USAF steps closer to retiring E-8C Joint STARS fleet

The 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron was inactivated at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, on February 16, marking another major step in the drawdown of the USAF’s E-8C Joint STARS fleet.

The unit was one of two Air Combat Command (ACC) squadrons that were assigned to the 461st Air Control Wing (ACW) and shared responsibility for operating and maintaining the E-8C Joint STARS aircraft assigned to the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th ACW. The squadron, which flew its final local sortie on September 8, 2022, logged some 5,030 combat missions and provided 51,138 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hours since its activation on October 1, 1996.

With just eight aircraft left in operational service, the USAF plans to withdraw six E-8Cs from use in FY23, before axing the final two examples and formally ending the Joint STARS mission in FY24.
With just eight aircraft left in operational service, the USAF plans to withdraw six E-8Cs from use in FY23, before axing the final two examples and formally ending the Joint STARS mission in FY24. USAF/Master Sgt Jeremy Lock

Just days later, on February 23, the 330th and 129th Combat Training Squadrons jointly flew their final training flight from Robins AFB. Respectively assigned to the 461st and 116th ACWs, the two units flew more than 8,000 training sorties over 26 years of operations at Robins.

Between February 2022 and early March 2023, the ACC had retired eight of its operational E-8Cs, leaving eight in service. Six will be retired in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, the final pair following in FY24.

Stationed at Robins since 1996, the Joint STARS fleet is being replaced by an Airborne Battle Management System of satellites, ground radars and airborne sensors for detecting and tracking the movement of ground forces in the battlespace.