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​Airmen with the 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron perform pre-flight ops checks on an E-8C JSTARS in preparation for a mission during a combat exercise at Robins AFB, Ga., in July 2015. Air National Guard photo by SMSgt. Roger Parsons.

The Air Force on March 24 awarded two contracts worth up to $130 million to develop radar systems for the next generation JSTARS, moving forward on a program to replace the current E-8 fleet. Specifically, USAF awarded up to $70.2 million to Northrop Grumman and up to $60 million to Raytheon for radar risk reduction efforts to make sure the radars on their entries meet JSTARS Recap Wide Area Surveillance requirements, according to a release. “We have awarded these contracts to burn down key risks relative to scaling radar designs to work for a Recap Weapon System solution, ensuring an executable [engineering and manufacturing development] phase,” JSTARS Recap Program Manager Col. David Learned said in the release. “The fastest way to IOC is to have an executable program.” The Air Force reached a Milestone A decision on the program on Dec. 10, allowing the chosen contractors to enter into a technology maturation and risk reduction phase. The service hopes to reach IOC in 2024, though some stakeholders have pushed for a faster timeline. (See also: JSTARS Recap Delayed, JSTARS Recap Debate Rages On.)