USAF may be rethinking new planes for J-STARS

The news comes after the Air Force has already spent $265 million towards new planes at Robins Air Force Base

USAF may be rethinking new planes for J-STARS

A number of E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft from the 116th Air Control Wing, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, evacuated to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, to escape the path of Hurricane Irma Sept. 9, 2017. Joint STARS aircraft are operated by Air Combat Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Wayne Crenshaw
The Macon Telegraph

After having already spent $265 million toward buying new planes for J-STARS at Robins Air Force Base, the Air Force may be rethinking the plan.

A letter signed by five Georgia lawmakers sent to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urges him to stay on the path of buying new planes for J-STARS.

"We are writing to you because we were recently informed that the Air Force wishes to explore alternative intelligence and surveillance platforms instead of continued pursuit of the recapitalization of the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) fleet," the letter begins.

It goes on to state that the Air Force will soon begin a analysis of alternatives to J-STARS, after having already conducted five studies on alternatives.

"Abruptly changing course on the JSTARS recapitalization is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars," the letter states.

It is signed by 8th District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ashburn, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Columbus, 14th District U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, and Republican U.S. senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson.

Additionally, Isakson on Tuesday introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit the pre-mature retirement of any J-STARS aircraft and it would require the Air Force to maintain all current J-STARS planes. It also prohibits any reduction in manpower.

J-STARS operates 16 aircraft that are decades old. The unit provides battlefield surveillance and management, with Army personnel on the plane who communicate directly with troops on the ground. It is the only unit of its kind and has been heavily deployed.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are competing to replace the J-STARS fleet. The new planes are currently schedule for deployment in 2024.

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©2017 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service