Northrop Grumman has received two contracts from the Air Force, worth $300 million collectively, to complete non-recurring developmental activities and then begin production of the new engines for the service’s E-8C Joint STARS fleet, the company announced May 13. Work will begin immediately to convert the E-8C test bed aircraft from the current Pratt & Whitney JT3D engines to the new P&W JT8D engines. Concurrently, P&W and Seven Q Seven will begin work to produce the propulsion pod system that houses the JT8Ds as well as the engine nacelles, thrust reversers, and pylons, Northrop said. Late 2010 is the projected date for the first of the 17 operational E-8Cs to receive the new powerplants, which offer improved performance, less fuel consumption, and less noise and emissions. In addition to the new engines, Northrop is lobbying Congress to provide the Air Force with funding so that the service may install the company’s sophisticated MP-RTIP radar system on the E-8Cs to replace the aircraft’s existing ground-surveillance and tracking radar that the company contends will become obsolete next decade.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.