We've known for a while now that the Air Force has been looking at various ways to upgrade or replace its fleet of E-8 JSTARS radar planes whose powerful radars scan the ground looking for everything from enemy vehicles to individual insurgents.
However, during yesterday's House Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the services 2012 budget, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz gave us a better look at what options are being considered. Most interesting, was his statement that the service is looking at business jets as one potential replacement for the 707-based E-8.
Last year, I wrote over at Defense News that the air service was considering a variant of the 737-based P-8 but I haven't heard anything about the Air Force looking at business jets for the mission. I've got to say, this idea makes sense. Look at the Brits and their soon-to-be-shelved Sentinel ground surveillance planes (pictured above) that are based on the Bombardier Global Express business jet.
Hmm, I wonder how cheap it would be for U.S. to buy the Sentinels from the U.K. I mean, hey, some of the 707s in the current JSTARS fleet were used as civilian cargo haulers around the world before being purchased and refurbished by the U.S. in the 1990s. We clearly have no problem buying used airframes for the this mission and the Sentinels are a lot newer than those 707s were when we bought them.
Schwartz added that the service is also eying Block 40 Global Hawk drones for the role, again, this is something we've known for a while.