MELBOURNE, Fla., 22 Dec. 2008 The U.S. Air Force E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) test bed aircraft took to the air Saturday, powered by new Pratt & Whitney JT-8D-219 engines. This flight marks the start of Northrop Grumman Corp.'s E-8C-specific military air worthiness certification test program – scheduled to last till next spring.
Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Joint STARS, a modified commercial aircraft that detects, locates, classifies, tracks, and targets hostile ground movements, communicating real-time information through secure data links.
The new engines can also provide added power generation for future upgrades to the radar sensor and mission equipment. A recent Air Force study indicated the fleet could stay in service beyond 2050 because of the investment made when the airframes were refurbished during production.
"We are another step closer to the benefits these new engines bring to our troops," says Tom Vice, vice president, Eastern Region, of Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "The increased operational efficiencies inherent in this design translate to less money spent in maintenance and more time flying. Joint STARS will climb faster, fly higher, and require fewer inflight refuelings – all of which translate to more time on station, providing valuable information to our ground troops. We are committed to providing this new capability to the warfighter as soon as possible."
Joint STARS uses a sophisticated radar system that can scan an entire region and then send the data to a computer which analyzes movement and alerts reconnaissance specialists of any suspicious activity in near-real time. Operators onboard the aircraft can provide ground and air commanders with command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information on ground-based enemy activities from hundreds of miles away.
With the ability to see vehicle movement around the clock and in any weather conditions, the system provides information to ground and air commanders that enable friendly forces to delay, disrupt, and destroy their enemy.
The reliability, fuel efficiency, and increased operational effectiveness inherent in the engine upgrade translates to increased Joint STARS availability to the warfighter and decreased costs. Replacing all of the engines in the Joint STARS fleet will pay for itself through the reduced operation and maintenance costs of the current engines.
The engine upgrade program is based on the Propulsion Pod System incorporating Pratt & Whitney's JT-8D-219 jet engine and Seven Q Seven pylons, thrust reversers, and instrumentation.