’ where we will … start connecting all the things that we have now, all of the sensors to all the shooters, through every command-and-control node.”