New Aircraft, Old Engines

E-8C Joint STARS ground-surveillance aircraft are the newest 707-based platforms in the Air Force, but paradoxically fly with the oldest engines. “There is one issue with this fleet, and that’s the engines,” Dave Nagy, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of business development for battle management and engagement systems, told the Daily Report Tuesday. The company is the Joint STARS prime contractor. “Engines, and engine-related issues,” are currently driving E-8 sustainment costs, said Nagy. “These aren’t old airplanes,” he asserted, highlighting that most rolled out of a production line that refurbished them in the late 1990s, with the last five entering the inventory between 2001 and 2005. While the Air Force has begun to re-engine some E-8s with new Pratt and Whitney JT8D-219 powerplants, it hasn’t committed yet to adding new engines to all 17 E-8s. The Joint STARS testbed aircraft is already fitted with them and USAF has ordered engine sets for two additional aircraft. Further, tentative funding for two more sets of engines is contained in the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2011 request. But beyond that remains a question mark. Nagy said the quicker the Air Force were to complete the program, “the quicker” the service would “begin to accrue the savings” of operating the more reliable, powerful, and fuel-efficient engines.