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Spy plane contract to be awarded in fiscal 2018: USAF

Spy plane contract to be awarded in fiscal 2018: USAF

The U.S. Air Force contract to start replacing the aging fleet of JSTARS spy and battle management planes is expected to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2018, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said on Wednesday.

The U.S. Air Force contract to start replacing the aging fleet of JSTARS spy and battle management planes is expected to be awarded in the first quarter of fiscal 2018, Air Force Secretary Deborah James said on Wednesday.

James told a U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing it was regrettable it was taking longer than expected to award the engineering, manufacturing and development contract.

Last year the Pentagon's chief arms buyer approved the next step in a multibillion-dollar competition to replace 16 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, or JSTARS, which have flown over 100,000 combat hours and are approaching the end of their service life.

Source: REUTERS (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Richard Chang) - Wed Mar 16, 2017

Photo: The Lockheed's JSTARS proposal. (Photo by US Air Force)

Image Story:
Raytheon and Northrop to receive JSTARS radar contracts

The US air force is poised to award sole-source contracts to Raytheon and Northrop Grumman for further development of their competing active electronically scanned array radars as part of its Northrop Grumman E-8C JSTARS recapitalisation effort.

Once developed, one of the two radars will become the centrepiece of the air force’s next-generation surveillance and battle management airplane, which is to be based on a commercial business jet.

The intent of the programme is to replace the 707-based E-8C fleet, which averages 46 years old.

According to a “notice of contract action” published today, the air force identified two American-based radar manufactures capable of performing the work: Raytheon Space & Airborne Systems of Dallas, Texas and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems of Baltimore, Maryland.

The US government has ruled out foreign participation for the radar programme, but is accepting foreign airframes, as witnesses by Lockheed Martin’s partnership with Canadian airframer Bombardier for a Global-series aircraft.

To date, Northrop has said little about its active electronically scanned array (AESA) offering, given the competitive nature of the procurement. Raytheon, however, says its radar is a modified version of the APS-154 Advanced Airborne Sensor being developed for the Boeing P-8A submarine hunter.

“Although the JSTARS radar was state-of-the-art when it was developed, technology has advanced significantly since its introduction in 1991,” the JSTARS Recapitalisation programme’s deputy lead for radars, Brian Carr, says in an air force article published today. “JSTARS Recapitalization is poised to leverage the technological advancements that have lowered the cost and enabled the use of AESA radars.”

Central to the proposed radar its ground moving target indicator and synthetic aperture radar modes, which allow it to detect and map potential targets. That information is then used by onboard battle managers and connected command centres to coordinate ground manoeuvres and make strike decision.

The E-8C debuted in Operation Desert Storm 25 years ago, and 16 aircraft remain in the fleet today.

A replacement programme was approved by the Pentagon on 10 December, and Raytheon and Northrop's radar divisions are not believed to be exclusively teamed going into the competition. The air force is seeking 17 new business-jet-based replacements, and teams led by Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman vying for the contract.



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