The Air Force has budgeted nearly $648 million in research-and-development funds over the next five fiscal years to develop the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), the proposed replacement for the service’s aging Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) fleet.

The service’s fiscal year 2020 budget justification books, released March 18, include nearly $36 million in research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funds for the effort in FY ’20, followed by over $51 million for FY ‘21, nearly $165 million in FY ‘22, $219 million in FY ‘23 and $177 million in FY ‘24.

A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper

The proposed JSTARS recapitalization effort was canceled in the FY ‘19 defense appropriations bill as the Air Force chose instead to build up a “family of systems” that would provide battlefield management and command-and-control (C2) capability via data gathered by disaggregated sensors. According to the FY ‘20 justification books, “ABMS will develop sensors, battlefield management and command and control systems, and communications through a three-phased strategy.”

Service officials have previously told reporters that while the ABMS architecture remains to be fleshed out, it’s likely to utilize existing platforms, such as General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.’s (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system. Some funding for space R&D programs will likely apply to ABMS as well.

The FY ’20 budget books include plans to procure a new Dismount Radar with moving target indicator (MTI) capability to be employed on medium-altitude airborne platforms, including the MQ-9. “These efforts will accelerate development of technologies and concept of operations (CONOPS) for Advance Battle Management System (ABMS) battle management command, and ground missions across the range of contested environments,” the documents said. The Air Force allocated $103 million in FY ’19 to procure the radar.

“ABMS is not a single program of record but a capability that is provided by multiple integrated systems and programs and will be horizontally managed by the ABMS Architect,” the budget justification book said. The Air Force in early March hired Preston Dunlap, formerly the national security analysis director at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, as the new ABMS architect, Defense Daily first reported (Defense Daily, March 8).

Meanwhile, the service is also looking for companies to provide follow-on sustainment and support for its fleet of JSTARS aircraft – the 1990s-era E-8C Joint Stars, built by Northrop Grumman [NOC].

A March 18 solicitation posted on FedBizOpps states that the Joint STARS Program Office is seeking “responsible sources for the acquisition of a follow-on Joint STARS support and sustainment contract for the E-8C aircraft” for an eight-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract. Northrop Grumman received the current Total System Support Responsibility (TSSR) in 2000, which is scheduled to expire in October 2022. Responses are due by June 30, with the Air Force Materiel Command at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, serving as contracting officer.