JSTARS Undergo Mishap Inspections

The Air Force grounded four of its E-8 JSTARS aircraft for inspections at Robins AFB, Ga., after they were delivered from a Northrop Grumman depot that is believed to be associated with a trend of mishaps. The aircraft “are being inspected for possible safety of flight issues,” spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement Friday. Air Force Materiel Command “is concerned about a trend of mishaps, mostly minor but at least one significant, that appear associated with” the Northrop Grumman Lake Charles Maintenance and Modification Center in Louisiana, an AFMC spokesman Chuck Paone told Air Force Magazine in an email. The significant mishap consisted of water being found where it should not have been, resulting in damage exceeding the cost threshold. AFMC Chief Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski directed the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center to develop the inspection criteria Sept. 16, Paone said. Two of the aircraft have completed their inspections, and the other two are expected to be finished by Sept. 24. The results are still being evaluated. An independent review team will inspect and validate the quality assurance process at the depot, where another five aircraft are now. Northrop Grumman JSTARS program director Bryan Lima said the company “is committed to quality and safety” and is “working with the Air Force to ensure that the Joint STARS aircraft are mission ready.” The rest of the service’s JSTARS are still flying worldwide; the aging fleet reached one million flight hours on Sept. 6. “The Air Force is committed to recapitalizing the JSTARS fleet as soon as realistically possible, and ensuring that JSTARS can continue to support this critical COCOM requirement,” Stefanek said in the emailed statement. (See also: The JSTARS Recap from the February 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)