The fate of the massive and long-awaited Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalization program is outside the Air Force’s control, according to the service’s outgoing acquisition chief.

Assistant Air Force Secretary for Acquisition William LaPlante said Tuesday there is debate in the Pentagon, but outside the Air Force, on where the program ranks among other priorities as the Defense Department plots its fiscal year 2017 budget request.

The Gulfstream G550 aircraft. Photo: Gulfstream GD.
The Gulfstream G550 aircraft. Photo: Gulfstream GD.

“We’re doing everything we can on JSTARS recap,” LaPlante told reporters at the Pentagon during his final press briefing as acquisition chief. “The building is still looking at the budget and deciding whether you do this or something else.”

The Air Force requested $44 million in fiscal year 2016 for JSTARS recap and anticipates spending roughly $1.2 billion on the program through FY ’20, according to budget documents, if the program survives internal budget battles in its current form. The service was slated to make a milestone A decision in the summer, but the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) in September didn’t approve milestone A.

JSTARS recap is a manned aircraft replacement for the legacy E-8C that provides information for better decision making via battle management, command and control (BMC2) and battlespace awareness across the full range of military operations. JSTARS recap will enhance the warfighter’s ability to achieve the joint vision of combat operations by integrating current and mature sub-system technologies onto a commercially available business class jet, according to budget documents. These major sub-systems include: sensor, air vehicle, communications and BMC2.

Lockheed Martin [LMT], Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Boeing [BA] are competing for JSTARS recap. Lockheed Martin is offering a Bombardier airframe while Northrop Grumman is teaming with Gulfstream, a division of General Dynamics [GD], and L-3 Communications [LLL]. Despite a previous Lockheed Martin announcement that it was teaming with Raytheon [RTN], Raytheon said in September it had not exclusively teamed with any prime for JSTARS recap. Raytheon and the Air Force were unable to respond to a request for comment by press time Wednesday.