Senators Want Re-engined JSTARS Fleet

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Air Force to proceed with re-engining the E-8C JSTARS ground-surveillance fleet, an upgrade the Air Force has been distancing itself from. The committee added $12 million to the Air Force’s budget request for Fiscal 2013 to restart the production line for the new engines, according to the SASC report accompanying the Senate’s draft version of the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill. Committee members were “troubled” that the Air Force didn’t request procurement funds for the engines as in previous years, even though there’s no clear JSTARS alternative for decades and new engines would “improve performance and fuel efficiency” of the fleet, states the report, issued in early June. The JSTARS test bed aircraft already possesses the new powerplants, but the Air Force put off fitting its operational E-8Cs with them until it completed an analysis of future options for overhead tracking of moving ground targets. Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said to Congress in March the Air Force would stick with the JSTARS fleet, based on the analysis’ findings. However, in May, he said the Air Force does not intend to re-engine the fleet. (SASC report; caution, large-sized file.)