The Air Force’s plans for re-engining its 17 E8-C Joint STARS ground-surveillance aircraft are in limbo, says Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. Already the E-8C testbed aircraft is fitted with new engines and the service intends to install them on four more aircraft. But beyond that, the path is unclear, Schwartz told Senate lawmakers March 4, citing several reasons. Among them, “There are issues with respect to the longevity of these airframes that raise questions in our minds,” he said, noting a cracked upper rear spar on one Joint STARS recently. Also, the service is exploring what future alternatives are best for tracking moving surface objects and persons. “I think the wise thing to do here is to proceed cautiously to re-engine the four airplanes … and get the [analysis of alternatives] and decide what the best way forward is,” said Schwartz.
While some of the Air Force's newly announced changes will happen quickly, it may take most of Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin's tenure in the job to accomplish the rest, he said in a Brookings Institution event Feb. 28.