Northrop Grumman has settled on a Gulfstream G550 business jet proposal for the U.S. Air Force’s J-Stars recap competition, and submitted its bid to the service on March 2, 2017.

Northrop, along with its partners Gulfstream and L3 Technologies, is the first of three potential teams to publicly acknowledge that it has submitted its bid for the J-Stars recap. Lockheed Martin is working with Bombardier on a proposal based on the Canadian company’s Global 6000 business jet; meanwhile, Boeing is offering a modified version of its 737-700 commercial airliner.

Northrop had been considering basing its J-Stars bid on the G650, a slightly bigger airframe, but decided the G550 was the “right-sized” platform for the program due to its performance and maturity.

The launch of the $6.9 billion competition for 17 J-Stars aircraft has been a long time coming. The industry solicitation was held up due to statutory language that would have compelled the Air Force to pursue a fixed-price contract; the service finally issued the request for proposals in December after the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer waived the language. Meanwhile, the competitors have been working to mature their proposals under risk reduction contracts for several years now. The Air Force is planning initial operating capability (IOC) for J-Stars in 2024.

Northrop settled on a business jet rather than an airliner because a smaller airframe allows operations in more locations around the world, while at the same time affording substantially less fuel burn than other platforms and subsequently lower life cycle cost. Northrop, which builds the existing E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-Stars), submitted two proposals to the Air Force for J-Stars: one using the company’s long-range, wide-area surveillance radar, and another using Raytheon’s competing system. The other teams also may take advantage of the Air Force’s decision to allow the competitors to submit two proposals with different radar options. A modern active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is key to the next-generation J-Stars effort. The legacy E-8C J-Stars, identified by a long, canoe-shaped space under the forward fuselage that houses a 24-ft. radar, tracks movement in the battle space and relays tactical pictures to ground and air theater commanders. The use of a modern AESA radar will allow the new J-Stars to fulfill its mission(source: www.aviationweek.com).

Gulfstream V, c/n 501, N99NG was structurally modified while still N22 to serve as Northrop Grumman's entry in the competition to replace the current USAF's Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS).

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