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Robins AFB to retire four E-8 JSTARS aircraft next year, take up ABMS role

An E-8C, Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or Joint STARS, takes-off for a Weapons School Integration mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Nov. 22, 2021.
US Air force file photo

The US Air Force has authorized Air Combat Command and the Georgia Air National Guard to start divesting the E-8 JSTARS fleet beginning with four aircraft in fiscal year 2022.

Authorized on December 6, the divestment will make way for the beddown of four new missions at Robins Air Force Base that align better with the future Air Force design to prepare for near peer threats.

Georgia ANG Guardsmen will retrain to roles in a Battle Management Command and Control Mission, and an Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Family of Systems at Robins.

ABMS is also referred to as the Internet-of-Things for the military and is the top modernization priority for the air force with a budget of $3.3 billion over five years. The system is expected to become the backbone of a network-centric approach in partnership with all the services across the defense department.

“This is an exciting time to lead the men and women of the 116th as we welcome new missions,” said Col. Amy Holbeck, 116th Air Control Wing commander. “The successes of our people and the 24 Air Force Outstanding Unit awards we have received give me confidence that we are ready to support future fights and that we will continue our legacy of excellence during this time of great opportunity.”

Active duty airmen will either be repurposed for the new missions or will transition to missions at other locations. Personnel from needed career fields will be assigned to Robins to fill remaining positions in support of the new missions.

“As we transition to the future, the airmen of the 461st ACW will continue to deliver the capabilities of the E-8C platform providing combatant commanders with the command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance they need to make decisions in any operation around the globe,” said Col. Michelle Carns, 461st Air Control Wing commander. “New mission requirements and capabilities are already re-imagining the warfighter’s battlefield, and the men and women of the 461st ACW are poised to provide unrivaled expertise to usher in that vision.”

The movement of these missions is contingent on the completion of appropriate environmental planning, which is estimated to be complete early in FY23.

The US Air Force is retiring the E-8C decades after it first deployed in 1991 to operation Desert Storm. The primary mission of the airborne battle management, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform is to provide theater ground and air commanders with situational awareness to support military operations. The E-8C is a modified Boeing 707-300 series commercial airframe extensively remanufactured and modified with radar, communications, operations and control subsystems required to perform its operational mission.

US Air Force officials earlier said the that it would take at least five years to phase out all 16 JSATRS platforms.