The findings of an Air Force study on its advanced battle management system (ABMS) concept has been delayed for several months, a senior service official said Aug. 20.

The Air Force had hoped to complete an analysis of alternatives (AoA) for ABMS by this summer and write up a report, but the schedule has been pushed back to target a late 2019 delivery, said Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Mike Holmes at a media breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Gen. James “Mike” Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command, engages with senior leaders from the 124th Fighter Wing during his visit to Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, March 28, 2019. The leaders, both officer and enlisted, had the opportunity to frankly ask questions to Holmes. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

“We decided we need to go back and make sure that we were modeling some of the components … at kind of a high-fidelity level, and so we are probably going to add about three months,” he told the Defense Writers Group.

The goal is to have the AoA complete before deliberations begin ahead of the fiscal year 2021 Program Objective Memorandum, or POM, cycle, Holmes added.

The Air Force has been pursuing ABMS as a new distributed sensor architecture that could serve similar functions to that of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) program.

Congress canceled the proposed JSTARS recapitalization program in the FY ’19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after senior Air Force leaders pushed to study ways to build a “family of systems” from new and existing platforms that could provide battlefield management and command-and-control (C2) data from disaggregated sensors for a multi-domain operational environment. This differed from the service’s original plan to invest in a new aircraft development program. The service currently employs Northrop Grumman [NOC]-made E-8C Joint STARS aircraft to conduct airborne battle management.

While he did not reveal any findings from the AoA to date, Holmes said the Air Force remains committed to the goal of replacing the legacy JSTARS fleet.

“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. In the meantime, the service has begun work on a joint DoD experiment to connect multiple systems, with the support of just-retired Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, he noted.

“[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,” Holmes said.

The Air Force anticipates spending nearly $648 million for ABMS-related research-and-development over the next five years, and requested $36 million in its FY ’20 presidential budget request (Defense Daily, March 19). As lawmakers are slated to consider how to conference the House and Senate versions of the NDAA and attempt to reach a defense budget deal before the end of the fiscal year, members have had mixed emotions over the proposed effort.

House appropriators reduced the Air Force’s R&D budget request by $10 million, to $25.6 million, in the FY ’20 defense budget that was passed by the full House in May, citing the lack of an execution plan for ABMS to date (Defense Daily, May 20). The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to release a draft of its defense bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA, passed by the full Senate in June, authorized an additional $49 million over the Air Force’s request for ABMS R&D funding (Defense Daily, May 23).

It also created a new position to help flesh out the concept, the ABMS architect, and hired Preston Dunlap, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory’s national security analysis director, to fill the role this past March (Defense Daily, March 8).